By BRENT STUBBS
IT IS not how you start, nor how you get there. Most importantly, it’s how you finish.
• The Finish Line, a weekly column, seeks to comment on the state of affairs in local sports, highlighting the highs and the lows, the thrills and the spills and the successes and failures.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
IT was an early Christmas present for Tahnaj Thomas as he inked his name on a professional contract with the Cleveland Indians baseball organisation on Tuesday.
The Grand Bahamian native signed the deal presented by Koby Perez, the director of Latin American Scouting for the Indians, with his sobbing father Sidney Thomas on his side and his deceased mother, Michelle Thomas, looking down from above.
Thomas, 17, was also surrounded by his adopted parents Kristy and Castino Sands. Also present were executives, coaches and teammates from the Max Development Programme.
For Thomas, it was a great transformation for a player who came to New Providence at the age of 13 to further enhance his skills with Max D, an organisation that has paved the way for at least six local players to make the step to the minor leagues in the past few years.
Thomas’ story was clearly articulated by his father, who could hardly hold back the tears as he related how he and his wife made the decision to send their teenage son from Grand Bahama to New Providence.
Considering that Thomas has been an accomplished softball coach in the women’s programme in Grand Bahama, he admitted that he trusted the operators of Max D to take care of his son.
Thomas gave a lot of high praise to coaches Geron Sands and Greg Burrows Jr, as well as professional baseball players Antoan Richardson and Albert Cartwright Jr for the role they all played in his son’s success.
But Thomas said so much credit must also be given to Kristy and Castino Sands, who opened their home to accommodate his son. They acted as if he was their own son and the elder Thomas said he will be earthly grateful for the role they played in his son’s development.
Perez, overseeing the signing of the contract which would allow Thomas to get a free education at a college of his choice when he chooses to enrol, joined in the chorus in expressing his appreciation to Max D for the development of players like Thomas.
Max D, which was founded under the premise of trying to get as many of the local players as possible in the pipeline of major league baseball, has lived up to its obligation, despite the fact that there is no active senior baseball league for the players to hone their skills after they are finished with Freedom Farm or the Junior Baseball League of Nassau.
To have scouts coming here from time to time to monitor the progress of the youngsters is a feat within itself for Max D. But they continue to provide the opportunities for as many of the players as possible.
And to have the assistance of both Richardson and Cartwright, who started a resurgence of Bahamian players in the pro ranks in the past decade or so, is a feather in the cap for the Max D programme.
Richardson and Cartwright were the first two players to participate on Great Britain’s team at the World Baseball Classic the past two years. This year, they were able to get a total of seven local players in the line-up.
Hopefully, in a year or two, with the continued improvement of the players out of the Max D programme, the Bahamas could very well field a team to carry the 242 into the classic.
Let’s give Max D a lot of credit for the role they are playing in pushing the baseball movement forward here in the Bahamas.
While there’s still a debate going on about who has and should hold the sanctioning rights for baseball in the country, Max D is quietly making its contribution to get as many players off to the next level.
Tahnaj Thomas is the latest in the growing list of players and, if Max D has its way, they could end up producing even more players in the pipeline in the future.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Christmas is fast approaching and there are some rumours that a number of athletes will have their subventions slashed when the presents are presented.
Between now and January, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has indicated that they intend to either reduce or remove some of the Bahamian Olympians on the list because of their performances in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.
It’s obvious that the team performance was not up to par while the Bahamas collected a pair of medals from Shaunae Miller and the men’s 4 x 400 metre relay team.
But does that mean that athletes on the team should have their subventions slashed or removed from the list all together? How can an athlete go from making the Olympics to being listed as a developmental athlete?
Speaking to a number of athletes, there is a lot of concern about the subvention programme because they are not being properly informed about their status.
This was certainly not a good showing for the Bahamas at the Olympics, but it wasn’t for the entire Caribbean. So there’s no reason why athletes should be penalised by having their subventions slashed or removed from the list because of their performances.
I think we need to show a little more appreciation for our athletes when they get to the Olympics. Not everybody gets to compete on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
So when they do, we should cherish them and look at rewarding them rather than chastising them because there are a lot of things that must be in place for athletes to succeed when they get to that level.
Christmas is coming. Let’s make this a joyous occasion for our athletes on subventions and those who are expected to join the list for the first time in some of the other sports.