By RENALDO DORSETT
BASEBALL patriarch James “Jim” Wood passed away on Tuesday at age 78 following a short illness.
Woods was best known on the Bahamas’ sporting landscape as the long-standing president of the local governing body of his beloved sport, the Bahamas Baseball Association.
A national icon who began his foray into the sport as a player became regionally renowned as an administrator. He played for many years and is one of the names most positively associated with the St Bernard’s baseball organisation.
He was also an official of the Pan American Baseball Federation (or Confederacion Pan Americana de Beisbol-COPABE).
Wood’s passing was noted by several members of parliament in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said there were plans to figure Wood prominently into the newfound recognition of baseball, highlighted by the construction of the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium.
“We just had the opportunity to recognise Jim Wood for being able to come together for the development of baseball with the construction of the new stadium and we wanted Jim Wood to be a part of that,” Christie said.
“I want to lift his name up not just as a political figure but one who has made an invaluable contribution to youth development and baseball in this country.”
Wood was a central figure in the controversial rift between the BBA and the Bahamas Baseball Federation.
In October, the organisation signed a two-page agreement and at the time Wood said it was a proud moment to see the advancement in the development of Bahamian baseball.
“I am ready to come out of baseball. But the only thing I really want to see is that the Bahamas Baseball Federation and the bodies declare that the Bahamas Baseball Association is the governing body for baseball in the Bahamas the way it has always been.”
Wood said he and Kemp agreed to work together for the betterment of the sport and they came up with the two-page pack that they signed, ending the long and bitter dispute.
“I’m relieved, to an extent, because there are other people involved in baseball who want to see us go forward,” Wood said. “Hopefully more kids can benefit and when we get ready to send a national team off, more players will come out because they won’t be told that if you go to the national team trials, you won’t be able to play in the other league anymore.”
It was during the BBA’s election in 1986 that a dispute erupted between Wood and then commissioner Athama Bowe. That subsequently led to a tie during the vote for president. Another election was called to break the tie, but after Bowe declined to show up, Wood was elected.
Since then, there have been many factions who tried to oppose Wood during his tenure. That eventually led to a split in the membership and the BBF was formed with Greg Burrows Sr serving as the first president.
The last time the Bahamas had a true representation of a national team was under the federation at the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, Canada, in 2011 when the Bahamas all-based collegiate national team, managed by Bertram Murray Jr, beat China 6-5.
With the signing of the new agreement, Wood’s legacy will include a major step toward the Bahamas fielding national teams in the near future.
In the political arena, Wood was MCM Emeritus council member of Free National Movement and the opposition also paid homage to his contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“We want to recognise Mr Jim Wood for his role in nation-building and youth development as a baseball icon, using the games to reach and influence many young lives,” MP for North Eleuthera Theo Neilly said. “He was also a long-standing member of the Free National Movement, an avid supporter of the party with a major role in its development.”