By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
JASRADO “Jazz” Chisholm’s series of career milestones in 2020 was highlighted by becoming just the seventh Bahamian to play Major League Baseball. The historic feat earned him The Tribune’s Senior Male Athlete of the Year.
The 22-year-old Miami Marlins infielder’s major league callup in September and his ensuing performance for the remainder of the season became the biggest Bahamian sports story in a year obstructed by the COVID- 19 pandemic.
The Marlins’ No. 4 prospect and No. 61 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, Chisholm was expected to start the season with the Marlins’ AAA affiliate, the Wichita Wind Surge of the Pacific Coast League.
However, the pandemic cancelled minor league baseball in 2020 and shortened the major leagues to a shortened 60-game season. The Marlins were one of the teams hit by the pandemic early in the season and had the highest roster turnover of any team in the league with 17 players eventually placed on the COVID reserve list.
While the team got off to a slow start, Chisholm said his focus was to stay mentally ready in preparation for a major league callup.
“My expectations never went down, when the shutdown happened I was just thinking, I have to prepare to play in the big leagues. They already said that we weren’t having a minor league season so I was just getting ready to play in the big leagues. Even when we were locked down I was just running around the neighbourhood, getting my miles in just to be ready,” he said.
“It was the day the 17 guys went down and I thought to myself ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen right now am I ready to go to the big leagues?’ I had to check myself to make sure that I was ready every day because it could happen every day. It gave me the instant shock that I could get the call any day so I was preparing every day like it could happen.”
The call did happen and Chisholm made his historic major league debut on September 1 against the Toronto Blue Jays at Marlins Stadium. He entered the game as a defensive substitute in the top of the eighth inning for shortstop Miguel Rojas and officially became just the seventh Bahamian to play in the major leagues.
In 21 games this season he hit .161 with a .563 OPS a .242 OBP, nine hits, two home runs, nine runs, six RBI, and two stolen bases.
He recorded the first hit of his MLB career on September 5 with a single against the Tampa Bay Rays and scored the first run of his career the following day against the Braves on September 6.
Chisholm’s breakthrough at the plate came on September 9 against the Braves when he recorded his first major league home run, RBI, triple and multi-hit game. He became the third youngest Marlins player to have a game with a home run and a triple. The only players to do it at a younger age were Giancarlo Stanton and Jeremy Hermida.
Chisholm had his best game of the year in the regular season finale when he blasted his second home run of the season and finished 2-4 with three RBI and scored two runs.
The Marlins were one of the most improbable stories in the 2020 season. They were the worst team in the National League a season ago at 57-105 and returned in 2020 to finish 31-29 for their first winning season since 2009 and earned their first playoff berth since 2003.
Once they reached the postseason, the No.6 seeded Marlins advanced with a two-game sweep of the No.3 Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card round before they were eliminated by the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
Chisholm made his postseason debut in the final game of the season for the Marlins. He started at second base in the Marlins’ 7-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas and became just the second Bahamian player to play in the MLB postseason following Ed Armbrister’s run with the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s.
“Everyone was telling me they were so proud of me and that I’m an inspiration to them and some of them were the guys that I was looking up to when I was younger so it touches me that I can touch anyone’s heart in the Bahamas.
“We know how the struggle has been back home for the past year with COVID- 19 and I got called up to play on September 1st which makes a year since Hurricane Dorian passed, so all of that made it a special time for me,” Chisholm said. “Having my debut in Miami the closest place to home when I can’t be home, I’m always at a loss for words when I think of it. Getting called up to a playoff potential team, and I believe we’re going to make the playoffs, it’s just amazing. I think the whole Bahamas are Marlins fans now.”
Chavano “Buddy” Hield
Hield’s 2020 included a career highlight on All-Star Weekend, several milestones to establish himself as one of the most proficient shooters in NBA history and a new career high scoring night to honour his NBA childhood hero.
