In May the first baseball leagues ever to be established in Haiti will begin their inaugural season. Haiti occupies a third of Hispaniola, an island in the Greater Antilles. They share the island with neighboring baseball giants, the Dominican Republic. These two countries haven’t had a great relationship and they certainly don’t share the same enthusiasm for baseball.
In the Dominican Republic, baseball is nearly a religion and it has been so for over a century. In Haiti, the sport has only really been played for the last three years. But, in the poorest country in the northern hemisphere, there is a good dynamic around baseball, especially with the younger generation. baseballEBM spoke with Gardy Cyriaque Prophète, the president of the Haitian baseball and softball association.
Cyriaque says that baseball and softball are brand new disciplines in Haiti, “We have to face many difficulties. We don't have any infrastructures and there is a lack of qualified coaches and staff members. Plus, in Haiti, the government's policy doesn't provide subsidies to sports associations.”
Members of the committee are often called to help fund the association’s activities since sponsorship is something that rarely happens. Compared with basketball and football baseball isn't a very popular sport in Haiti despite Rawlings having had their baseball manufacturing plant located in the country between 1969-1990.
Did their presence have a positive impact on Haitian baseball?
Our players weren't born when Rawlings had their plant in Haiti. Baseball has only really been played on the island for the last 3 years. Over the past few decades, there were some attempts to bring baseball to Haiti. They were personal initiatives that didn't survive. Now we have an association, recognized by the WBSC, the baseball Pan-American Confederation, the Haitian Olympic Committee and the Haitian State. We hope to expand our partnership with Dominican Republic soon.
Similar to Nepal’s story, the roots of Haiti’s modern baseball tale can be traced back to Mother Earth. In Port-au-Prince Blue Jay Bryn Mooser, along with Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), helped kids recover from earthquake devastation through baseball. Through APJ Mooser made a donation that helped to build a sports academy in Haiti. Working with Rawlings, who at one time called Haiti home, they donated some Blue Jays gear to help the kids start a baseball program.
Is there any cooperation between your baseball communities?
Haiti happens to be in the area where the world’s best baseball is played. This is a big challenge for growth amidst the giants. Some of our neighbors have a history of playing baseball going back over a century.
Despite historical difficulties, there is indeed cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Recently, the Dominican Government and Federation have provided training to some of the technical staff of our association. We hope to extend this partnership by launching a program for the development of baseball alongside the common border between the two countries, with support from the Dominicans, in order to encourage constant exchange for the young players on both sides of the border.
A year ago you announced the building of the first real baseball field in Haiti. How is the infrastructure shaping up?
Thanks to this program, the Haitian Baseball and Softball Association has just received 24 plots of land along the border. We are expecting another 12. The ground however isn’t fit for use. We will have to do some work. At this moment, our association is in possession of the land but hasn’t found the funding required for surveying. The association also owns some ground in the Port au Prince area and elsewhere, but building them up is a real challenge. Several donors have promised to help, but the fulfillment of these promises seems to be taking a long time.
Can it now be said that baseball is a sport to be reckoned with in Haiti?
The practice and administration of baseball are now a permanent fixture in Haiti. Since baseball now exists as an institutional sport, you can expect it to have a permanent presence in Haiti. The association already has 500 members and no less than 14 clubs, some of them with several squads.
The best way for Haitian baseball to gain in popularity on the island would be to play with a national team in international events. Haiti already has a national team with players primarily in the US and Dominican Republic. We really want to participate at the next Central American and Caribbean Games but we lack the financial means.
Is the MLB followed in Haiti?
In Haiti, Baseball is only known by a certain class of people, as well as by those who have lived in the Dominican Republic, Cuba or in the US. But its popularity is going to increase quickly, since the very first Haitian baseball league will begin in May. The competition will last from May 5 - June 3, 2017.
Like any great infrastructure effort there is always far more time than money available when discussing the future. There seems to be a great deal of support, and major league interest, in the future of baseball in Haiti. Now all they need are patience and practice to see it through.
Content provided courtesy of The Strike Out France