By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
AS childhood friends, Lucius Fox and Todd Isaacs Jr have been each other’s greatest inspiration on and off the baseball field.
The duo, who switched their concentration from track and field in St Augustine’s College to baseball while playing at Freedom Farm, have transcended their relationship to partnership as the co-founders and hosts of the Don’t Blink Home Run Derby that staged its fifth edition at Montagu Bay in December.
At the same time, they are both doing what they love the most, playing baseball at the professional level, albeit, Fox in Major League Baseball, while Isaacs Jr is a member of the Frontal League.
Together, the pair sat down at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium on Friday where they described their journey to where they are and their closely knitted friendship that is second to none as they indicated that they have been there for each other in every circumstance along the way.
“Every game that Lucius and I played against each other (in minor league), it was some of the best baseball to watch. We always wanted to be one up on the other, Isaacs Jr said. “So if he makes a good play, I have to follow up with something better.
“If he had a good game today, I had to follow up with one the next day. I remember the last time we played against each other in Lake County, I remember getting a walk home run against his team and he followed up the next day by getting four hits. Every time we stepped on the field together, we competed against each other, but we represented the Bahamas so we had to do it with pride.”
Having played together on teams since they were nine years old, Fox said it was hard to play against each other even when they headed the two separate teams to play against each other in the Home Run Derby.
“In that game that he hit the home run, it was my brother’s team that won, so I was happy for him,” Fox said. “It was also a tough competition, even in the Home Run Derby. We always wanted to win, but we also wanted to put on a show for our Bahamian people and to show the young people coming up that they can do it too.”
With so many young players looking for the opportunity to also get their chance to play professional baseball, Fox said they try to inspire them as much as they can when they come home and participate in the Home Run Derby.
“I feel like the players look forward to it every year. I know some of the young kids who are on the verge of signing their contracts, they don’t talk as much about it as they do about playing in the Home Run Derby,” Fox said. “So once we continue to inspire the kids coming up and we can teach them how to do this properly, our country can become one of the best baseball nations in the world. The Home Run Derby is the greatest show on sand.”
As a kid, 26-year-old Isaacs Jr said he vividly remembers going into the old Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium and seeing the bright lights. Now he said he finally got to see the completion of the new stadium and he can’t wait to make his debut in it.
“I remember coming home in December and on the Saturday before it opened up, I just wanted to come and see it and take it all in,” he said. “As a baseball player, it was the first time we came home and got to play in it.
“We play so many times away, but to come home and to see the lights on and the music playing and so many people in the stands, for me it was a surreal experience. It just goes to show that now we can do whatever we want to do in the sport with this stadium.”
Fox, 25, wasn’t able to play in the initial tournament because he was on a Major League roster, but he is still basking in his own success as the eighth Bahamian to crack the top echelon in the sport as a member of the Washington Nationals last year.
“Since I started playing baseball when I was seven, I told my father I wanted to make it to the Major League and since then he’s pushed me and given me all of the opportunities to reach my goal,” Fox said.
“Signing to become a professional player, I was just 18 years old. I only had Antoan Richardson and Albert Cartwright, who were before and they tried to explain it to me, but you really don’t know what it’s like until you get in there yourself.”
After seven years as a pro, three of which he suffered a series of injuries, Fox said when he got the call up last year, it was a special moment for him.
“There were so many moments that ran through my mind because you wanted to get there as quickly as possible,” he said. “But the game of baseball and sports in general is tough because injuries happen, so you just have to stay the course.
“Making it to the Major League this past season is the first step in my journey and I’m looking forward to trying to help the Washington Nationals win a World Series in the near future. It was a special moment for me. I got to share it with my family and friends, who were there with me from day one.”
Fox said he could feel the love of the Bahamian people as they rooted for him when he went out there and played for them because although he was wearing the Nationals on his chest, he was still a Bahamian.
For Isaacs Jr, just knowing that he did it, made him more excited than Fox himself. “From nine years old, we waited for that day to come,” Fox Jr said. “Whatever I was into , he was into and whatever he was into, I was in it too. We talked about playing professional baseball and to see the work that he put in behind the scenes to get to the top is something that I will never forget.
“I remember when he felt so deflated and he told me that he was going to Triple A and after he drove all the way to Rochester, he got the news that the next day he was going to the big leagues. I remember calling my mom and telling her that Lucius was going to the Majors. I felt like I was going there too because we waited patiently for that day to happen.”
It didn’t happen to Fox Jr, who played for the Indians for four years and then went to the Rockies before he went to the Frontal League. But he said his goal is to get back into the minor league and to work his way up the ladder.
“If anyone looks up at my numbers, they will see that I can’t be denied, so my goal is to just get better in the offseason and every game go out there and put on a good show for my team. My country and my family, which keeps me grounded,” Isaacs Jr said.
“So this season, I just want to build on what I did last season and just wait patiently for my opportunity to get back into minor baseball and eventually get the chance as well to play in the majors.”
One of the goals for Fox as he looks forward to making his presence felt is to become the first Bahamian to win “rookie of the year” honours.
He intends to go to Spring Training and hopefully if he stays healthy, he can play a full season with the Nationals.
“I missed a lot of time with injuries, but I want to play a full season without any injuries,” he said.
Once he earns that feat, Isaacs Jr said they will celebrate it when they host the sixth edition of the Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in December in Montagu Bay.
With his reliance on God and the support of his family, Fox said he was able to accomplish his feat, rather than just giving up due to the injuries and he missed so much time on the playing field. He said talking to Isaacs Jr and his mother has made a world of a difference.
“I know that God doesn’t make any mistakes, so you just have to continue to trust him and keep the faith in him,” Fox said. “Whenever he does it, it’s the perfect time, so you just have to trust him. We always have our plans, but God laughs at you. So keep your faith in God, believe in yourself and have people in your corner who have your back like Todd, who is always there to boost my confidence.”
For Isaacs Jr to get back on the road to the majors, he said he too has to continue to believe in God and to put his faith and trust in him because “God is making things happen that will keep me around the game forever.
“So I just have to keep the faith and just ask him to direct me. I know I can play at any and every level in the sport, but God’s plan is different from mine, so I just have to wait for God’s direction,” he said.
“Every time I take the field, I can just go out there and put on a show for the people in the stands and hopefully the right people will notice what I’m doing and I will get the opportunity that I’ve been waiting on to get back in the league.”
Like a “peacock” with its chest standing out, Isaacs Jr said he’s like that every time he gets to represent the Bahamas, whether it’s in the minors or in the Frontier League, so he asks the country to continue to cheer and support them as they represent the country.
“We came from a small country with small islands, but we’re not small-minded individuals,” Fox added. “I remember when we first came into professional baseball and we told people we’re from the Bahamas, they were astonished that we play baseball here.
“Now they take notice. They don’t say that anymore. So we just continue doing our part to push the game forward and put the world on notice that Bahamian baseball is here and it’s here to stay as we continue to keep our little small island on the map.”
Fox said every time they compete, they want to let the world know that they are from the Bahamas with their stellar plays and that there are many who went before them and many more to come after them.
“The sports world is tough. You are competing against athletes from all around the world,” Fox summed up. “You have athletes who are bigger, stronger and faster than you, but with your heart and determination, you can get the job done.”
“A lot of people don’t see how much time athletes put in trying to perfect their craft and the pain they go through and mental aspects that they have to endure. I know I have a lot more respect for athletes because I’ve been there and I’ve had to go through all of it myself.”
While they look forward to continuing on the path that they are heading, both Fox and Isaacs Jr said eventually they hope that one day they end up either playing against or with each other just like they did on their initial home turf at Freedom Farm.