By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
The inaugural “Don’t Blink Home Run Derby In Paradise” was a revolutionary idea that produced a series of highlights and showcased the Bahamas’ elite baseball talent.
Hundreds of supporters turned out to the event Saturday afternoon at the Montagu Bay foreshore to witness a power-hitting display from Bahamian minor leaguers and several visiting international prospects.
One of those visiting players, Bo Bichette of the Toronto Blue Jays organisation, claimed the title of the first ever “Don’t Blink Home Run King.”
Bichette hit nine home runs in the final round to defeat Lucius Fox Jr (Tampa Bay Rays) and Nick Gordon (Minnesota Twins).
The 19-year-old shortstop, a second round selection by the Blue Jays in the 2016 MLB draft and currently a member of the Dunedin Blue Jays in Single A-Advanced, just completed a season where he was named the Midwest League MVP and the his organisation’s Minor League Hitter of the Year.
“This event was awesome, the people gave us a lot of energy and we were just excited to come out here and show people in the Bahamas what baseball is all about. They are really good friends of mine so it meant a lot to come down here and be able to help them out. I know they want to bring awareness of baseball to the Bahamas so to be able to come out and help them with that is the least that I can do,” Bichette said, “It was cold, it was windy for sure but it’s always fun to come out and hit some homers.”
Bichette is the youngest son of former MLB All-Star, Dante Bichette, who was on hand to assist with the event and pitch to Bo and other players.
The project was the brainchild of Todd Isaacs Jr (Cleveland Indians) and Fox, who wanted to give the country’s litany of local pro baseball prospects a rare opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd.
Other local competitors included Champ Stuart (New York Mets), Anfernee Seymour (Atlanta Braves), Chavez Young (Toronto Blue Jays), Trent Deveaux (Los Angeles Angels), D’Shawn Knowles (Los Angeles Angels), Kristian Robinson (Arizona Diamondbacks), Jazz Chisholm (Arizona Diamondbacks), Dominic Collie (Arizona Diamondbacks), Keithron Moss (Texas Rangers), Reshard Munroe (Cincinnati Reds).
Bichette and Gordon (Minnesota Twins) were the two visiting American prospects in the lineup.
In the opening round, Chisholm, Gordon, Collie, Fox, Isaacs, Bichette, and Alcime advanced to the semifinals.
While a Bahamian did not win the inaugural event, Isaacs said the event was a success just to see the support of the Bahamian crowd behind a baseball event.
“For me this is a win to get all of these people out here. There was so much planning that went into this, I’m just glad to have everyone on board to be a part of this. It was a really good group of guys that competed. Everyone came out and did the best that they could, gave their absolute best and Bo just had a great day. He’s a great hitter, he’s a great baseball player, and someone that we all admire so it was great to have him come down here and compete with us,” he said, “ For us it meant a lot to have this group here and to have everyone take part in it. These guys are really good friends of our, we’ve played against each other, but we look out for each other and when we pitched the idea to them they got on board right away, wanted to be apart of it and they helped make this special.”
A unique venue presented a unique approach as players hit home runs into Montagu Bay. Home run barriers were set by buoys in the water that were measured with the proper major league approved dimensions.
“This is something, we didn’t know what type of crowd we would get, what feedback we would get online and based on what we recicved I’m really humble and excited for what we can accomplish in the future. It was a lot of fun to feel this energy, it was something I always got to experience running track and I wanted to create this atmosphere for everyone to go out there and compete,” Isaacs said, “It’s all about the fans and creating an atmosphere for baseball to flourish in the country. The Bahamas is a breeding ground for talent on and off the baseball field and in all professions in the world, so for us to bring this amount of people out and create something for people to recognize the amount of talent we have here is incredible. I’m looking forward for the number of Bahamian progressional players to continue to grow so we could have even more competitors next year.”
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Cancer Society of the Bahamas and the development of youth baseball in the Bahamas.
In addition to the Home Run Derby, the participating players also hosted a two day clinic for aspiring student athletes at the Freedom Farm and JBLN complexes.