By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
With BVI players helping Great Britain to its highest European Baseball Championships finish since they won the 2007 silver medal, Coach Drew Spencer is eyeing more talent and the further development of the sport in the territory, which doesn’t have a field—and a limited program.
“I want to make sure that Great Britain Baseball—we’re going to find a way to come to the BVI at some point,” Spencer told Island Sun Sports in a Sunday exclusive, after they wrapped up play in the championships with a 7-5 loss to the Czech Republic to place sixth in the 16 team tournament, with each of the players—Kennard Dawson, Nateshon “Shadow” Thomas and Shamoy “Shrimpy” Christopher getting a hit. “I’m going to have to speak to sponsors, UK Sport, our government and see what resources we can pull together and come down there, bring these boys home and see what we can do to bring them home to inspire the next set of players and I know there’s more.”
In discussing the idea with Thomas who has played with Great Britain since 2016, Spencer asked how he’d feel about it. “To see the look on his face, I can’t wait to make that happen,” Spencer said.
The trio—who were later joined by pitcher Demoi “Ben Up” Hodge—who arrived late because of document challenges, have gotten to the GB team because of hard work and determination Spencer said. When speaking to UK kids, he said they complain about the facilities a lot and the winter weather. He said Coach Johnathan Cramon, one of his coches who grew up in North London, always uses the phrase, ‘you don’t have a nice field compared to what?’
“To have three players from the BVI—four on the roster and three in the lineup—for me it’s a special opportunity,” said Spencer—the only black coach of any British national team appointed a year ago. “For me, it’s such a special opportunity and just a reminder that it’s not about whether you have the biggest league, top coaches of anything—it’s the love of the game. It’s about hard work, determination, focus, for guys that come from a place where there aren’t many resources as we have elsewhere but they have athleticism. They have good families behind them. They have good people behind them. They work hard and this is what they could achieve.”
Throughout the tournament, BVI players combined for 10 of Great Britain’s 39 runs scored; had 18/60 hit; 2/16 doubles; 2/3 Triples; 4/20 Walks and finished with 7/36 RBI’s. In 21 At bats, Dawson scored three runs, finished 2nd on the team with his eight hits including two of the team leading three Triples. His 4 RBI’s was in a 5-way tie and finished 2nd in total bases with 12. He had the 2nd best batting average with .381, while his .480 placed him 4th in on base percentage
Christopher in 19 At Bats, scored three times, had six hits including two doubles, drove in one and a .316 Batting average while Thomas went to the plate 16 times, scored four times, had four hits a run batted in and a .250 Batting average.
Spencer said Dawson—the first BVI Baseball player to play with Great Britain’s U23 team then the Senior team—has transformed as a baseball player over both tournaments. He was willing to listen, take coaching, take instructions and try anything they asked including playing outfield. However, he had pigeonholed himself into being a catcher.
“But what I saw coming from the U23s to the Seniors, was the confidence in himself growing,” Spencer noted. “He became an outfielder in the space of only a couple of weeks’ time. The sky’s the limit for him in terms of what he’s capable of. He’s a special player and just a quality young man. He was a significant force. If they did things like All Tournament Teams and picked a team, you’d have to give Kennard a serious consideration. He produced at the plate every game.”