By RENALDO DORSETT
GRATEFUL for the opportunity to compete against some of the best players in baseball at the international level, the Bahamas’ leading players on the baseball diamond hope to represent the country the next time they appear at the World Baseball Classic.
Antoan Richardson and Albert Cartwright will compete for Great Britain in qualifier two for the 2013 edition of the WBC next month, but still have the ultimate goal of fielding a Bahamian team by 2017.
“It was a fortunate situation for us with the loophole of our parents being born in the Bahamas while it was still a British colony, before independence, so that made us eligible to play for Great Britain,” Richardson said. “This is strictly because the Bahamas does not have a team entered and that is something that we as players feel the need to change in the near future.”
Richardson said the Bahamas has to do a better job at the administrative level to ensure that the talented pipeline of youth and collegiate players are afforded an avenue to play as their careers continue and to prepare for the next edition of the WBC in 2016-2017.
“There’s nothing more than we would love than to suit up in the aquamarine, gold, and black but right now we are not afforded that opportunity because back home the game is not organised at the senior level. We have a thriving junior programme and a deep talent pool of college players, but for this tournament we will need senior players,” he said. “That is why it is important to get the older guys playing back home. Baseball needs a home in the Bahamas and the game needs to be played at a higher level if we want to compete on the international stage.”
The bureaucracy surrounding the local game has hampered the production of a once thriving senior baseball league in the Bahamas that has not taken the field in over a decade.
The Bahamas Baseball Federation was formed approximately a decade ago after being previously being governed by the Bahamas Baseball Association.
Despite the fact that the BBF is currently the only functioning baseball body in the Bahamas, the Internattional Baseball Federation recognises BBA as the parent organisation.
“I’ve had discussions with Senator Greg Burrows and I know he is one of the people leading a group that is already looking toward fielding a team, but we know there is a lot of red tape surrounding the game and right now baseball is not being played at the senior level,” Richardson said. “That is at a severe detriment to the game because baseball needs a home and it needs to be played to return to the level that we once were. We have the opportunity to do that now.”
The last senior international team fielded by the Bahamas was in the 2009 World Baseball Challenge.
The team, managed by Jeff Francis, finished winless at 0-6.
Richardson and Cartwright will join Great Britain in the second qualifier of the RBC, September 20-24 in Regensburg, Germany.
Concurrently, qualifier one will take place in Jupiter, Florida, September 19-23 between Spain, France, Israel and the Republic of South Africa.
November 15-19 in Panama City, Panama, the third qualifier will be staged with Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama, while the fourth qualifier will be in New Taipei City, Taiwan, November 15-18 between New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and Chinese Taipei.
The four winners from each qualifier will advance to the 2013 World Baseball Classic where they will join 12 other teams that have already qualified.
The other 12 teams from the 2009 World Baseball Classic – Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela – will be included in 2013 based on their performance last time.
Four of the teams in the qualifying round – Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa – participated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic but did not win a game.
The first World Baseball Classic was held in 2006, and the second took place three years later. The World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and created by Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and other professional baseball leagues and their players associations around the world.
It is the main tournament sanctioned by the IBAF, which names its winner the “World Champion.” It previously co-existed with Olympic Baseball (until 2008) and the Baseball World Cup (until 2011) as IBAF-sanctioned tournaments, but the other two have been discontinued.