By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Baseball Association is expected to christen the refurbished Balliou Hills Sporting Complex this weekend with the return of the Junior National Baseball Championships.
At least 25 teams from New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco will make up the package of Tee Ball (6-and-under), Coach Pitch (8-and-under), 10-and-under, 12-amnd-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under divisions.
After hosting the event in Grand Bahama for the past decade, the BBA decided to bring it back to New Providence where it got started in 2003 and was staged here for at least seven years.
“After coming out of the COVID-19 situation and with the renovations to the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex for the hosting of the Babe Ruth Caribbean Youth Championships in July, we made an agreement with the National Sports Authority to host the Nationals here so we can have a dry run,” said BBA secretary general Theodore ‘Teddy’ Sweeting.
“We want to give the NSA’s team the opportunity to go through all of the protocols with a smaller grouping so that they will be able to iron out the knits in preparation for the Babe Ruth Caribbean Championships. So we will be able to help out with that and see how it goes.”
With the renovations almost complete, Sweeting said they are eager to stage the Nationals at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex from Thursday to Sunday. He noted, however, that the official opening day activities, including the official opening ceremonies, will take place under the lights on the Bankers’ Field.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do for the Babe Ruth National Tournament. But we hope to have everything completed in time for the event in July.
Competing in the Nationals this weekend are teams from the Grand Bahama Grand Amateur Baseball League, the Grand Bahama Legacy League, New Providence’s Community Baseball League, the Ed Armbrister League, Freedom Farm and the Junior Baseball League of Nassau, and two leagues coming out of Abaco from the north and the central area of the island.
Sweeting said the BBA is excited to see so many people in the Family Islands who are making a contribution to the growth and the development of the game.
He said this is a good opportunity for these persons to showcase the talent they have to work with.
“We start programmes in these islands, but we always need persons who are willing and committed to carrying on the work,” Sweeting said.
“So we are happy that persons like Feast is making his contribution on the island of Abaco to assist the programme there.”
While the teams will arrive on Thursday, they will go directly into the official opening ceremonies at the Bankers’ Field where Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg will declare the tournament open.
Following the ceremonies, in which Bowleg is also expected to toss the first pitch, the tournament is set to get started with a Coach Pitch game.
At least two or three games are scheduled for opening night, which will conclude with a massive fireworks display. “We want to do the fireworks because we had a two-year hiatus where we didn’t have any sports played because of COVID-19,” Sweeting said.
“We know alot of the fans are looking forward to it and it will be something special for the players because they are so excited to be playing in the nationals again.”
Unlike Grand Bahama where they got to play late in the evening under the lights at the Emera Baseball Complex, Sweeting said they won’t have the luxury at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex and so they will get started at 8am on Friday and Saturday and hope to be finished by 7pm.
Sunday has been designed as championship day where all of the champions are expected to be crowned in each division.
“We’re looking forward to an exciting weekend. We are praying for less rain or no rain,” Sweeting said.
“We have a plan B, if it rains, so we have everything in place to make this a great weekend of baseball for our junior players.”