By RENALDO DORSETT
INEFFICIENCY at the local administrative level still prevents the Bahamas from fielding its own national team for International Baseball Federation (IBAF) sanctioned events. However, Bahamian players continue to find avenues to compete internationally.
Several of the country’s top players will represent Great Britain at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier, September 22-25, hosted at MCU park in Brooklyn, New York.
Veteran players Antoan Richardson (Southern Maryland, Atlantic League) and Albert Cartwright (Ottawa, Can-Am League) will suit up for Team Great Britain for the second time at the WBC and will be joined by Ali Knowles (Garden City, Pescos League), Jasrado Chisholm (Arizona Diamondbacks, MLB), Kyle Simmons (Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB), Todd Isaacs (Cleveland Indians, MLB), Reshard Munroe (Cincinnati Reds, MLB), Byron Murray (San Francisco Giants, MLB) and Champ Stuart (New York Mets, MLB).
Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan will compete over the course of the four-day contest to decide the 16th and final entry in the 2017 WBC.
Great Britain will be managed by Liam Carroll as the team bids to make its second appearance at the WBC. With Richardson and Cartwright on the roster, Great Britain went 1-2 during the 2013 Qualifier played in Regensburg, Germany, where it debuted in the WBC. Their tournament highlight was a 12-5 win over the Czech Republic. Cartwright was the leader for the team, batting. 455 with a home run during the three-game span.
At the time of his WBC debut in 2013, Richardson said that while the Bahamian players were grateful for the opportunity to compete internationally with Great Britain, the ultimate goal was to play for team Bahamas in the near future.
“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 in hopes of fielding a team for the current edition of the WBC.
“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 (BBF) was formed nearly 15 years ago after being previously being governed by the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA).
Despite the fact that the BBF is currently the only functioning baseball body in the Bahamas, the IBAF recognises BBA as the parent organisation.
“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.”
In October 2014, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Dr Daniel Johnson, announced a historic agreement between the organisations touted as “resolving the lengthy and damaging dispute” between the BBA and the BBF.
The agreement in place stated that the BBA would remain the authority for the sport throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the BBF would join forces in the selection of the national teams to compete at world level tournaments that are ratified by the Bahamas Olympic Committee.
Next month’s event will be the final Qualifying Round of the 2017 WBC. Teams which participated at the 2013 WBC were automatically qualified for the 2017 tournament except the four nations which ended up last in their respective groups-Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Spain which had to play in the qualifiers along with 12 other national teams. A total of16 teams will participate, divided into four groups of four teams each.
The qualifiers will be organized as four independent modified double-elimination tournaments featuring four teams each. The final game will be winner-take-all, even if won by the team emerging from the loser’s bracket. That is, the team emerging from the winner’s bracket might be eliminated despite losing only one game.
Australia, Mexico and Colombia won their qualifiers and will participate in the 2017 tournament. In their respective brackets, both Australia and Mexico were top seed (signified by home-field advantage) as well as the team that had competed in the 2013 tournament. However, Colombia defeated top seed Panama as well as 2013 participant Spain to advance.
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 coexisted with Olympic Baseball (until 2008) and the Baseball World Cup (until 2011) as IBAF-sanctioned tournaments, but the other two have been discontinued.