By RENALDO DORSETT
AS a dual sport athlete during his high school career, Kyle Simmons decided to give up track and field and focus primarily on baseball.
Six years later, the 18-year-old prospect reached an agreement to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates organisation and begin his professional career.
When he returned home yesterday following a recent training stint in the Dominican Republic, Simmons was greeted by friends, family and Pirates Latin American and Caribbean Scout Rene Gayo at the Bahamas Waste complex, Gladstone Road.
As an international prospect, Simmons will be officially eligible to sign with the franchise at 9am today.
“It’s a great day for me having this opportunity to play baseball. It’s my dream coming true,” Simmons said. “I haven’t done anything yet but Mr Gayo gave me a chance to see my dream become a reality. I thank God for everything he has given me. I thank my family and every coach who has helped me to get to this point and I feel blessed.”
Simmons will now head to the Dominican Summer League, joining fellow Bahamians Dale Davis (Texas Rangers), Quinton Rolle and Reshad Munroe (Cincinnati Reds).
“I have to continue to work toward getting better everyday,” he said. “I realised baseball was my future the year I quit track and field. This is only my sixth year playing baseball. After the fifth year I thought I had a chance to get this done.”
Gayo lauded the potential of Simmons and the impact he may be able to have.
“I was very impressed, not just with the players but with the island itself. We are very fortunate to add Kyle to our system, not just because of his abilities but also because of the person he is. We had a chance to be around Kyle since then and I have no doubt in my mind that he will maximise his ability,” he said. “His natural talent is there, but I believe he is a person of even higher character and that’s a very important thing to the Pirates. It is an honour for us to bring Kyle Simmons into our organisation.”
Gayo has directed Latin American scouting operations for two different teams. He became scouting director for the Indians in Latin America in 1999.
In 2004, the Pirates hired Gayo to lead their Latin American scouting system, filling a position left vacant for five years.
He said it will just be a matter of time before Simmons adjusts to the speed of the game.
“It’s just a matter of playing with everyone else who is good. When he came to the Dominican for the first time, the guy threw a pitch and Kyle said ‘I’ve never seen a ball move that fast’ but by the third time he saw it, he hit it. If he can hit it for the first time that day, if he keeps seeing it on a regular basis he should be able to dominate and reach the upper echelon. If I didn’t have that belief I would not be putting my money where my mouth is,” Gayo said.
Simmons is a product of the Junior Baseball League of Nassau and league commissioner/director Jeff Albury was on hand to commemorate the occasion.
“It is such an exciting day for all of us to see one of our own to this level. I particularly want to mention our director of player development Mr Terran Rodgers, and our president Mr Bertie Murray. I have known Kyle since he was a young man and his character has always impressed me,” he said. “I’m so excited to be here, I might even switch from the Yankees to the Pirates.”
Craig Kemp, president of the Bahamas Baseball Federation, gave recognition to the family and coaches which have aided Simmons’ development to this point in his young career.
“This is just the beginning. Other than being excited for the Pirates’ organisation we are all excited for him and we hope that he will have a wonderful career,” he said.
“The BBF would like to thank all of the coaches that has had involvement in Kyle’s development as a baseball player, be a great ambassador for yourself, your family and your country.”
Locally, Simmons has starred at JBLN for a number of years, and at the national level, he was a member of the 2013 team which finished second at the PONY Colt Division Caribbean Championships.