This past Saturday was officially the first day of summer, a season in which local baseball transcends into regional baseball for the two most established leagues in the country – the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) and the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL).
However, with COVID-19 taking full aim, this season has been unlike any other in the history of league baseball in the country – a rich history full of greatness and tradition that spans more than three decades for the two most prominent leagues. Baseball in the country was shut down in March upon curfew and lockdown orders from the government of The Bahamas when the COVID-19 pandemic reached. Both JBLN and Freedom Farm have left the door open as it relates to the completion of their respective 2020 seasons, indicating that baseball could very well return to these shores sometime this year.
JBLN has already stated that summer baseball is an option. Freedom Farm was initially looking at a restart date of June 30, but that seems a bit unrealistic with the country still not out of the danger zone as yet, as far as the resumption of regular sporting activities is concerned. They remain hopeful of returning to the fields at some point this summer.
The Bahamas is into phase four of the national reopening of the economy plan, meaning that group exercise with social distancing is permitted. In phase five, restrictions on all movement are lifted. According to reports, the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA), the governing body of baseball in the country, has already sent in a recommendation to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, for a resumption of play in The Bahamas. They are currently awaiting feedback on that document, and leagues are weighing their options.
No doubt, appropriate safety guidelines would have to be in place should baseball resume.
JBLN President Jeffrey Walcott said they would love to play baseball this summer, but safely. It remains a wait-and-see game for them.
“We’re still in between finishing off the season and ending it, all depends when the competent authority opens up the parks,” said Walcott. “As it stands, we haven’t decided as yet what we are going to do, but we are working in the background.”
Baseball is one of those sports that doesn’t require a great deal of physical contact, and defensive spacing allows players to distance themselves from each other while on the field of play. According to reports, the BBA has formed a COVID-19 Safety Committee which has generated a best practices document on a safe return to baseball.
“We’re hopeful, but it is going to be extremely difficult to manage, particularly with the younger ones like tee ball and coach pitch,” said Walcott. “There are a number of things that we are going to take into consideration but it is our hope to soon return to some state of normalcy.”
Under normal circumstances, the league seasons of JBLN and Freedom Farm would have been completed last month. Hundreds of young, talented boys and girls were looking forward to their respective playoffs and championships and are still hopeful of returning to play this year. All baseball fields around the country remain closed and there is no gathering of teams allowed. Players, coaches and league officials remain optimistic, but understand the importance of all involved staying safe during this period.
The new coronavirus numbers have leveled off in the country in recent weeks but the numbers remain on the rise internationally, particularly with The Bahamas’ closest neighbor, the USA. There are over nine million cases worldwide and about 470,000 deaths. The USA is the most impacted country with nearly 2.4 million cases and over 122,000 deaths. Here in The Bahamas, there hasn’t been a recorded case since June 14. There remains 104 cases with 11 deaths.
The country is moving into phase two of reopening its borders for international travel, which some believe might result in a spike in cases of COVID-19 although a negative test for visitors is a prerequisite for entering the country.
As for this season, JBLN featured 466 young boys and girls on 36 teams in seven divisions (age groups), playing baseball and softball at the league’s Field of Dreams Complex at St. Andrew’s. The season was in full swing up until the 14th week of play. The BBA National Championships has been canceled, and there will be no travel ball this year, but the door remains open as it relates to the completion of regular season play for the respective leagues.
It remains to be seen how it will all play out.