Looking at the MLB history books, there have only been a handful of players that have come from the islands of the Bahamas. Seven players — six position players and one pitcher — have been in the Major Leagues in history.
21-year old outfielder Todd Isaacs looks to keep his journey going to join the ranks of Bahamian Major League Baseball players.
Isaacs, a native of New Providence in the Bahamas, pushes himself on a daily basis to pursue his dream. Coming from a nation of under 400,000 residents, Isaacs knows the odds are stacked against him and others coming from smaller countries.
“Every day I wake up and take it all in, being a small-town boy in a country of 300,000 people playing in a sport that is dominated by a vast majority of other nations,” he said. “The Bahamas are a small percentile of those that make up the professional baseball players. For me, it’s an incredible thing to carry on my shoulders.”
“I played with a chip on my shoulder every day because I know the talent is back home and how hungry the kids are behind me,” Isaacs added. “ My goal is to inspire anyone from a small nation that wants to pursue their dream and play professional baseball or professional sports in general. Coming from a small country like that, the odds are stacked against you.”
Isaacs started his journey in the Bahamas as a member of the Freedom Farm Baseball League. The Freedom Farm league was founded by Greg Burrows Sr., who Isaacs has a tremendous amount of respect for.
“The founder (Burrows Sr.) invested in me at a very young age that respect and manners will take you around the world. That is one thing I hold close. Be respectful, be mindful and work hard,” he said. “Growing up, if you were to see where we come from, the fields and premises, it makes me appreciate the small things in life. We did not have all of the resources needed to make things happen the way we wanted them to happen. All of my coaching staff and the ones at the park invested their time in me and my fellow Bahamian baseball players.”
Isaacs was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of high school. He decided that he wanted to continue his career at Palm Beach State Community College.
“The first time, it made me realize right then and there that I wasn’t ready for pro ball at that point. That’s when I decided to play one year at Palm Beach State CC in Florida,” Isaacs said. “ Fortunately, I was drafted the following year by the Indians. At that moment, I knew that the time was right and it was my time to get going on my career.”
The next year, the Cleveland Indians called Isaacs as the 19th round selection in 2015. Isaacs signed his professional contract with the Indians organization a week later.
Isaacs made his professional debut in June 2015 with rookie-league Arizona, batting .214 with one home run and six RBI in 34 games. He appeared with short-season Mahoning Valley, batting .333 with six home runs and 20 RBI, as he was named to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
The right-handed outfielder has appeared in 57 games so far with Lake County this season. Working in full season for the first time, Isaacs is working through the ups and downs that comes with 140 games. He currently has 11 doubles, seven homeruns and 25 RBI, all career-highs.
“It has been a roller coaster ride so far. It’s had its ups and downs. But you always have to remain in the middle, stay even keel,” he said. “Stay true to who I am. Biggest thing for me is to continue to compete every day and find ways to get on base and help my team win. My coaching staff has invested a lot in me so we have been working and trusting the work I have put in.”
One of the few members of the Bahamian baseball fraternity is Antoan Richardson, a four year Major Leaguer and a cousin of Isaacs. Richardson played in the bigs with the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees. Richardson was a part of Derek Jeter’s final Yankee Stadium walk-off as he scored the winning run.
Isaacs keeps in close contact with Richardson, as Richardson has been an idol to Todd throughout his career.
“He had a big heart and a big mentality that no matter what, you have to keep the pedal to the ground. Keep going and never ease up and never let an opportunity pass you up. That could be the one time that it been the opportunity to succeed. He instilled in me to keep going and keep pushing. Never ease up and I thank him for that every time I talk with him,” Isaacs said.
Off the field, Isaacs is the founder and CEO of a clothing company called Don’t Blink. Don’t Blink features clothes with inspirational messages on them.
The idea of Don’t Blink began from a track meet years ago that featured Isaacs’ speed and has followed him through college.
“It was a nickname that I was given by my college teammates because of my speed. It was basically because if the defense made a mistake or “blinked,” I would be safe every time.”
Isaacs “blinked” late in the 100 and 200 meter dashes that he was defeated in. He uses that motivation for his game and the clothing line.
Isaacs finds himself chasing an historic dream of becoming one in a few to become a Bahamian big leaguer. He also found himself in an historic moment last month at Classic Park.
The Captains won their 1,000th game in franchise history on June 9th on a walk-off homerun by Isaacs in the 1,999th game in history.
“A few days before that, I was telling the guys that the next win would be the 1,000th win in the history. When you win 1,000, people will always remember that win. The moment was incredible,” he said. “The experience to run around the bases and round third with my teammates waiting for me at home was incredible. I wish I could print out the picture in my head because it was an incredible feeling. That was the most special walk-off I have had.”
Isaacs wants to continue to be a role model to those in the Bahamas and other smaller countries. He has one simple tool for those playing baseball and sports in those countries.
“The greatest piece of advice I can give is stay hungry. Don’t fall through the cracks of what comes in professional baseball, all of the distractions that come behind the lines. At the end of the day, when you sign the contract, that’s not the end. You want to push yourself to make the Hall of Fame or the World Series.”