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Bahamian minor league players staying ready

Chavez Fernander.

April 30, 2020

Simba French

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Many Bahamian Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players are at home here in The Bahamas, riding out the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is not a vacation for them as they are engaged in private workouts in an effort to improve and attempt to transition into Major League Baseball (MLB).

MLB, like every active major sports league in the United States of America (USA), has suspended its play until the pandemic is controllable.

Bahamian pitcher Chavez Fernander, who hails from Grand Bahama, was looking to start the second season of his career earlier this month. Instead, he is at home trying to find the best way to stay sharp.

“I am home trying to stay in shape…doing some lightweight training with cinder blocks, some jogging around the neighborhood and some yoga band workouts,” Fernander said.

The Detroit Tigers minor league player had a 2.31 earned run average (ERA) last season. He started in eight games, finishing with a 2-2 win-loss record, and recorded 33 strikeouts. Playing in the New York-Penn League Class A short level, Fernander had a respectable season in 2019. He won a pitcher of the week award in June.

For him, this is a step back, but he remains optimistic.

“I am getting older, and not being able to pitch for a season will hurt; plus, not getting that pitching experience at that level also hurts. I can’t imagine not throwing for a year,” Fernander said.

Ian Lewis was set to start his rookie season earlier this month. Now, he has to wait a little longer before he can make his debut. He signed with the Miami Marlins organization in July of last year.

The shortstop said he was looking forward to being on the field.

“I wanted to show up and prove a point – show what I could do on the field with my play. I am excited to start playing, ready to have fun,” Lewis said.

Although play has been suspended, Lewis said he keeps busy and tries to stay active. The Marlins gave him a new diet plan to follow.

“I am staying inside doing my social distancing and doing some work around the house,” Lewis said. “I am also doing some running and trying to keep up with the new diet that the team gave me. I am using my body weight to do my strength workout and staying mentally prepared.”

Also keeping busy during the break is Zion Bannister of the Texas Rangers organization. He signed last year and played in six games at the rookie ball level. The outfielder has been getting in some swings during this time off and is continuing to work out.

“We put up a screen in the back of the yard so I can hit some baseballs off the tee into it. I am also doing some routine drills, calisthenics, sprints, some push-ups and some body weight exercises,” said Bannister.

In those six games, Bannister batted 6-for-22 and scored three runs. He had one run batted in (RBI). His average was .273 and he had a slugging percentage of .318.

Bannister said the break will only help him get better. He said he’s staying focused and trusting in God’s plans for him.

There is no timetable as to when baseball will resume but local players are focused and preparing for whenever they are called to play for their respective teams.

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