Baseball In Paradise- James Clemens’ Players Play In The Bahamas
NASSAU, BAHAMAS- The Isle of June was recently the host to the Babe Ruth Caribbean 16U Invitational baseball tournament and somewhere among the island beauty of tropical weather, turquoise water and pristine beaches were four members of the James Clemens baseball team who were invited to play for the team representing St. Maarten in the six-team championship.
Staying at the Breezes Bahamas Resort and Spa during the five-day event, the four Jets included Luke Davenport, J.T. Johnson, David Sharp and Satchel Wheeler. The four were the chosen few as each team in the invitational were allowed for international players on its 16-player roster. The additional teams arriving in the tropical paradise to play included Aruba, U.S.A., Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Bahamas.
“The experience was amazing and was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to interact with people from other countries and play baseball,” said Wheeler (INF/LHP, 6-2, 195, Jr.), a junior infielder/lefthanded pitcher. “I’ve lived in Madison since age two and this was the first time for me to be out of the country. What a great time I had.”
How the Jets’ foursome became a part of the special event stemmed from the fact Johnson and his father, Johnny Johnson, head coach of the James Clemens baseball program, attended the St. Martin Baseball Week camp back in December where the senior Johnson was one of the selected coaches to assist in the gathering to help grow the game for those on the island. Upon their exit, an invitation was extended for Johnson and three of his teammates to make the trip back to the islands July 7-11 for the Invitational where they would play for St. Maarten.
Upon arrival in Nassau, the differences in the island lifestyle and that of the City of Madison was quick to observe. “Yes, there were several culture shock moments, but there was a lot of energy among the baseball contingent and we all had a good time,” said Johnson (C, 6-0, 180, Jr.).
For Johnson his being able to play was an almost miracle as he had two shoulder reconstruction surgeries in 2021 with the last one in November. He made a remarkable recovery and played well against worldly competition. He had a 2-RBI double off the wall in the first inning against Aruba and threw out two would-be base stealers against Puerto Rico. He said he played well overall and represented Team St. Maarten well.
Wheeler played outfield and pitched in two games. On the mound, he tossed three innings against Aruba and a near perfect seven innings versus the Netherlands. At the plate, he had a two-run single against Puerto Rico which put Maarten in the lead.
Davenport (INF/RHP, 6-3, 165, Jr.) played both third base and pitcher. Against Team USA, the St. Maarten squad lost the game, and he gave up three runs in four innings on the mound. Versus the Netherlands, he had a two-run homer, double and single in the team’s 5-2 victory. Against Puerto Rico in what was the tournament’s semi-final clash, Davenport pitched a splendid six innings giving up just two hits with 13 strikeouts and one base-on-balls. The team posted a 2-nothing victory.
“Not only was the baseball fun, but that was my first trip out of the country and I loved our team as they were accepting of us into their circle,” said Davenport. “Away from the baseball action we also played beach volleyball, hit the beach, hung out at the pool with many of the players from other countries and ate some really good food.”
Due to a severe elbow strain, Sharp (OF/RHP, 5-9, 145, Jr.) was limited in his play, but still was a big part of the Jets’ entourage on the island.
“We played ping-pong against some of the other teams’ players and Puerto Rico had a couple guys who could really play well,” added Davenport. “It was very interesting to see how others do away from baseball.”
The St. Maarten team played six games and was 3-3 for the week. The squad made it to the finals and were scheduled to play Team USA in the championship game, but one player and one coach were tested positive for COVID, so the game was cancelled after a several-hour delay. The games were played at Andre Rogers Baseball Stadium. The structure was named aafter the first Bahamian to play Major League Baseball (1957-1968).
“The event was exciting and had an Olympic flare to it as they hosted an opening ceremony for the tournament where the Prime Minister spoke to us and they had bands playing music,” said Wheeler.
Johnson added, “It was all about the island players as we were there to help them and get the word out about the wonderful baseball talent that exists on the island,” said Johnson. “It was also great to be with my teammates as we play all summer together, too.”
“It was a great experience and we found out how fortunate we are to play baseball as we do here at home,” said Davenport.