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
FOR some time I’ve been writing, agitating for the re-amalgamation of baseball in the country.
Primarily, I was insisting on it because I felt the split between the Bahamas Baseball Association and the Bahamas Baseball Federation did more harm than good for the players who are the beneficiaries of the efforts of those in charge of those organisations.
There were several attempts before the December, 2014 death of Jim Wood, the man who anchored the BBA through a dramatic 30-year period in which the sport suffered as our national teams declined in their participation on the international scene.
Many criticised Wood, but he stuck with his gut feeling that one day there would be harmony in the sport again.
Minister of Sport after Minister, from Peter Bethel, Neville Wisdom, Charles Maynard, Desmond Bannister to Dr Daniel Johnson, were all vocal in their expressed desire to see some resolution.
After the split in the BBA that led to the formation of the BBF, immediate past president Craig ‘Salty’ Kemp made one last pitch to put the affairs of the sport back in order with an agreement that the BBF continue to operate with their tournaments and league play, while the BBA would be responsible for the formation of the national teams.
There was supposed to be the meeting of the minds, but nothing happened before Kemp’s term was up and subsequently Wood passed away. The BBF was then taken over by former secretary general Teddy Sweeting, while the mantle was left in the hands of Sam Rodgers, Wood’s trusted and loyal vice president.
On Tuesday, Rodgers and his executives finally welcomed a large faction of the BBF into their fold as the Junior Baseball League of Nassau, the Eleuthera Junior Baseball League, the Grand Bahama Little League and the Grand Bahama Senior Baseball all the came on board.
They came together as they “joined hands for a better baseball” in the Bahamas.
Indeed, it was a new day for the sport as the executives realised that the sport was bigger than them. It’s all about the players, who they have to provide the opportunities and avenues to compete.
I commend the BBA for taking the stand to unite the others who came on board, namely Terran Rodgers as a vice president; Larry Forbes, vice president for the North Eastern Bahamas; Steven Adderley, vice president for the Northern Bahamas; Shane Albury as secretary and Andrew Saunders, Joseph Moss, Sandy Morley, Alonzo Pratt, Veancor Darville as directors, along with former Major Leaguer Ed Armbrister as their baseball ambassador and Martin ‘Pork’ Burrows as Umpire in Chief.
They join a cadre of officers, led by Sam Rodgers, and including Stanley Mitchell, Oria, Dave, Andre and Marvin Wood, who remained steadfast in their commitment to work with the late Jim Wood over the years that the dispute existed.
The BBF, still active with memberships from Freedom Farm and the Legacy Baseball League in Grand Bahama, will continue to stage their National Championship as the BBA has indicated that they have no plans of disputing it under their new agreement.
I also want to commend Senator Greg Burrows, Jeff Williams and Jeff ‘Sangy’ Francis, who had the vision to formulate the federation to provide that opportunity for the players to play.
They’ve done a tremendous job in keeping the sport alive and, in the process, the Bahamas saw a resurgence of players playing at the professional level through their efforts.
But I think it was disheartening, as Sam Rodgers so amply stated, to see that the Bahamas could assemble nine players to participate for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic last year.
Imagine, if collectively, all of the factions had come together, the Bahamas could have been the architect of its own national team by now to compete at that level. Not that they didn’t do it as the dispute lingered on, but it was obvious that what the BBA was doing wasn’t working.
At some point, there had to be a compromise.
With the addition of JBLN and those leagues from Grand Bahama, at least the BBA will have a base to work with. There are a number of players from these organisations who have players either competing in high school, college or the pro ranks, who are affialiated with their organisations.
So it gives the BBA more leverage in selecting its national teams.
The BBF, in fairness, has produced a large number of players too who are excelling, but if the Bahamas is going to assemble its own team, all roads have to go through the BBA, who still holds the sanctioning rights with COPABO (the Pan American Baseball Confederation) and the International Baseball Federation (IBF).
I hope this would be the first step in the re-amalgamation of the sport for the betterment of baseball in the country.
I know Jim Wood, with his son-in-law Collin ‘Troppy’ Knowles on his side, must be looking down and smiling, saying that his labour was not in vain.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Over five days of intense competition over the weekend, we saw our track and field athletes pour themselves out in representing their schools at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture’s National High School Championships and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Association’s Test Event for the third version of the IAAF World Relays.
Now the BAAA is looking for many of those athletes to return to the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium next weekend to compete again. At stake, spots on the national team that will represent the country at the CARIFTA Games in Curacao over the Easter holiday weekend.
In recent years, we’ve seen the athletes placing more emphasis on competing for their schools and not as patriotic about coming out to wear the aqua marine, gold and black at the biggest junior meet in the region.
Close to 700 athletes from more than 40 schools from throughout our archipelago competed for their respective schools. Let’s see how many we will get for the trials next Friday and Saturday.
Maybe, the Ministry of Sports can look at providing some more accommodation incentives for those athletes from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, who excelled last week, so they can come back to town to compete. But that shouldn’t be the only reason.
We need to see more national pride demonstrated from our athletes if we’re going to regain our position as either the number two nation behind the reigning powerhouse Jamaica, or we will continue to battle with Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Grenada, just to name a few for third, fourth or fifth.
Let me take this time, while I’m at it, to congratulate Shaun Miller on being elected as the new president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Coaches.
Miller, the head coach of Speed Dynamics, who served as relay coach for the 2016 Olympic Games in which his daughter Shaunae Miller-Uibo won gold in the women’s 400 metres, said he accepted the challenge from the other coaches to run the organisation that was previously headed by Curtis Pride.
And first and foremost on his agenda is ensuring that the BAAC has the proper funding in place.
I agree with Miller that if we are funding our elite athletes, there should be some enumeration in place for the coaches, who have to provide their time and energy with those athletes.
Let’s put in a proper system where the coaches are compensated based on their level of achievements with their athletes from the youth to the elite competition. Maybe, just maybe, we might see better performances from our athletes as we move “forward, upward, onward and together,” as mandated in our nation’s motto.