A young St. John baseball player takes a swing at a ball during the Love City Live!-sponsored free baseball clinic last month.
Glen “Wasi” Philbert remembers a time not too long ago when the baseball skills of St. Johnians were feared on diamonds throughout the Virgin Islands.
Philbert, owner of Global Venture Consultants LLC, grew up on the infields and outfields of St. John before heading off to the states where he played baseball in high school and college.
Frequently on island from his Atlanta home, Philbert dreamed of bringing those halcyon days of baseball back to St. John.
After years of working in the major league baseball industry, Philbert launched Global Venture Consultants LLC, which hosts concerts and events across the states. With his vision of kids playing on Love City baseball fields, Philbert brought his two passions together all for St. John.
Philbert’s Global Venture partnered with local sponsors St. John Brewers, Innovative and Boyson Inc to host Third World Band’s Patriots album launch in the Winston Wells ball park at the first annual Love City Live! in January.
The concert drew a huge crowd and raised funds for Philbert to pursue his dream of bringing baseball back to Love City.
“The the whole intention for Love City Live! was to give back to the youth of St. John,” said Philbert. “St. John used to dominate baseball. We were known for our players.”
“All of our coaches went above and beyond,” he said. “Your parents knew you were safe when you were down by the field because that was your extended family. They were involved in your grades and your discipline and if there were any problems they would speak to your parents.”
Adam Thill helps his son Benjamin with his t-ball swing.
Seeing how things changed since he was a child, Philbert was determined to help bring a thriving sports community back to his home island.
“We’ve gotten away from that almost totally,” he said. “The athletic culture that used to exist here is gone. Back then if you were from St. John, you played ball — baseball, basketball — you played some sort of ball.”
“If you weren’t playing you were trying to make a team because those teams were hard to get on,” Philbert said.
Instead of lamenting how times changed, Philbert wanted to take action.
“Instead of just complaining about it, I wanted to do something about it,” he said. “We’re bringing baseball back. This is my platform; this is what I know.”
“There is a need for youth development programs on the island and this is just my unique way of giving back to the community,” said Philbert.
From June 15 through 18 that is exactly what Philbert did — gave back to the community. Love City Live! joined with the Major League Baseball Players’ Alumni Association to host a free youth baseball clinic at the V.I. National Park ball field.
In addition to the four sessions for kids between the ages of four and 12, the clinic also offered a free hour-long class for coaches as well. Philbert was hands-on leading batting and fielding practice along with Skip Lockwood, who pitched for the Brewers, Angels, Mets and Red Sox before hanging up his glove in 1980.
The two hosted more than 60 children eager to make contact and run the bases.
“The clinic went extremely well,” said Philbert. “We had about 62 kids and a lot of parents who came out. There is definitely demand for this type of activity.”
“The word was still spreading around and I think even more kids would have come out had their parents known about it,” he said. “There is demand and interest in this. On Monday, after the clinic was over, there were about 10 kids who showed up to the field hoping they could play ball again.”
The clinic was the just the first event in Philbert’s plan to revive baseball on Love City, he explained.
“Up next we’ll probably host a follow-up clinic in the fall,” he said. “We’ll do a few days of practice and follow up with parents. The intention is to start a T Ball league in February.”
“We have the kid and the interest is there, so we’ll start with T Ball for 4- to 6-year-olds,” said Philbert.
If there is enough interest, Philbert also hoped to launch a coach pitching league for St. John 6- to 8-year-olds, he added.
And it’s not too early to mark those calenders for January 28, 2012 for the second annual Love City Live! to continue raising funds for more sports leagues for St. John youth.
For more details on Love City Live! email Philbert at [email protected]