KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley, says it is her vision that sports will become a major income earner for the country, and “will be the glue that binds us together as a people.”
She added that in this 50th year of Independence, Jamaicans must be prepared, as a nation, to move the development of sports to reflect the greatness that resides in them as a people.
The Minister was speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the first international, standardised baseball field in Jamaica, at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, in St. Catherine, on January 27.
Mrs. Neita-Headley said Government policies must positively influence economic models for the development of sports. “I am now reviewing the Green Paper for the revised National Sports Policy and you can be assured that our approach to sports, as a business, will feature prominently in the final version of this document,” the Sports Minister stated.
Construction of the baseball diamond will begin on January 30 and is expected to be completed by February 3. It will cost the government approximately $800,000, instead of the required US$12,000, as the main engineer, Damon VanBrocklin, who will construct the field, has opted to waive his fee.
Mrs. Neita-Headley said the construction is significant, “as not only are we undertaking to invest in the development of another new sport, but we are also expanding the possibilities that sport can offer to our country as an income earner.”
She noted that although baseball might be seen as an unconventional sport for most Jamaicans, she is confident that within a few years, it will be among one of the many sporting activities in which Jamaicans not only participate, but excel.
The Minister informed that in this regard, some 34 local physical education teachers have been trained and have received Level One certification. “This is commendable and only a small part of the vision that I have for G.C. Foster College and the business of sports,” she said.
She argued that with the new field being built at G.C. Foster, the government and its stakeholders are “planting the seed of sustainability and the country stands to benefit in the immediate and near future.”
“In a few years, the college should be known for producing world class coaches in this region and Jamaica must be known as the ‘go-to’ country for exporting coaches,” she said. “We have produced many world stars in athletics, cricket, boxing and football. It is, therefore, not beyond us to produce baseball icons, like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, C.Y. Young and most recently, Andre Dawson,” she added.
Principal, G.C. Foster College, Edward Shakes, said he was pleased to be part of the development of the sport of baseball in Jamaica. “It is only natural and logical that the diamond will be sited here at G.C. Foster, because if we are commencing a sport programme in our country, then we ought to put it at a place that is established in order to build capacity,” he argued.
He further noted that by constructing the baseball diamond at the College, the government is making it possible for local physical education teachers and coaches to be trained in teaching the sport, and eventually will be dispersed to local schools.
“In so doing, we will build capacity for the development of baseball in our country by entrenching it in the minds of every child and helping them to develop an interest and the skills necessary to participate in the discipline,” he said.
Head of Projects, Sports Development Foundation (SDF), Terry Monteque, said the project represented a real milestone in the further development of sports in Jamaica, noting that the construction will enable local students to broaden their horizon.
“I give Jamaicans five to ten years, based on our natural ability and our tendency towards sports, to land ourselves at least one individual in some major league across the world,” he said.
Director of Baseball/Sports Officer, at the Institute of Sports (INSPORT), Donovan Corcho, said the intended baseball programme at G.C. Foster represents the development of a sustained mechanism to drive the growth of the sport in Jamaica.
He said as part of plans to further develop and promote the sport among children, particularly at the primary school level, INSPORT will host the pilot of a baseball tournament among 12 schools from St. Catherine and Kingston in April.
The construction of the baseball field is being spearheaded by INSPORT, which is an agency of the Ministry of Sports, with funding from the SDF.