Sluggers swing away in Chicago

Three young Cayman-based baseball players are attending a college recruiting event at the White Sox facility in Chicago.

Dequan Bennett, Brandon DaCosta and Tyler Lee will attend the clinic this week, slated for Sunday, 16 October. At the gathering coaches from National Collegiate Athletics Association universities (division one, two and three) and junior colleges will scout top high school players.

All are no strangers to Little League. Bennett did well at a recent skills challenge with the White Sox, DaCosta has represented Cayman internationally and Lee is a multi-sport athlete who is one of the stars of the senior division. Bennett’s mum Samantha states the trip is a source of pride for local baseball.

“The boys are very excited of the opportunity to participate in this overseas event and gain exposure,” Samantha said. “They have been practicing five days a week after school to ensure they are ready to make a Cayman statement in Chicago. They are also very encouraged with Little League’s support and sponsorship.”

For Cayman Islands Little League President Paul Gallagher, the invitation is the latest step in the partnership between Cayman baseball and the Chicago White Sox, a professional Major League Baseball team.

“This is another step in our developing relationship with the White Sox,” Gallagher said. “This is a great opportunity for these youngsters. We are fortunate the White Sox are interested in our kids and have offered it.”

For the trip, Little League will be helping the three youngsters financially. Interestingly this is not the first time a local player has coordinated a college education through the White Sox. The team helped Justin Wight attend North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Wight is currently there on an academic scholarship and playing ball. His mother Caren was instrumental in establishing the relationship between Little League and the White Sox.

Gallagher states this week’s tryouts were arranged in large part by BullSox Academy coach Mike Huff.

“I spoke to Mike and they had an event for October where college baseball coaches go to the White Sox facility to scout players from the Illinois area. Three of our senior kids are good enough to participate in this event and we agreed it would help them tremendously to get into a college of some kind, potentially with baseball as an added help.

“Those kids are there because of our relationship with the White Sox. What I am hoping for is that by doing this for the older kids it helps promote the idea of local kids having opportunity beyond Cayman regarding education. Also those kids can come back to Cayman and volunteer with the programme, help coach and generally promote Little League. It’s a community effort.”

Currently Little League is running a ‘Fall Ball’ programme, giving more kids the chance to learn the game while giving more youngsters the opportunity to play baseball more months of the year. More than 200 players are turning up weekly to the Field of Dreams facility in George Town. Little League fundraising coordinator Sara Mackay states the programme is about going back to the sport’s roots.

“The programme is about promoting Little League baseball and getting better organized as a group,” Mackay said. “I believe we can do both. At the same time we’re going back to our roots by making the sport more fun. By running a strong recreational programme for all levels we can encourage kids to get better and make it to where Dequan, Brandon and Tyler are at by playing more ball.

“I’d also like to mention that Little League has the opportunity and would like to bring coaches from the Bull/Sox training organization down to work with local kids as they have in past. However it’s difficult for the 22-year programme, that is free for kids, to support those whose timing is now and bring in trainers for the larger number of younger players. The White Sox genuinely want to continue watching and encouraging our players as they get older. To keep the development process going, Little League needs a sponsor for a camp over the school half-term break to keep the costs to a minimum.”

For more information about the Whote Sox camp, contact Paul Gallagher at [email protected]

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