Monday, January 13, 2020
By Renaldo Dorsett
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE Freedom Farm Baseball League officially commenced its 2020 regular season with its traditional events, highlighted by appearances from some of the country’s biggest names in the sport and a former USA softball Olympian in a community outreach effort.
The organisation’s 31st season began with a church service at Holy Cross Anglican Church followed by a march to the Freedom Farm Complex on Yamacraw Road for the opening ceremonies.
The league honoured longtime baseball contributors Athma Bowe and Will Rutherford and also awarded its 2019 pennant winners, league champions and runners-up.
On the field, play featured competitive championship rematches for the 13-14 and 15-20 divisions.
For the other divisions, they participated in the Anfernee Seymour Skills Competition as well as the Natasha Watley Clinic for girls’ softball.
The skills competition was hosted by Seymour and “Don’t Blink” co-founders Todd Issacs of the Colorado Rockies and Lucius Fox of the Tampa Bay Rays. It included a variety of team and individual challenges where teams displayed the speed, power, agility and baseball skillsets for the upcoming season.
The trio, all Freedom Farm products, played together at the high school level both locally at St Augustine’s and at American Heritage in Florida before their progression to the minor leagues.
Fox and Isaacs established the Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise which continues to rise in popularity from the international baseball community. This year the accompanying kid’s clinic was hosted by Major League Baseball’s PlayBall initiative.
Seymour has hosted a series of clinics on his own in conjunction with Watley, both members of the MVP Sports Group.
Watley was a former softball player for the UCLA Bruins, USA Softball women’s national team and the USSSA Pride. She helped the Bruins win a national college championship title and Team USA to the gold medal in softball at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. She was the first African-American female to play on the USA team in the Olympics.
Competition winners were awarded various prizes, including trophies, equipment and memorabilia.
The league continues its growth this season with the addition of the Rookie T-Ball division for three-year-olds.
“We think that parents trust us with kids for more than just baseball reasons,” said league director Greg Burrows. “Yeah, you get exposure and learn fundamentals. You even get a chance to work closely with professional players when they are here. However, I think the main thing the parents love is the discipline we help to instil in the kids.
“We’re all about discipline. Taking ownership of your mistakes, being accountable, being honest and dependable. All of those things are important if you want to make it to the next level of anything you want to do in life. We might be a little tough, but that’s life. It’s tough. So, we start to drill these principles from a young age, so that they can operate as leaders at home, at school, and eventually at work. I want to thank all of you and I want you to work with me every week to make sure our kids continue to be the best they can be through sports, culture or whatever it is they choose to do.”
League play continues weekly at the Freedom Farm complex and is scheduled to conclude in May.