PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis throwing out a pitch at the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium. Photo: Austin Fernander
#By BRENT STUBBS
#Senior Sports Reporter
#“LET’S play ball” was the familiar call of the umpire as the Bahamas Baseball Association finally got to play its first official game in the newly and long-awaited constructed Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium.
#With the focus on the introduction of the first of its series of COPABE tournaments to be played here, Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg opened the stadium on December 4 for the fourth Caribbean Cup.
#It turned out to be the biggest sports story for The Tribune in a year that has been beset with some interesting twists off the playing field as sports returned to full blast in the aftermath of the two-year hiatus because of COVID-19 pandemic.
#Champions – Andre Rodgers opened for business
#Although they still had some cosmetic work to be done, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Davis-led government lived up to the promise of so many others to get the stadium ready by December for the first major international baseball tournament to be played in the Bahamas.
#It was a project designed by architect Michael Foster that started a decade away and seemingly ballooned in cost from double to triple the original price with so many delays that one just wanted to see the big white elephant in full operation.
#COPABE showed up to join in the celebrations with four teams to play in the initial under-23 or rather open tournament that also served as a qualifier for the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2023.
#But after giving it a gallant effort, the Bahamas national team, managed by Geron Sands and featuring the majority of the top players playing in the minor league or college, didn’t have the stamina to go all the way, finishing in fourth place with just one victory.
#Certainly not the start many anticipated considering that the players longed for the opportunity to come home and compete in front of the home crowd. But there’s many who argued why San Francisco Giants’ first base coach Antoan Richardson wasn’t invited to be a part of the coaching staff and other players were not in the pool selection.
#The tournament did provide one stipulation and that was the fact that neither Miami Marlins’ second baseman Jasrado ‘Jazz’ Chisholm and Washington Nationals’ shortstop Lucius Fox were eligible to play in the qualifier as they were on Major League rosters.
#Nonetheless, they missed the rare opportunity to display their skills at home, but there will be more homecoming celebrations for them to be a part of, according to BBA secretary general Teddy Sweeting, who served as the chairman of the Local Organising Committee.
#Runner-Up – World Relays back home
#As the baton left its original home in the Bahamas in 2019 and headed to its second leg in Yokohama, Japan and onto its third leg in Chorzow, Poland in 2021, World Athletics granted the Bahamas the rights in November to bring it home in 2024 back to “Sports in Paradise” as coined by former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
#This was the mark of four years that the Bahamas has played host to the unusual track meet that features competition from the 4 x 100m to the 4 x 1500m and to include the mixed gender 4 x 400m and shuttle hurdles relays.
#While the Bahamas played gracious hosts in 2014, 2015 and 2017, it wasn’t until the last episode here in 2017 that the quartet of Steven Gardiner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan and Michael Mathieu prevailed with the closing victory in that historic introduction of the gender relay that many were left disappointed when the previous Free National Movement (FNM) government opted not to host it again in 2019.
#It’s back and hopefully the rhythmic sound of junkanoo will propel and inspire so many athletes to attain the lofty goal of representing the Bahamas in relay teams in a bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France.
#Third place finishers – Bahamas Games is back
#Before all of the international hype is centred around the World Relays, the Bahamas will get a chance to showcase its own athletes in the seventh edition of the Bahamas Games.
#Although it has been in hibernation for more than two decades, many remember the fierce competition that was witnessed from teams from Grand Bahama in the north to Inagua in the south.
#Set in the framework of the country’s 50th Independence celebrations, the Bahamas Golden Jubilee Games is scheduled for July 6-14 and according to Minister Bowleg will serve as a tool of national integration and sports development.
#The games will return with vintage Martin Lundy and Sharon ‘the General’ Storr as the chairman and deputy chairman respectively of the Games Secretariat of the Olympic-style competition that was last held in 2001 with the previous events taking place in 1998, 1995, 1991 and 1989.
#Once again, athletes will represent teams from New Providence, Abaco, Acklins, Andros, Bimini and the Berry Islands, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma and Ragged Islands, Grand Bahama, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, Long Island, Mayaguana, Rum Cay and San Salvador, either as individuals or combined in some cases.
#Athletes will get to display their skills in competitions in basketball, baseball, beach soccer, bodybuilding, boxing, cycling, golf, lawn tennis, powerlifting, softball, regatta sailing, youth Olympic sailing, swimming and track and field.
#There are also some sporting disciplines that will be used as demonstrations in their efforts to attract more athletes and officials to participate. But for the most part, the landscape is expected to be a grand one for all who participate this year.
#Fourth place finish – BLTA elections in court
#What’s sports in the Bahamas without some controversy in the air, especially when it comes to electing its officers.
#The Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association, under the leadership of president Perry Newton, was all set to go to the polls to elect its new executive team for the next two years. However, former football great Ken Kerr, who was challenging Newton, got a court injunction that prevented the BLTA from going through with the elections.
#No new date has been set, but the BLTA has gone on to function as usual, only to be hit with another snag when some of the top players signed a silent protest by not participating in the 2022 Giorgio Baldacci National Open at the National Tennis Center.
#Top seed Kevin Major Jr also aborted completion of the men’s final when he broke Grand Bahamian rising star Denali Nottage and forfeited the rest of the match with a 1-0 lead.
#While Nottage went on to earn his first national title, there was a change in the role of the ladies’ finalists as No.2 seed Elana Mackey upset defending champion and No.1 seed Sydney Clarke in two sets.
#Fifth place finish – Archer returned as BAAA president
#Many would ask why has this gotten such a high priority? After losing in his bid to become the Member of Parliament for Fort Charlotte as a candidate for the Free National Movement, the argument started to swirl about his future tenure in office for Drumeco Archer as the Bahamas Association of Athletic Association.
#But on December 4, during the BAAA election of officers at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium, Archer re-emerged as president for the next four years, beating out former president Rosamunde Carey and former athlete/coach/executive Dawn Johnson.
#After a vigorous campaign trail, Archer secured a resounding victory to continue the mandate that he left in place as he was chosen to head the BAAA going into the 50th anniversary celebrations of the CARIFTA Games here over the Easter holiday weekend.
#Additionally, Archer played a vital role on the committee that lobbied and was successful in convincing World Athletics that the World Relays should return to the Bahamas when the sixth edition takes place in 2024 after hosting the first three in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
#What a magnificent time for the BAAA, which also has the seventh edition of the Bahamas Games to oversee during the 50th Jubilee anniversary celebrations in July. Archer said he’s up to the task to get the job done with his newly elected executive board.