'Go get it out of the ocean' -- for real this time

December 19th, 2022

NASSAU, Bahamas -- Saturday followed the blueprint of a typical beach day in the Caribbean. An early bout of rain giving way to blue skies. A feel-like temp of 80 degrees. And and dodging home run balls while riding jet skis.

McKenzie and Touissant were in town for the fifth annual Don’t Blink Home Run Derby, the capstone of a multi-day event hosted by Bahamas natives Todd Isaacs Jr. and . Looking for a way to highlight Bahamian baseball players and bring something back to their community, Isaacs and Fox turned to one of the game’s most exciting aspects: the home run.

“A lot of people might not understand baseball, but they can appreciate a home run,” Fox said. “So we combined the art of baseball and the home run with our paradise here, the beautiful beaches of The Bahamas. We just wanted to do something for the kids, something for our people and something we can spread throughout the world.”

Of course, a home run derby has been done before. But not like this.

The concept is similar: Whoever hits the most home runs wins. In this Bahamas version, 39 players split into two groups: Team Isaacs (who entered 2022 leading 2-1) and Team Fox. Rather than hitting into and over an outfield, players stood on a stage that rested on a white-sand beach, sending their dingers into the clear-blue waters of Montagu Bay.

Waiting in the water were a group of jet skiers (including McKenzie and Touissant) equipped with gloves and nets to retrieve the baseballs, taking Max Muncy's immortal quote "Go get it out of the ocean" literally. Behind a buoyed-off section that determined which balls were ruled homers was a barge, complete with a target and a crew that was eager to hype up the crowd with the horn when a player got close to hitting the vessel.

Team Fox took home the conch-shaped trophy with 146 homers to Team Isaac’s 126. BJ Murray Jr., an infielder in the Cubs’ organization who was born in Nassau, joined (2018, '19), ('20) and ('21) as the champion in the head-to-head competition.

After making his MLB debut in 2022 with the Nats, Fox became just the eighth Bahamian-born player to make the Majors. Two years earlier, Marlins second baseman and fellow Bahamian , who was also at the event, became the seventh such player. Fox said he takes pride in helping to bring attention to the talent on his home island, and hopes to see that number grow to 20-plus in the near future.

“Growing up playing baseball, I feel like we had a lot of talent on the island, we just didn’t have exposure,” Fox said. “Now with guys coming down to cover this event, we’re getting the kids exposure, to have scouts come down to give the opportunity to make it to the next level and make their dreams come true.”

Just two weeks ago, another opportunity for Bahamian kids to showcase their talent arose with the ribbon-cutting of the Andre Rodgers Stadium in Nassau. The stadium made its official opening with the hosting of the Caribbean Cup -- a senior league baseball tournament between the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Curaçao and Virgin Islands.

“I think the goal was to highlight the Bahamian baseball professional players,” Isaacs’s father Todd Isaacs Sr. said. “We recently opened our national stadium, which we haven’t had in many years. Todd and Lucius came over to me about doing a derby on the beach. [And] when we did it, it was such a raving success. People loved it, it was different. But it also showcased all our Bahamian professional players. To play and perform in front of our people, we [never] had that.”

Though the event focuses on highlighting Bahamians, a number of other players from around professional baseball were in attendance, including Josh and Richie Palacios, Akil Baddoo, Lewis Brinson and Nick Gordon, among others. The event drew the attention of former MLB players as well, with CC Sabathia and Dexter Fowler watching from just behind the stage.

The derby capped four days of events, including a celebrity softball game on Wednesday, a boat party on Thursday and a golf tournament on Saturday morning. On Friday night, an awards dinner was held at the Atlantis Hotel, with Sabathia presenting a check for $135,000 to the Freedom Farm Baseball League -- a Bahamian youth baseball organization -- on behalf of The Players Alliance.

“It’s regenerating the interest in baseball, the excitement of baseball,” Isaacs Sr. said. “The Home Run Derby is fast, it’s exciting, it’s a festival. So I think we’re bringing something new to baseball.”