Bahamian pro player looking for more opportunities in baseball
Bahamian Ellison Hanna has come from being afraid of the baseball during his days at the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) in Nassau East to launching 400-foot home runs professionally.
His performance during the 4th COCABE (Caribbean Baseball Confederation) Caribbean Baseball Cup, which was held at the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium two weeks ago, quickly endeared him into the hearts of Bahamians.
Hanna, 24, launched the first home run by a Bahamian in the new stadium, immediately becoming the answer to a key trivia question going forward, and became a fan favorite from his contributions on the field and off-field personality. Hanna, a second-year professional baseball player, finished the week-long tournament with four hits in 15 at-bats, one home run, two RBIs (runs batted in) and four runs scored.
The Bahamas finished fourth in that regional tournament, thereby missing out on a qualifying spot for next year’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in San Salvador, El Salvador, but Hanna certainly did his part to propel the team forward. He led the team in home runs with one, runs scored with four, slugging percentage (SLG) at .467, was second in on-base plus slugging (OPS) at .820, tied for third in RBIs with four others at two, and fifth in hits and batting average at four and .267, respectively.
Professionally, he plays for the Lake Erie Crushers professional baseball team in Avon, Ohio.
“Coming home and representing my country in a tournament of this level was a lifelong dream of mine. It meant the world to me,” said Hanna. “Having my parents and friends being able to watch me play, and being able to put on the uniform for The Bahamas, was an absolute blessing. I could never say that I was satisfied because as a team, we didn’t get the job done. There is always more that you would feel that you could have done. There are some regrets, but nevertheless, there were a lot of positives.”
Hanna had a couple of huge hits for The Bahamas in the Caribbean Baseball Cup. He blasted a towering solo shot against Cuba to get The Bahamas on the scoreboard in that game and had a huge two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning against the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to put The Bahamas up, 3-2, in that game. The Bahamas defeated the USVI, 4-3, but lost to Cuba, 9-3.
“With the home run, that was an awesome feeling,” said Hanna. “I met a kid from JBLN and when I told him that I was Ellison Hanna, he told me he knew who I was. He said ‘you’re the guy who hit the home run’ so that was cool. It seems like that will always be something that people will remember.”
As a pinch hitter in the top of the ninth against Cuba, Hanna said he was just looking to be a spark plug for the team with them being down 9-0 at that point.
“I wanted to lift the spirit of the team in any way possible. I saw two sliders away and a fastball up and in. I saw a slider in the dirt and another fastball away. On the last pitch, he threw me a slider that missed its spot. It was middle in and I just turned on it. It was a good feeling,” said Hanna.
The Bahamian slugger is a graduate of St. Augustine’s College (SAC) and then went off to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to further his education and continue his baseball career. Hanna then attended Indiana State University before entering the professional ranks in 2021, signing with the Missoula PaddleHeads in the Pioneer League, a Major League Baseball (MLB) Partner League. The PaddleHeads are based in Missoula, Montana.
In his senior year in university, Hanna helped the Indiana State Sycamores to a 31-21 win/loss record that included a 13-14 record in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I baseball. He finished the season with a .337 batting average with five home runs and 21 RBIs. He was selected to the MVC Baseball Tournament All-Tournament Team, finishing the tournament hitting .278 with three home runs and nine RBIs.
“I’m working hard and still trying to keep the dream alive of getting to the majors but I’m also very realistic. I feel like my entire purpose on this earth is to inspire, transform and help cultivate young people. Going to the majors would be an easy way to do that, but if I have a chance to work with kids, I would be okay with doing that. I would still like to play professional baseball for the rest of my life, but I’m realistic, understanding that I’m 24 and the window is kind of closing,” said Hanna.
Hanna said he was afraid of the baseball when he first started plating at nine-years-old at JBLN, but just decided one day that if he was going to progress in the sport, he had to get over that fear.
“I actually started off playing soccer and doing gymnastics, but my dad was a softball player, and I kind of just told him that I wanted to be like him. I never wanted to get hit, but eventually I adjusted and stopped being afraid of the baseball. The experience at JBLN was all about transformation and progress in my life. I just decided that I wasn’t going to let one little ball determine whether or not I would be able to do great things. JBLN, for me, represented a lot of opportunities,” he said.
Hanna said through JBLN he was able to a MLB elite baseball camp in Brazil, multiple showcases – one each for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds – and he was able to meet lifelong friends.
“JBLN formulated a
structure in my life that I didn’t know that I needed,” said Hanna. “There were kids who were better than me and it was easy to quit, but at the end of the day, I was able to progress and had opportunities to become a professional baseball player. All of that happened at JBLN.”
Hanna said he would embrace an opportunity to coach young baseball talent in the future.
“Coaching is something that I enjoy. Through coaching, I get to live out three objectives – to inspire, transform and help cultivate. With coaching, I’m just trying to figure out if to do that in the U.S. after I get my degree or come home and pay it forward and try to help young kids over here,” he said. “Dreams are what you make them. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do and how you want to achieve it. Your brain will automatically feed into any experience that you put it through and it will try its best to make sure that it comes true. If there’s a kid out there trying to be the best basketball player or the best baseball player, they have to know that it is achievable. Continue to work hard and allow yourself to grow and just allow yourself to become a better person. Keep feeding yourself with experiences.”
Hanna is currently pursuing a master’s degree in human resources management and is gradually anticipating the next step in his baseball career and in mentoring others. He was plugged in primarily as an outfielder for The Bahamas during the Caribbean Baseball Cup.
The Bahamian said he is looking forward to representing The Bahamas in baseball again in the not too distant future.