By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Terry Chinnery continued his efforts in developing young baseball players, when he recently assembled more than 20 of his 13-19 year old players on the E. Walwyn Brewley Softball Park, to demonstrate their skills so that Georgia Academy of Hope Coach Gene Reynolds, could see first hand the available raw talent in the territory.
Reynolds said he and Chinnery had been trying to arrange the session for a while before a slot opened for him to come down. He said he was looking at Chinnery’s players with an eye toward opportunities for getting an education, using baseball as the tool.
“I’ve seen a lot of talent and a lot of it is raw and needs to be developed, but that’s our job to pull out that talent’s inside them when they come over,” said Reynolds who’s eyeing Nashante Smith, Demoi Hodge, Rayandre Mercer, Fernando Cedeano, Jahcoy Liburd and K’Jee Sampson. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of young kids-13-14 year old’s with a few older kids which is an exciting opportunity to see and have them for a few years and help develop them.”
Although the British Virgin Islands doesn’t have a baseball history, tradition or dedicated playing field, Reynolds said his academy has been bringing students to the United States for several years to try and obtain collegiate scholarships or possibly drafted by Major League Baseball—if that happens for them.
Reynolds, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, said he’s not surprised by what he saw in the BVI because he has been so several places with a similar structure and did something similar in the Bahamas, where players worked out on a softball field. He said about three year ago they started bringing Bahamian players to his academy, and one player on his team was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“He came to us very athletic but not a very good baseball player and we had two pitchers throwing 92-93 miles per hour that got full rides to colleges,” Reynolds explained. “So, it’s kind of the same structure when they don’t have full blown Little League programs to develop kids early, so I’m not really surprised by what I’ve seen.”
He said he has seen some strong infielders, like Sampson and Smith and Liburd who are catchers; Cedeano is a pitcher and short stop; Hodge a pitcher and catcher.
“There are couple guys at each leave who are pretty good, working hard and want to get better,” Reynolds said. “We don’t just take the best. We try to help any kid that wants the opportunity. We have an A team and a second team as well, so kids that want to come to the states that aren’t as talented, but want an opportunity to work and keep getting better, working hard and getting into college, we still look at those kids as well. We don’t look just at the best of the best and only help them.”
Reynolds said that they are very interested in the players’ development not just in baseball—but their overall development.
“We pride ourselves in when they come to us, 14, 15-year old they are kids who we want to return to their parents as fine young men who are going to be good citizens, good fathers and good husbands one day, that’s our goal as well,” stated Reynolds who has been working in the academy for the last 10 years first in Florida and Georgia for the last three years. “Baseball is just the driving tool that we use. It’s important to understand that baseball is going to end one day for everybody is it’s important to be a well-rounded young man—education, morals, character and not just baseball.”