As the NBA continued to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant in January, Hield paid tribute to the player he credits as his NBA inspiration with the best game of his five-year career.
In his first game since Bryant’s tragic death, Hield led the Kings to an historic comeback and scored a career-high 42 points for the Kings in their 133-129 overtime win over the Timberwolves on January 27.
The Kings overcame a 27-point deficit and Hield made five of his nine three pointers in the final 4:34 in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the reason I wanted to play in the NBA because of Kobe,” Hield said following the game. “I feel that he was with me. He never gives up. That’s always his mentality. Never give up. No matter what the stakes was, he was always pushing, always pressing. He’s making sure guys feel him. That’s what I did tonight.”
Hield said that continuing to wear the number and compete at the highest level is a fitting way to honour the memory of the Los Angeles Lakers great.
Inspired by Bryant, Hield has worn No.24 at the high school level at Sunrise Christian, three of his four years in college with the Oklahoma Sooners and throughout his NBA career with the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.
Hield went on to set another milestone on February 8 when he shot 9-10 from beyond the arc, scored 31 points in the Kings’ 122-102 win over the San Antonio Spurs and simultaneously became the fastest player in NBA history to make 800 career three-point field goals. He accomplished the feat in just 296 games to surpass the mark set by Golden State Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry, who did it in 305 games.
Just over a week later, Hield became one of the headliners of NBA All-Star Weekend when he became the league’s new three-point shootout champion on February 15.
He posted a final round of 27 points and clinched the title on his final shot to defeat the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker in the final round of the Mtn Dew Three Point Shootout at State Farm All-Star Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
“I just wanted to come out and represent the Bahamas as best as I can, represent my family and I thank God for giving me the win. I was happy to be here and I was happy to show out. Everyone knows I have been a shooter since I was a little kid. This one was on my bucket list and I’m happy to get it,” Hield said.
He finished the season with 873 threes, more three-point field goals than any other player in his first four NBA seasons. He surpassed the previous record of 828 set by Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
This month, Hield’s late-game heroics helped the Sacramento Kings open the 2020-21 campaign with a thrilling win in the first overtime game of the season.
Hield scored a team high 22 points and tipped in the game winner as time expired to give the Kings a 124-122 win over the Denver Nuggets December 23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
He scored 19 of his 22 in the second half, none bigger than the final field goal in overtime. Harrison Barnes deflected the Nuggets inbound pass and had an opportunity to score the go ahead basket but his dunk attempt was blocked by the Nuggets’ Will Barton.
Hield was trailing on the fastbreak and was perfectly positioned for the tip in as time expired.
Third Place: Steven Gardiner
There were few opportunities for Gardiner to compete in 2020, but when he did, he added a new national record to his prolific résumé.
Gardiner set a new 300m national record on July 5 at the V12 Summer Games in a blistering time of 31.83 seconds.
In the meet hosted at the Sante Fe High School in Alachua, Florida, his time surpassed Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown’s previous national record of 31.91 that he posted in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.
Gardiner’s time also headed the World Athletics top list for 2020 and ranked 23rd on the all-time list.
Gardiner opened his season at the B3R Sports Invitational just short of Brown’s record time in 31.95. His list of Bahamas national records also includes the 200m straight in 19.88 at the Adidas Boost Boston Games on May 20, 2018, the 200m in 19.75 at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational in Coral Gables, Florida on April 7, 2018 and the 400m in 43.48 to win the gold medal at the World Athletics’ 2019 World Championships on October 4 in Doha, Qatar.
“I feel good about it. I feel we are right on track to where we could have been if we didn’t go through the coronavirus pandemic,” Gardiner said.
“I know it was tough for us in training, but we were still able to train and do what we have to do.”
In August, Gardiner completed what turned out to be the climax of a shortened track and field season at the American Track Meet in Georgia.
Gardiner, who didn’t get a chance to compete in any 400m races this season, won the men’s 200m in a time of 20.19.