The House of Hoops and Dreams (HHD) has been in the ministry of helping young men around the country to be placed in a position to further themselves athletically and academically for years.
The local ministry, headed by Bonnie Basden, has helped countless young men achieve their goals and move on to become productive members of society through sports and education.
Today that mission continues with a newly formed partnership between Basden’s ministry and a Canadian Baseball Club aiming to not only help members of the HHD, but all baseball players on the island.
The Ontario Nationals Baseball Club is, according to the website, a baseball organization focused on advanced player development through a year round professional training regimen, top level competition, a fall U.S. college schedule and highly experienced coaches and instructors.
Basden noted that three weeks ago she reached out to the Canada based organization in an effort to assist some of the baseball players in her ministry, in hopes of getting them exposed abroad. From there she told the organization about the work she does and also spoke about the young men she mentors that are talented in the sport.
“I told them about some of the boys I have and how talented they are very talented in baseball and the challenges I was having in getting them abroad,” she disclosed to this daily, “They were very receptive to my story and interested in helping. That’s when coach Shawn (Gillespie) volunteered to come down here and see the boys and see how he could help with my ministry and also the Grand Bahama community as a whole in baseball.”
Basden added that from her experience, this is the first time she had someone visit the island and be interested in implementing a program here in Grand Bahama to help our players.
“A lot of people that come down they’re just interested in looking for our best kids and taking them into their program. But what separates coach Shawn and his Ontario National Baseball Club is that they’re interested in donating to the community whereby a coach could get a little stipend, drawing up a program and giving it to them to monitor. “And to just keep coming back and forth to make sure that what is being implemented is being done and gives kids opportunities not to just go to Canada but to go to anywhere in the U.S where there is an opportunity for baseball.”
Gillespie is the President and Pitching Coordinator for the Ontario Nationals. During his time viewing some of the players during clinics held at the EMERA Baseball Park, Gillespie said he liked what he saw compared to what he is accustomed to back home.
“Comparing to what I see at home and here, these boys were very athletic and had a lot of attributes that would be conducive to high-end baseball players. They were very fast, good arm action and also a positive attitude generally speaking to all of them.
“The willingness to learn is pretty high also. It’s just a significantly higher level of athleticism than what we have at home. We do have good players too but the starting point is a little bit higher here.”
Gillespie also felt strongly in agreement with what Basden is doing in terms of ensuring that high school athletes find an easier path to a college education. He also noted that the HHD mandate is similar to the Nationals’ cause to help their baseball players.
The Ontario Nationals’ president also chimed in on the prospect of not only getting players to play abroad, but also to pour into the potential of the baseball players locally.
“We’ve been here since last Saturday. And just seeing the park and the willingness of the kids, it just occurred to me that rather than just grabbing one or two players and leaving, I wanted to see about trying to help the program here in Freeport in terms of being able to structure a system and assist the coaches.
“I would like to see if Ontario Nationals and myself could help enhance the grassroots program here in Freeport so the boys here that are willing and able would be able to do more training on a regular basis. As a scout or coach coming in I saw a lot of players with a lot of potential but at the same time that has to be nurtured.
“Obviously I don’t live here but I’d like to, the best that I can, try to start nurturing the program here and working with the local baseball community and leaders to see what we may be able to accomplish year over year.”
Gillespie admitted that such an idea would take some time to organize and develop. He added that a part of that idea meant finding a local coach that would work with the boys on a daily basis with the Nationals helping in donating a stipend to make things easier on the coach.
Gillespie also stated that helping out with the maintenance of the Park is also one of their goals.
“It doesn’t need much but it needs some stuff and we would like to help with that if we could connect with some of the leaders there and work something out.
“But what I would love to see is that these kids are training well on a daily basis supervised by a local coach that has some experience in baseball.”
One of the players that is a hopeful to join the Nationals is pitcher and outfielder O’Neil Pritchard. While Pritchard certainly has dreams of playing in the Majors one day, he voiced that he’s just putting everything into perspective and would be more than grateful to get his college education.
“The main goal is to get a scholarship and probably play Major League baseball. But if I could get a college offer and at least get a degree that would be good for me,” he voiced, “For me, it’s like the spotlight always used to be on me in Abaco, where I’m from. I have to give a big thanks to Nigel Bootle. He’s dead now but he was the major reason I got into baseball in the first place. So for him, this will just make me go harder. I also want to thank Ms. Bonnie Basden because she helped me a lot too.”
A showcase was held yesterday with local coach, Keel Pinder facilitating. This past Tuesday Gillespie got to look at the 14 and Under players, and he also got to watch some players this past Sunday afternoon.
Gillespie also worked closely with Pritchard and fellow HHD members Vernon Johnson and Stephen Adderley during private workouts.