We interviewed former professional baseball player Jamaican-born Andrew Dixon who was instrumental in bringing Major League Baseball and the Jamaican government into a partnership to build a baseball field in Trewlany. Andrew is a member of the Babe Ruth Little League Baseball World Series and will be spearheading efforts to start a baseball pilot program in primary schools in Jamaica. Here is our conversation with Andrew Dixon.
Where in Jamaica are you from?
I was born on March 8th, 1964 in Kingston Jamaica. I grew up in Barbican on Federal Road.
How did you get introduced to baseball? When did you realize you loved the sport?
I got introduced to baseball when I was 10 years old. The kids on my block played baseball all the time. They asked me to play with them and I thought it was fun but I was still catching the ball with one hand. I tried out for little league at ten but didn’t the team because I could not catch properly. When I was 11, I went back to the same team and tried out. I made it at that time. I on to be an all-star and won the New York state championship. I really started liking baseball from day one. I liked it more once I started to excel in the sport.
At what age did scouts start following your career?
The scouts started looking at me while I was still in high school. They told me I ran fast and a good player, but I was going to college as my parents wanted me to do that. In my second year in college I knew I had potential because my coach played pro ball and he told me I had all right tools to be a professional player. By my junior year they wanted to draft me in the major leagues me but my coach said I was not ready. The San Francisco Giants drafted me in my senior year.
How many years did you play professionally? How many countries did you visit?
I played for 6yrs, from 1986 to 1992. I played in the Mexican big league and I also played a winter in Venezuela. I loved it!
What was your greatest achievement either in college or professionally?
Some of my greatest moments were in college especially my junior year when we were trying to win the conference championship. There was a team that beat us three times but we came back and won the tournament. I was the M.V.P. I had my best college year during that season. I also made the all-state team in Virginia. Getting drafted was the highlight of my career. That was my dream. Breaking the record in the Texas league with 73 stolen bases and being the only minor league player to have 70 plus stolen bases back to back were also one of the highlights of my career. I was also proud to have my Mom and Dad see me play in a professional baseball game.
Injuries took you out of the sports do you have any regrets?
My only regret was getting hurt. I wished I could have stayed longer to see guys who weren’t better than me excel.
Who are the other Jamaicans that played in the MLB during the time you played? Did you become good friends with them?
Chili Davis and Devon White were other Jamaicans who were in the league when I played. I met both of them and developed a close friendship with Chili. He would send stuff down to me while I was on the road. I went up to Minnesota the year his team won the World Series. He is a really nice guy.
Tell us about your project with the Jamaican Government and the MLB to build a baseball park in Trewlany?
The Jamaican Ministry of Sports has agreed to help us put a baseball field next to the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium in Florence Hall. There are over 12 acres available for this baseball field.
How many years have you been working on this project and what were some of the challenges you faced working with the Jamaican government and the MLB? How did you overcome some of these challenges?
We have been working on the project for a few years now. Working with the government has had its challenges especially the paper work that seemed to go in slow motion. We were in it for the long haul so we overcame each challenge. The government said they had no money for a new sport and it’s not a prime sport in Jamaica. To overcome the financial challenge we have been doing fundraisers and seeking brave sponsors who would like to help us with some of these baseball camps and the overall project. Our biggest challenge is still money.
What do you say to those who say baseball is not apart of Jamaican culture?
Baseball is not part of Jamaican culture but it’s similar to cricket. All I say is as a Jamaican we can learn any sport. There is no stopping us once we put our minds to it. Look at cross country skiing. The Jamaican team is ranked in the top 20 in the world. I say no more.
Tell us about the baseball pilot program that will be introduced in 13 Jamaican primary schools?
The pilot program will be introduced to 13 primary schools in Jamaica to make them aware of baseball. In the primary schools our first job is preparing the coaches, properly teaching fundamentals and theory of the game. Then they can go back to their school and teach it. I will be helping all the coaches and monitoring their progress. Our main goal is to get baseball on the primary school curriculum. We hope to increase baseball to another 50 primary schools in the next phase.
Who will oversee the program and how will the players be coached?
The Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) in Jamaica will oversee the program as they handle all primary sports. I will have the responsibility of training the coaches. I will help with teaching the kids while we develop the coaches. We will also bring pro scouts and other pro athletes that I played with to Jamaica. We will do clinics and camp until everybody understands the game.
Where will they get equipment?
We have already been receiving donated equipment from a few local high schools in the USA. Also the Babe Ruth League and Pasteur’s Sports Shop in Ocala, Florida where I live donated equipment. There is also a gentleman from Jacksonville, Florida, Mr. Donavan Duncan, who has also helped us. We are accepting donations from the public to help us get needed equipment. If anybody would like to donate equipment or funds please email: [email protected].
The Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) will be in charge of the distribution of the equipment. Each school will have to sign off on their equipment.
What happens after they leave primary school? Is there a plan to keep nurturing players while they are in high school?
Our goal is to have some type of program in high school. We will continue to work with the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), to achieve this goal. Once they get to high school we will try to get them involved in local baseball leagues, so this way we can start obtaining college scholarships and possible pro baseball contracts.
With the decline in the quality of cricket played in the Caribbean do you think baseball, which is considered another slow sport, will catch on?
I think the decline in cricket makes it a perfect time for introducing baseball the kids in Jamaica. They need something to occupy their time. It will be another option for them to keep off the streets and stay out of trouble. Some kids may be naturals at baseball so I think the kids will catch on easy.
Apart from the pilot how do you intend to market it to the Jamaican youth?
We see baseball as another way to display Jamaicans great athletic ability. Marketing will not be hard because we are natural athletes.
Do you think the success of quality players coming out of the Dominican Republic will help you with marketing?
The Dominican Republic may help but there are lots of little islands in the Caribbean that are producing baseball players. We have some of the premier athletes in the world plus the fastest person male and female.
In sports today we hear so much about the negatives and the how it is taking away from education. How do you see sports helping education?
INSPORT has a Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement for kids to play baseball. This will assure that they are taking the initiative to get an education. An education along with sports can go “hand and foot” for a college scholarship.
Thanks so much for you time. Any closing thoughts?
I want to thank you for doing this interview. I hope my words can touch someone to assist us with bringing this dream of baseball to Jamaica.