By RENALDO DORSETT
Over 800 student athletes throughout the country will descend on the nation’s second city as one of the most populous sporting events in the Bahamas opens today.
The Bahamas Baseball Federation is slated to host the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s 11th Andre Rodgers National Championships in Freeport, Grand Bahama, June 20-24.
Under the theme, “A Decade of Success & Growing,” 12 leagues representing six islands come together to make the tournament one of the most comprehensive on the annual sporting calendar.
Participating leagues include Freedom Farm (FF), Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN), Legacy Grand Bahama (LGB), Grand Bahama Little League (GBLL), Grand Bahama Amateur Baseball Association (GBABA), Eleuthera Junior Baseball League of Rock Sound (EJBL), Spanish Wells Baseball League (SWBL), Youth Baseball Association of Abaco (YBAA), North Abaco Baseball Association (NABA), Long Island Baseball League (LIBL), Exuma Little League Association (ELLA) and Community Baseball League (CBL).
Freedom Farm will be the top ranked seed in four of the five divisions based on performances in the 2012 edition of the event.
The Junior division (ages 13-15) will be the most keenly contested group with 10 teams competing, including JBLN, GBABA, FF, GBLL, EJBL, LGB, SWBL, LIBL, ELLA and the NABA.
The Major division (ages 11-12) will feature FF, JBLN, GBLL, SWBL, LGB, LIBL, YBAA, NABA and CBL.
The Minor division (ages 9-10) will feature FF, JBLN, GBLL, LGB, ELLA and the NABA.
Both the Coach Pitch (ages 7-8) and High School (ages 16-18) division fields four teams apiece.
Coach Pitch includes FF, JBLN, LGB and GBLL while High School includes FF, GBABA, JBLN and the GBLL.
The opening game of the tournament takes place this morning at the Grand Bahama Baseball Park at 8am where the Coach Pitch and High School divisions will play, while the Junior division plays at the Legacy YMCA Baseball Park.
At 7:30pm, the opening ceremonies take place at the Grand Bahama Baseball Park, televised live on ZNS.
GBPA president Ian Rolle will deliver the address and the throw out of the first pitch.
The schedule following the opening ceremony will include a rematch of the gold medal game in the Coach Pitch division with FF against JBLN and FF taking on GBLL in the Major League division.
There will also be a Senior Men’s National Team showdown between Grand Bahama and New Providence.
The best baseball talent in the country will also use the tournament as an opportunity to showcase their skills before a number of influential Major League Baseball scouts.
The BBF will welcome Jim Stoeckel, director of global scouting for the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds, and Fermin Coronel, global consultant for the club.
Stoeckel was the scout who signed the Bahamas’ own Jamal Johnson.
The BBF will also take the opportunity to highlight local icons of the past and present.
Lifetime achievement awardees will include Lorenzo Donnie Lockhart, Eddie Ford, Jeff Williams, Lionel Ferguson Sr and Rico Hamilton.
Jervis “Champ” Stuart will receive the “Outstanding Achievement Crystal.” Stuart was selected by the New York Mets in the sixth round with the 176th pick.
“Now in its fourth year of being held in Freeport, the much anticipated event is pleased to have The Grand Bahama Authority, Limited (GBPA) as its principal sponsor once again. We are pleased to lend our support and are grateful that Grand Bahama continues to be the host venue for such a notable event on the sporting calendar,” said GBPA vice president Ginger Moxey.
“From an economic standpoint, their presence is immeasurable. Additionally, the level of camaraderie and support amongst players and spectators is uplifting during the week of spirited competition.”
Event organisers are thrilled with the level of participation as over 800 youngsters from seven different islands are expected to travel to next week’s championships.
“The Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF) recently completed the most successful year in the growth and development of the game of baseball in the Bahamas. This tournament is one of the great things that baseball players around the country look forward to,” noted Stephen Adderley, first vice president of the BBF.
He further stated that these accomplishments were made possible through sustained support from valuable corporate sponsors like the GBPA. “Events like this are important to the fabric of the community. Also, sports is a critical component in the nurturing and character development of our youth, which in turn positively contributes to the orderly development of our society.”