It’s done!

Freedom Farm cancels season for the first time

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 confirmed cases rising daily in The Bahamas, Freedom Farm Baseball League has decided to officially cancel its 2020 season.

It is the first time in the 31-year history of the local baseball youth league that its season has been canceled. The official announcement was made yesterday by league Commissioner Clarence “CJ” McKenzie.

“With us being in August, a decision was made to officially cancel the 2020 season,” McKenzie said. “Any resumption of baseball wouldn’t be until we get approval from the competent authority first of all and then we will decide from there what type of activity we would be able to resume safely before we even consider any type of play.”

The league was suspended back in mid-March after the first COVID-19 case was reported in The Bahamas. Baseball in The Bahamas never got the green light to resume play following that.

McKenzie said the decision to cancel the season was not a difficult one to make.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” he said. “COVID-19 actually decided this for us so we did not have much options or choices to make based on the present circumstances. When we were first hit, cases started then we had a somewhat reduction of cases. And in the month of June, when it appeared as though we would see some type of light at the end of the tunnel, the cases picked up again. Obviously with the opening of the border in July, everything changed and it headed downhill from there. We’re in a situation where the response to COVID-19 dictates when we are going to be able to resume play in the future.”

Just before The Bahamas re-opened its borders to international travel by air, the number of active cases of COVID-19 was at four. That number has swollen to  1,198.

McKenzie said that it is not safe at this time to have any mass gatherings, especially for sporting events and baseball in particular. The coaches of the league were notified, and McKenzie expects them to be on one accord moving forward.

Freedom Farm utilized coaches and parents of players in the league who are healthcare workers and formed a COVID-19 response team. Spearheading that unit was Dr. Valentine Grimes, who is also a consultant orthopedic surgeon at Doctor’s Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).

“We have been in contact with our own medical community. There are three of us and we have also sought advice from the Medical Association of The Bahamas. Our concern was that based on the country opening, we were concerned that there might have been a surge in cases. Obviously, that has happened, unfortunately. Our advice was to cancel the season,” Grimes said.

Grimes added that they could not safely protect the players, coaches and everyone involved with league play given the level of testing in the country.

Baseball in the fall locally usually gets underway in October or November. McKenzie said that based on what is going on right now, that may not be a feasible period. He said they will be looking at possibly starting the 2021 season in January.

“At the rate we are at right now, a fall season doesn’t look like it’s possible. These things take a little bit of time and we continue to have transmissions of COVID-19. Right now, we are crossing our fingers and hoping that by the end of the year there is some leeway so that our regular season can be started in January.”

Grimes said to restart baseball, they do not have to reinvent the wheel but rather look at Babe Ruth, Little League and other international baseball associations and what they’re doing. He said they have to be able to modify plans and adapt to changes at Freedom Farm.

McKenzie is hoping that things can turn around in short order.

The Freedom Farm Baseball League consists of eight divisions, made up of 44 teams. There were close to 700 players registered in the league last season.

The league has been instrumental in positioning players to go off to college and on to the professional ranks. It is also very successful on the national stage.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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