Virgin Islands teenagers have a stepping stone to getting in to college in the states, and even pursuing a professional baseball career, thanks to the non-profit group, V.I. Future Stars.
The group, founded just two years ago by Darren Canton, hosts regular practices on St. Thomas, and team members have the opportunity to play other teams from abroad, both locally and in the states.
“Our first year, we had several kids from St. John who did go on to college,” said Canton. “Within the last year, we’ve put on several tournaments, bringing teams from New York and Miami, and we’ve taken several trips up to the states as well.”
The V.I. Future Stars also recently celebrated four of its members receiving baseball scholarships.
Founder “Gung-ho” for Kids
“Four of our players recently signed letters of intent and received baseball scholarships to Division I universities,” said Canton.
This is a big accomplishment for a group that was founded just two years ago, explained V.I. Future Stars Online Administrator Alvis Christian Jr.
“Darren’s passion for baseball and his leadership shows in his scouting,” said Christian. “He’s got youthfulness, and he hasn’t been tainted by the setbacks. He’s gung-ho for the kids.”
Canton, a New York native whose family is from the Virgin Islands, founded the V.I. Future Stars when he realized the amount of talent in the territory going unnoticed.
“I played baseball as a youth, and I traveled back here and saw the lack of opportunity designed to get kids out of here into decent programs,” said Canton. “I was helping one kid from St. Thomas who was in high school in Florida at the time, who just had outstanding talent. That awakened me; I thought, ‘maybe there is more talent here.’”
Helping Players Get Into College
A major goal of the V.I. Future Stars is to help its players get into college, which Canton, a Major League Baseball-certified scout, supports.
“I’m certified through the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau Program, so if I call a school regarding a certain player, my word will carry a lot of weight,” said Canton. “We hope to develop local talent, which includes the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. We want to develop players and aid them with college placement, and even professional exposure.”
Playing with the V.I. Future Stars was a good experience for St. John resident Kevin Oldfield, who is now in his sophomore year at Cooper Union in New York City.
“Darren gave kids who showed the potential to play baseball in college the opportunity to play on a team together and improve their game,” said Oldfield. “It was a good experience for me to play with the Future Stars. I’m sure they’ve helped people by giving them an opportunity to show off their ability and help them to get athletic scholarships.”
Baseball “Dismal” Before Future Stars
Before joining up with the V.I. Future Stars, Oldfield’s baseball experience in the territory was not a good one, he explained.
“The high school baseball season on St. Thomas is pretty dismal,” said Oldfield. “I played for Antilles for two years, and during those two years, we played a total of less than 10 games. There was plenty of talent and interest among the kids, but no organization or leadership from the adults.”
Cooper Union doesn’t have a baseball team, but Oldfield currently plays in a local New York City league, he added.
The V.I. Future Stars’ next big event is the International Caribbean Classic in August, which has attracted teams from islands such as Puerto Rico, Curacao and Aruba, as well as New York and Miami.
“We’ve invited several teams, and the idea is to get island teams together and playing each other in a tournament based in the V.I., at the Lionel Roberts Stadium,” said Christian. “The ICC gives us that international Caribbean flavor, which draws in tourists and tourist dollars. I stress the ICC because it’s ours, and it’s unlike any other event.”
Unfortunately, part of the funding for the tournament was recently vetoed by Governor John deJongh, so the Future Stars are turning to the private sector for help, explained Canton.
“The veto definitely put a cramp in the tournament,” he said. “We’ll have to downsize. We’ve already begun soliciting the private sector for help.”
The ICC and other V.I. Future Stars events have drawn recognition for the group, explained Christian.
“Every year, we have new things the scouts are seeing that they’re really, really impressed with,” he said. “They like the organization we have, and they like what we’re doing. The baseball tournament, for the time it’s been around, has received a lot of recognition.”
To support the V.I. Future Stars by helping fund the upcoming tournament, call Canton at 473-7128. For more information on the group, visit www.vifuturestars.com.