Over 200 athletes are set to compete in the 2023 Babe Ruth Baseball Caribbean Championship and 16U Invitational, set to get underway this weekend at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex and the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium. The Bahamas will field teams in the 12-and-Under (12U) Division which is a qualifying outlet for the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series at Ballparks of America in Branson, Missouri, later this summer, and the invitational 16-and-Under (16U) Division that will feature teams from the region, the United States (US) and as far away as Europe.
The local tournament, in which The Bahamas won both divisions at home last year, will run from July 20-24.
“We’re ready to go. Last year, we had an excellent tournament, and this year, the number of teams have doubled. I’m very excited to see how the tournament will play out over the five days of competition,” said Greg Burrows Sr., commissioner of Babe Ruth Baseball Caribbean.
The championships will feature teams from the Netherland Antilles, Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Puerto Rico and host nation The Bahamas. The 16U Invitational will encompass teams from the US (South USA and USA Metro), North Netherlands, South Netherlands, Jamaica, Aruba, Curaçao, Belize, Puerto Rico and host nation The Bahamas.
In the 12U Division, The Bahamas will play the Cayman Islands in the first game of the tournament. That game is set for 8 a.m., Thursday, at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex.
The winner of the 12U Caribbean Championship will advance to the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series set for August 2-12, 2023, at Ballparks of America in Branson, Missouri. The Bahamas has an automatic bid in that world series as a result of being the host of the Caribbean Championship this weekend.
“When you look at this tournament, there are teams from Europe, two teams from the United States, Jamaica will be competing for the first time and will have two teams and Belize is competing for the first time,” said Burrows. “Also, there are two teams out of Aruba, two teams out of Curaçao and two teams out of Puerto Rico. This tournament is expected to be very competitive.”
Burrows said they have created all-star teams from The Bahamas in both divisions, and they have been given the leeway to do so, with The Bahamas being one of the smaller countries in the tournament. Usually, the winner of the 12U division at the Bahamas Baseball Association’s (BBA) National Championships would be given the nod to compete in the regional qualifier for the world series. On the contrary, Burrows said for this tournament, they have athletes from both the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBBL) and the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) in New Providence as well as athletes out of Grand Bahama on the squad. The Grand Bahama Little League was the winner of the 12U Division at the national championships.
“At the end of the day, we selected the best who are available,” said Burrows. “There are players from the two major leagues in New Providence and four out of Grand Bahama. We have no doubt that they will represent The Bahamas well and compete for a spot at the world series.”
The Bahamas will stage a grand, cultural opening ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on July 20, welcoming the international guests. The tournament itself will be played over five days. Packages are priced at $65 for adults and $20 for children for the five days. Single-day tickets can be obtained for $10 for adults and $5 for children. Group packages, and single-day tickets, can be obtained by calling the telephone number (242) 376-7628. The event will be streamed through an app created by the local sports media group Sports Media Plus.
General Manager of the National Sports Authority (NSA) Moses Johnson said they are delighted to partner with the Babe Ruth Baseball Caribbean Region in the staging of this event.
“We in the NSA are privileged to partner with the Babe Ruth organization and see this tournament through,” he said. “We are happy to see it grow from strength to strength. We will continue to do out part – ensure that all of our facilities are ready to go. I implore everyone to come out and show their support for these players as they go after the gold.”
Coming on board as a major sponsor of the event is Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) Limited.
Senator Randy Rolle, who has responsibility for the oversight of sports tourism in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, said they are excited and look forward to a great tournament.
“When you look at the global impact that this event will have on our country, certainly the time is right to stage such an event,” said Rolle. “It is such an honor for us to be a part of this. These are the type of events that sports tourism looks forward to and if we are going to continue to push the agenda that sports is better in The Bahamas, we have to continue to lure events like this to our shores, creating room nights and providing opportunities for the youth of the nation through sports.”
Representing Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg, Minister of State in Ministry of Education, Technical and Vocational Training Zane Lightbourne said that Babe Ruth Baseball Caribbean Region has the full support of the government of The Bahamas in the staging of this event.
“This is an ideal destination not just for sports tourism but also for scouts to come and see the most talented country on the planet,” said Lightbourne. “Sports has proven to be a very resilient entity. Sports is back and it is back bigger and better than ever before. The government fully supports this event. This is a way for communities to come together and a way for the potential of our youth to be exposed and shown to the region. I encourage all Bahamians to come out and support sports in this country and to support this event. We have to make sure that this event exceeds the last event and that every year, we move forward and forward in our progression.”
Bahamians are encouraged to show their support for Team Bahamas by filling the stands.