By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune SPORTS REPORTER
ONE of the newest and most anticipated additions to Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise Week of events will be the community outreach project to upgrade the facilities at Pinewood Baseball Park.
Event organisers Todd Isaacs Jr and Lucius Fox have partnered with Magical Builders and the International Elite Baseball Academy to facilitate the initiative, aimed to improve local baseball development.
Magical Builders is a non-profit corporation that has managed the construction and renovation of dozens of charitable facilities throughout the United States.
The groundbreaking for the upgrades to the park will take place December 16, as one of several events during derby week and culminates with the main event on December 18. “We started these conversations with a mutual friend, a writer at MLB.com that has been a friend of these young men for years as they have developed into professional athletes along with Geron Sands of I-Elite.
It was brought to our attention how the folks here have grown in the sport of baseball and their need for facilities, and how talented you all are here,” said Christy Frank, president and co-founder of Magical Builders.
“We got on a few calls almost two years ago and starting planning it and when we heard about the home run derby we thought it was an amazing opportunity.
For nearly two decades, the organisation has partnered with Major League Baseball, professional sports teams, athletes and celebrities to build or renovate teen centres, athletic fields, domestic abuse shelters, veterans centres, daycare facilities, homeless and poverty centres, disability centres, affordable housing, hospital family living centres, academic facilities and other projects. “What we have learned with our partnership with the MLB and other celebrity groups throughout America, our charitable arm is even different now. It used to be ‘go out there and give a few items, do something special,’ but now it’s so much more - it’s the mental health of these young people, it’s family, it’s environment, it’s education, which includes computers with WiFi. It’s so much we learned that we didn’t think about as much,” Frank said.
“We have a few national partners in America and we are forging some very special relationships that will allow us to bring product into the country that can help facilitate the building of these fields and make it something safe. We also want to help and get computers out to the I-Elite Academy school campus.
“We’re super excited to help with not just baseball, but all of the sports, and we’ve visited the different complexes. We just want to use our resources to help this community. What we have heard about these men, we were eager to come on board and get involved. When we heard the amazing things about these guys and when we forged our own relationships.”
International Elite Sports Academy’s academic campus is located in Fox Hill while its baseball home is at Pinewood park.
“We worked out there everyday and just to turn that place into a beautiful complex would mean the world to us,” Fox said.
The Academy was founded by directors Geron Sands and Albert Cartwright. It provides an avenue for student athletes an opportunity to hone their skills with the view of playing at the professional level of furthering their exposure and education through the game of baseball.
The academy’s network has expanded to include I-Recruit which is geared toward high school and collegiate scouting and also includes a partnership with Bahamas Athletic Pride to form I-BAP for the development of girls’ softball.
Sands said the work of the Home Run Derby has increased exposure to Bahamian baseball.
“It’s a pleasure to work with these groups. Everywhere I go people ask me about the home run derby and my connection to these guys,” Sands said.
“We are all about education and development of kids, helping young men with their future in baseball and now young ladies in softball. Helping with scholarships, reducing the negativity in the communities. We want to increase our activity community by community. From the educational standpoint, through Magical Builders, the Home Run Derby and the relationships we have built up over the years, we want to continue that and through this event, we want to keep that relationship growing as much as possible.”
With an upgrade in facilities and more access to fields, the development of the game at the youth level can improve dramatically in the near future.