By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE top baseball talent in the country will begin the new year competing for bragging rights and the title of home run king at the inaugural "Don't Blink - Home Run Derby In Paradise."
Sixteen of the Bahamas' pro baseball prospects and five visiting minor leaguers will participate in the first showcase of its kind, 12pm-5pm at the Montagu Foreshore January 6, 2018.
The project is the brainchild of Todd Isaacs Jr and Lucius Fox Jr of the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays organisations respectively.
"Since the day I signed to play on to play pro baseball I always wanted to do something where we baseball players can give back to the Bahamas. Since we were young we always played on travel teams but baseball players never really have the opportunity to do anything here at home in the Bahamas to be nationally recognised," Isaacs said.
"After tossing out a few ideas and brainstorming, Lucius and I decided what better way to tie in being a Bahamian born pro baseball player and showcasing the Bahamas all in one. The first thing people think of when they think of the Bahamas is the warm tropical weather and when you think of baseball you think of home runs because it's the most exciting part of the game."
Sixteen of the 18 active Bahamian professional players will participate in the event. In 2012, there were just two active Bahamians in the minor leagues system, indicative of baseball's exponential growth in the country.
"Baseball is the future of the Bahamas and it is very promising. The oldest player we have right now in the minors is just 25 and the youngest is 16 so we are young men whose lives are changing and we have the ability to affect others. It is humbling to be in this position to be able to affect the world at this magnitude with positive vibes and to be able to plant the seeds to reap the benefits of the future."
A unique venue presents a unique approach as players will hit home runs into Montagu Bay. Home run barriers will be set by buoys in the water that have been measured with the proper major league approved dimensions.
"It's going to be incredible, just come out and see. We will be hitting into the water, there will be barriers set by buoys and as long as a ball clears a buoy it will be a home run. I encourage anyone with kayak, canoes and jet skis, please feel free to contact us. We need your help with collection of baseballs so they don't get ruined and once we are done we can donate them to the leagues."
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Cancer Society of the Bahamas and the development of youth baseball in the Bahamas.
"I encourage the public to come out and support, no matter your level of understanding of the game of baseball.You wont feel distanced from us, you will be right up there with us so you can familiarize yourself with us and we can familiarize ourselves with the Bahamian people. I believe this event is the future of baseball here in the Bahamas and a stepping stone in the right direction," Isaacs said, "It wasn't difficult for us to get together. Everyone was on board because everyone wants to be the one that hits the most home runs and find out who's the home run king this year. We are all brothers. Coming into pro baseball I wanted to create an environment where we all stay together to create a good image for baseball in the Bahamas and worldwide. This event will protect baseball in the Bahamas, it will bring a lot of eyes, a lot of attention to these talented baseball players here."
The event will be headlined by Isaacs, Fox and several visiting players who participated in the MLB Futures game, visiting American players Triston McKenzie, Nick Gordon and Dante Bichette Jr.
The event will also include autograph and picture sessions to give the general public an opportunity to interact with the players.
"I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with everyone participating and build the hype around the event," Isaacs said, "We all have the same common goal and that is to spread the wealth, the knowledge and develop the future of the Bahamas."
Event sponsors include RevTV, Bahamas First Insurance, Heritage Seafood, Pop Up Physios and Triple A Marine Transport.
As the title sponsor, REV will broadcast the event live on channel 212, and will simulcast live on it's Facebook page.
"We have a longstanding relationship with Todd Isaacs his family and Freedom Farm Baseball League by virtue of our baseball broadcasts over the years," said Melissa Colebrooke, Marketing Manager at Rev, "We celebrate the success of these young men knowing where you have come from. The vision to give back to the Bahamian community and to showcase and highlight the success and positivity of young men is something that Rev not only supports but we will do what we can to share their story."
In addition to the Home Run Derby, the participating players will host a two day clinic for aspiring student athletes where they will select four hitters for the junior home run derby that will precede the main event.
"We are pleased to announce our sponsorship. I have to admit I was very surprised to learn we had so many young Bahamians playing baseball at a professional level. We say congrats and thank you for what you are doing for our country and for the sport," said Leah Davis, Group Marketing and Communications Manager at Bahamas First, "We are committed to giving back to the Bahamian community making it our priority to support young Bahamians doing something positive and pursuing their dreams. We are pleased to partner with this unique event."
Food vendors looking to participate in the event, interested sponsors or boat owners looking to assist can contact the organisation at firstname.lastname@example.org.