Old Timers faced with another hurdle in restarting league play

Members of the executive team of the New Providence Old Timers Softball Association (NPOTSA) feel that they have done everything in their power for league play to resume, yet they remain handcuffed in their desire to restart. The league has been stagnant since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas forced a shutdown of local sports across the board in March of 2020.

Just when it appeared that they would be able to resume play, the NPOTSA was faced with another hurdle. Works for repair to the Archdeacon William Thompson Softball Field at the Southern Recreation Grounds has been stopped and there is no indication of when it will start up again.

Newly-elected NPOTSA President Tommy Stubbs said they have been faced with one roadblock after another since March 2020. He said all they desire is for the work to be completed on the field, and for them to bring in a new dawn of excitement in softball for the 2021 season.

“Everything came to a sudden halt, when The Bahamas went on lockdown March 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus. Considered the most exciting softball league in the country, the NPOTSA anticipated starting its 2021 season by now, but two other obstacles have entered play – the Archdeacon William Thompson Softball Field is still being remodeled and the country is still under curfew through the government’s Emergency Orders,” said Stubbs. “Also, after reading the requirement of COVID-19 rapid antigen negative test results twice a week, including the day of competition, we felt this was unreasonable and not affordable. Plus, we didn’t want to play while New Providence was on curfew. We got a good feeling that our 2021 season would begin by this summer as we hoped the Emergency Orders with the curfew would be lifted by end of May, but one visit to the park is anyone’s guess when league play could possibly restart.”

It is understood that under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works, and with some design suggestions by the NPOTSA administration, park remodeling started in February with completion scheduled for the end of April, but work stoppage occurred in early April.

“The softball park now looks abandoned with material debris and wild weed growing instead of nice grass,” said Stubbs. “Most of the green screen on the fencing to obstruct one’s view of the remodeling work is gone or loose. We tried numerous times for any information on the park from the Ministry of Public Works and the contractor, and we finally got a response from the Ministry of Works Architectural Department on June 3, that the budget was sent to Cabinet for approval; but the question now is, why is this being done again?”

According to reports reaching Guardian Sports, the contractors may have to be replaced because of errors in the design and construction of the bleachers and surrounding area of the park. Stubbs said the league is not satisfied with that explanation.

Back in February, permission was granted by the competent authority for competition to resume under strict safety and physical distancing protocols, which included mask-wearing and sanitization of one’s hands and equipment at all times. Additionally, it was stated that no more than 30 people would be allowed at any practice at any one time, each event for competition must be documented and submitted to the Ministry of Health for approval, and there would be no spectators.

Stubbs said one of the main issues was that the requirement of two COVID-19 rapid antigen negative test results in a week was the big blow.

“The average cost of rapid antigen COVID-19 tests was $18 per person when permission was granted. The test now averages $22, which includes VAT (value-added tax),” said Stubbs. “That is a bit too much for our members. We thought we had a decent plan to get back on the field last summer as more than 90 percent of our 300 league members were ready to start training to resume competition. At least 30 percent of our members have taken the COVID-19 vaccine. Before receiving the approval letter, the association drafted a seven-page health protocols document on resuming competition, which offered to perform temperature checks, mask-wearing and social distancing with spectators beyond the outfield fencing, far away from game action.

“Game’s competing players would not use dugouts, but instead sit on the bleachers near the dugouts between innings and use two batting gloves when hitting, among other new rules of competition. Our players, managers and coaches felt playing softball was important to remain physically fit and designed for social distancing more than most sporting or social activities taking place, but accepted the reality of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus and the mental state of the country to wait it out until this year.

“Now, we are being held back again. Without the field, our players have been denied a place to exercise to stay in shape or conduct small practice sessions based on social distancing. We’re aware that other sporting activities are engaged with or without government’s approval, and we have doubt the government believes we could organize ourselves to compete in a safe environment. We’re just ready to get back to softball.”

Construction and remodeling of the Archdeacon William Thompson Softball Field is under contract by the Bahamas Striping Group of Companies.

“This is the same company that remodeled the basketball courts and playgrounds at the historic Southern Recreation Grounds, which were completed and officially opened for use of Grants & Bain Town residents since November 2020. We’re just asking for the same thing for the softball field and the surrounding area,” said Stubbs.

The association started competition in the late 1970s, plays four to six games every weekend from April to October, and showcases some of the top softball talent the country has ever produced. A total of 14 teams participated in 2019, which was one of the most competitive seasons on record, but the last two seasons have been restricted, due to the presence of COVID-19.

The Yelrom Home Boys are the defending champions, defeating the SWD Boys in the championship in 2019.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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