By Neto Baptiste
The game of softball cricket has lost its appeal, especially amongst the younger generation, and if measure are not put in place by those in authority, then the future of the sport may be in jeopardy.
This is according to three of the country’s softball cricket giants in Al Burton, Joseph “Swango” Mark and Neil “Bad News” Lewis, who all agree that the game today is a shadow of what it was in the past.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show on Monday, Mark who plays the roles of player, coach and organiser, said the game is suffering from a lack of interest by the younger generation.
“The younger guys don’t want to play no cricket, but practice is the base, and sometimes the executive is here and there because if I am in the executive I also have my team, I want my team to play and I want my team to reach semifinals. Sometimes some teams may have eight games to play and they only play two because of rain; the games don’t replay,” he said.
“Now the youths have something else to look at because they have their Game Boy, but before time, we couldn’t wait for Sunday to come. Sometimes though, the executives make you not even want to play any sport and sometimes now you’re going [to the matches] and we’re wondering if umpires are coming,” he added.
Burton, known for his all-round ability, agreed with Mark’s sentiments, adding that some in authority started lobbying for their own teams instead of the sport in general.
“I remember when Henderson Bass and Seth Burton were running the tournament and they were trying to get us to that Olympic kind of level so it [the standard] was pretty much high and then Seth brought on the females around 1996 or 95,” he said.
“After that it was like everybody wanted to get into the executive and most of what happened then or between then and now, it’s like everybody trying to fight for their own team,” he added.
Meanwhile Lewis, who was a top all-rounder in both the hardball and softball versions of the game, laid the blame for the sport’s downturn squarely at the feet of the association.
“The thing that I see change and drastically too, is the administration. I think softball was at its strongest when men like Henderson Bass and Buggy [Eric Frederick] were at the top running the show, and after these guys kind of faded out, softball maybe took a backseat, and for a few years things were looking good, but presently I don’t think things look good at all,” he said. Antigua and Barbuda last fielded a national softball cricket team back in 2015 when the female team competed in a Caribbean tournament in Trinidad where the team finished fourth.