Last Week’s News: A Proposed Baseball Diamond in Trelawny
In April 2010 the Jamaica Gleaner published this gem
There are plans to set up a baseball diamond at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium in the coming months, after lengthy discussions between the Jamaican Government and officials of the United States-based Major League Baseball (MLB) seem to be heading in the right direction.
Labelled as an under-utilised edifice by several sporting commentators, the facility which is located in Florence Hall has seen a mild rise in activities in recent times, and is set to become the hub for the island’s budding baseball fraternity, this according to Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange.
The minister advised that discussions with MLB and another organisation based in Florida are at an advanced stage and that the new diamond, when completed, will be the focal point of the ministry’s plan to establish, a strong baseball programme in the near future.
Grange was also quick to point out that the development will come at no cost to the Government, as it will be funded largely by MLB’s Latin America and Caribbean operations.
At the time I had a minor conniption. It seemed to me a prime example of piss poor planning and the propensity for poppyshow-ness. Reading the article and sensing the enthusiasm for this project really made me question the thought process of Jamaican leadership. For a baseball stadium to be built in Jamaica — regardless of whether there is cost to the country — is a waste of time and effort. A grand waste of resources. I do not understand how it seems or seemed prudent to dedicate resources to build a baseball diamond at a major sports facility in a country with little to no history of playing baseball, and no discernible sustained interest in it? So there may be college scholarships in the offing but that’s after we get by the Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and the Dominicans…that’s a very long ling steeped in history, talent, and connections. Cuba, home to much baseball talent, is about to open up which means that its baseball players will no longer have to defect, they will simply get a work permit. To say nothing of the second and third generations of those countries’ immigrants and the good ol’ farm boys all gunning for a spot in AAA with the hope of making it to the Big Leagues. O and the Japanese and Venezuelans. Maybe the Chinese too, actually. And the GOJ – at the time but still yet, more on that later – saw fit to squander the competitive advantage we enjoy or can more easily seize in other areas for baseball? Baseball? Really?!
Pardon me for trampling on the dreams of the three Little League teams in Jamaica. I wish you every success, keep playing, do well. And no disrespect to Mr. Duncan, the Florida-based Jamaican who is, apparently, still working to bring baseball to Jamaica with plans to build a field at G.C. Foster, but…really? This is one proposal that I hope the current GOJ has put the kibosh on. Yet the plans to build a field at G.C. Foster seem to be moving ahead if the article in The Florida Times Union is to be believed. And of course I don’t fault Mr. Duncan for sharing his love with his country. I question only the emphasis and support being given to the project by the GOJ.
I did a little digging. Around the time of this Gleaner article Sports Illustrated also wrote about MLB’s expansion to Latin America. Jamaica is not mentioned. The focus is on Latin America, a traditional source of players for America’s favourite pastime. (An article in Bleacher Report highlights the lack of a baseball tradition in Jamaica.) And then there is another article from SI dated March 10, 2010 reporting that Mr. Peralta — the visiting MLB official mentioned by the Gleaner — was fired by the MLB, notice of which was sent to offices on March 9, 2010. Of course Mr. Peralta’s trip to Jamaica could have occurred before the Gleaner published but the fact remains: he’s no longer in charge so his visit and support are useless. Moreover the fact that he was fired by the time the article was published is not mentioned. Surely his removal from that capacity at the MLB is material to then-proposed plans in and for Jamaica? Many articles I scanned about Mr. Peralta’s tenure with MLB were not flattering, one calling him “the Bug Selig of Domincan baseball” in an article that discusses the (alleged) “critical mass” of steroid using Dominican baseball players. That 2009 article noted that Mr. Peralta was “the eyes and ears of baseball in Latin America” managing “baseball’s only operations office outside the United States.” The only office would focus on Jamaica for baseball when it already has significant inroads into Latin America? Wait! The Jamaica Observer‘s March 5 story notes that Mr. Peralta’s visit would “end tomorrow” (i.e. March 6)…so not 4 days later MLB is informing its offices that Mr. Peralta is fired. What does that tell you? By November 2010 MLB had announced yet more sweeping changes to its Latin American operations, including an oversight committee that is headed by a partner in a Puerto-Rican law firm. I do not see how Jamaica figures in the MLB’s short, medium, or long term plans. So where the hell did GOJ get this from and why is the plan still being supported? When is payment for the loan from China due again? Listen, what the hell is going on here?
A few suggestions.
The stadium was built for cricket so perhaps try to get more matches there? It still hasn’t hosted an international cricket match. Perhaps more 20-20 events? A sore point but I offer the suggestion nonetheless. God forbid, a springboard the long-awaited cricket academy?
What about football? Could the stadium be used as long term alternative to the National Stadium? It’s been used before. Could this be an opportunity, somehow, to fix the national football program so that the very real and natural talent of the young men who play can be properly displayed? Two major stadiums at our disposal that could allow National Premier League to be a real source of income — a job — for many?
Could the stadium be used as a springboard to forming another sports college? G.C. Foster churns out good coaches I believe but might its one location be overburdened?
What about another track to build on the growing popularity of track & field in Jamaica? I’ve seen rumblings about hosting a leg of the Diamond League in Jamaica so might another track on the island improve that opportunity? Might having another track allow the National Stadium to be closed for an extended period of time so that the general facilities can be improved?
Is there room near the stadium to add more facilities? Indoor Olympic-sized swimming pools, maybe? Tennis courts? Netball facilities? We do have one of the world’s top 3 teams! Field hockey? We have good talent in each of these sports but they get precious little support.
Might the stadium also be a venue for entertainment events? That too is an industry that needs institutional support, especially adequate and appropriate venues for large events and a change in that pesky “Night Noise” Act and zoning laws. A Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival was held there recently, how did that go? What lessons learned? Is the facility viable for long term use for this purpose? Why or why not? How can it be improved? How can it be marketed?
It is, after all, a multi-purpose stadium that is woefully underused.
These are small suggestions born of my own observations yet I do not find them unreasonable or fanciful. More in-the-know people can properly evaluate them and perhaps add more suggestions or rebuttals. There seems no clear strategy in place to develop sporting talent, facilities, events, businesses — a sports industry – in Jamaica. Where is the development plan? Which organizations are actually responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing the plans? I see some persons doing good things and the Jamaican private sector gives a lot of support, but without institutional support from the GOJ I wonder if their efforts will not be in vain. And a homegrown and run industry at that…consider the tangential businesses that it can support. But it all takes vision, thought, and planning, all of which seem to be lacking. Not everyone can become a professional but sports can and has been a gateway to opportunity for millions, including thousands of Jamaicans and can be a significant industry for the island. It can be a stepping stone for our athletes into other professions. Consider the success of Ato Boldon.
With 15 days to go before the London Olympics, an event at which Jamaican athletes are expected to do well, I cannot help but think about how much better we could be, about how many more gifted athletes we could be sending. But I’m proud of our athletes who make me tingle every single time. From amateur to professional I am constantly amazed by their hard work and the results they achieve. I cannot do what they do but I recognize the hard work and time that they invest to perform in name of country. It is time that their country properly support them.