By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Grounds have been recently broken for a baseball-softball batting cage in the Valley, Virgin Gorda.
Josh Ridgeway said a group of parents informally met about six months ago and discussed sports and life for kids on the island. One of the things coming out of the discussion was the need for a baseball and softball facility where children and adults could be trained—but the main focus was on children.
“One of the things people know even in cricket, when you try to do batting practice, you have to go chase the ball and it’s not easy to get balls—there’s not store to run to—to get a new set of balls so you have to be protective of that,” he noted. “Therefore, one of the things you purchase is a batting cage. We’ve purchased two fairly sized batting cages. We went through Stephen Payne of the Recreation Trust, Hon Shereen Flax-Charles and Hon Vincent Wheatley, were instrumental in giving us permission and the resources to build.”
Ridgeway said they have lots of astro turf donated from Yates Associates while Anselmo Stevens donated his roller to flatten everything out.
“It’s been a total community endeavor. Hon Neville “Sheep” Smith donated some funds because there’s work to be done. Phase two is building a backstop to start getting softball and baseball back on Virgin Gorda,” he pointed out. “The only way we can get any sort of effective change is through the schools. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a challenge to get kids all rounded up. We’re all working, busy and have other multiple things that tie us down, but the one thing all kids have is school. If we can incorporate it through the school system, Hon (Natalio) Wheatley is on board and very receptive. All we have to do is come up with a plan and execute it. The door is open. It’s up to us to come and kinda kick it open and really get the sport back to where it was.”
Ridgeway reflected on when softball was in its heyday and was competitive internationally in the 80s and 90s. In 1987 for example, the BVI national softball team played in the Pan Am Games and lost 4-3 to Cuba, in the bronze medal game. The sport has had a steady decline ever since.
“The BVI competed against countries that were funded—well funded—by governments,” Ridgeway pointed out. “Little BVI came in and was knocking on the door. Just imagine if we had 1% of what those countries give to their federations, where we could be. It’s only going to take one—just like (Kyron) McMaster—it just takes one to inspire a generation, so it can happen. You don’t have to be from New York City, Los Angeles or these big cities. You just need to have a dream, have the facilities to do that, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”