By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
SUPERINTENDENT Patrick Wright said sports is definitely a good way to help transform the lives of the inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison.
So when he took office, he made the commitment to provide more sporting activities for the inmates to engage in and he immediately contacted Senator Greg Burrows to assist him in the endeavour.
A plan was devised to construct a 400-foot baseball diamond and include a 200 metre track as well as a volleyball and basketball court that will enable the inmates to interact with the community in their rehabilitation.
On Saturday, under the theme: “Changing Lives for a Safer Bahamas,” the new sporting complex was officially opened and commissioned.
Dr Bernard Nottage, minister of national security, did the declaration before principal officer Andrea ‘Gorgeous’ Williams threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The highlight of the day was an exhibition match between the Freedom Farm Baseball League and the prison inmates. Not that it mattered, but the younger players didn’t have any mercy, displaying their skills before a jammed pack audience for a 9-0 whitewashing of the inmates.
Burrows, the founder of Freedom Farm who orchestrated the interaction with the community and the prison, said it was good to see the two entities come together.
“When you hear the conversation from an inmate prior to developing this facility would have been pure negative conversation,” Burrows said. “But since we were able to get them to put their time and energy into the construction of this facility, their attitudes have changed into a 360 degree in the positive direction.”
Burrows said he has heard the inmates talking about how serious they have to get to be able to play on the facility and that is why he was so eager to get the programme started.
“This is an idea that is working already,” he stated. “So I am very pleased because we just had the opening for our Freedom Farm League and to see the support that we got there.
“We did something special for the Sister-Sister Breast Cancer Group and that is why you see me all dressed up in pink. We had over 900 strong that walked through the streets in the east in support of breast cancer. That was spectacular.
“That was touching for me because the women from Sister-Sister were so pleased to see all of those kids and coaches and supporters in pink. Then to come here and bring that same crowd in support of this programme with the prison is a very special day for all of us.”
From the warm-up to gametime, it seemed as if the inmates were more enthused about the interaction than the Freedom Farm players. Maybe, it’s because of the work that they put in to make it a reality.
When she came off the field to throw out the first pitch, Andrea Williams, a former softball pitching great, said she had goose bumps.
“It made me feel like going back on the softball pitch,” said Williams, a prison officer. “I’m just so glad to be here to see this. I know that it will motivate the prison officers a lot more. Now they have something to look forward to.”
Wright, the newly appointed superintendent at Her Majesty’s Prison, said the minute he contacted Burrows with the idea of constructing the sporting facilities, he responded and the rest was history.
Nottage, however, said he was sceptical at first because of the security concerns. But he said when he came and he saw the original site, he said it wasn’t nothing short of a miracle how they were able to turn things around in the completion of the facility.
Burrows said since they began working on the facility, they have gotten the blessing from Nottage and they are now putting down a similar baseball diamond at Doris Johnson Secondary High School.
He noted that eventually they will be looking at constructing a few more baseball diamonds around the island as they attempt to revive the senior level of competition that has been non-existent since the demolition of the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium to make space for the new Thomas A Robinson National Stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre.
But Burrows insisted that they have to make a start somewhere and they are doing that with the partnership with the prison.
While the infield is complete with grass grown all around, Burrows said they have sprayed the outfield with the grass seeds and are just waiting on it to catch to complete the playing surface.
Efforts will be made to complete the bleacher section of the stadium.
Additionally, the prison inmates still have some work to be done on the track, basketball and volleyball courts. Once completed, the prison will have all the facilities to enable the inmates to have more than enough activities to help in their rehabilitation.