The softball community mourns the deaths of two prominent players




Senior Sports Journalist

Within hours of each other, the softball community lost two top players in Eleuthera and New Providence respectively on Friday.

In Rock Sound, news spread of the passing of International Softball Federation Hall of Famer and Bahamas Softball Federation Hall of Famer Douglas ‘Dougie’ Smith, while Jeff Willie died in Princess Margaret Hospital.

Smith, 73, was paralyzed from the waist down and was recently confined to the use of a wheelchair. He is survived by Janet Horton and her daughter Sharon, who died earlier this year, and another daughter Keisha.

Longtime friend Richard ‘the Lion-Heart’ Johnson, who called him his big brother, said it’s never easy to lose someone so close. He said Smith was a commercial fisherman who also used the heavy equipment machinery.

“He was inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame, he was inducted into our National Softball Hall of Fame, he got a park in Rock Sound named after him and his picture hangs on the wall. Rock Sound Airport,” Johnson said.

“But he was a player and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he became the manager of the men’s national team. I do not know anyone who has had these distinctions, not in this country. He really gave softball his all in this country.

Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Mario Bowleg expressed his condolences to Smith’s family. “Dougie, as he was affectionately known, is considered one of the most complete players to ever wear a softball uniform, starting his career at age 12,” Bowleg said. “The former softball player then represented the country, in several regional tournaments, as a member of the men’s national team. His first, the 1972 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships, held in El Salvador, where he won the batting and home run titles.

“This great softball ambassador was also a member of the national team that ranked third in the world in 1981. As a player, he participated in tournaments held in Mexico, Tacoma, Washington, Santa Clara, in Cuba, Colombia and Santo Domingo, just to name a few. Dougie was also named to the All Team as a pitcher, in 1986 in games played in Santo Domingo.

“Many say Dougie’s discipline and love of the sport has rarely been matched. It is this passion and drive that propelled him up the coaching and manager rankings. He coached the men’s national team in 1989 and led them to victory against the United States. He also led the 1990 men’s national teams that played in Cuba. Our deepest condolences go out to Dougie’s immediate and extended family, as well as the sport community. That his soul rests in peace.”

Born in Rock Sound, Smith has always had a passion for the sport since he started playing softball at the age of 12 and he never imagined at the time that he would become one of the most prolific in the Bahamas, and even in the world.

Many still remember him as the Bahamas player who often played without receiver equipment. Douggie, as he is affectionately known, is considered one of the most complete players to ever wear a softball uniform.

His discipline and love for the sport have rarely been matched.

He was one of the greatest ambassadors for softball in the country, both at home and abroad. He is a Bahamian hero and a great softball legend.

Smith first represented the Bahamas as a member of the men’s national team which competed at the Caribbean and Central American Championships in El Salvador in 1972.

He also won the batting crown in this championship.

Between 1972 and 1986, Smith was a member of several national teams competing in Mexico, Tacoma Washington, Santa Clara, Cuba, Colombia and Santo Domingo to name a few.

He was an integral part of the team that took the Bahamas to 3rd in the world in 1981.

Smith took on the role of men’s national team coach in 1989 when the team traveled to Argentina and again in 1990 when they played in Cuba. In 1994, he was named manager of the men’s national team and led the Bahamas to outstanding performances at Detroit, Columbia and several regional championships.

While an active player on the men’s national team, Smith won the home run crown while competing against some of the best in the world in El Salvador.

He was named to the All Tournament team at the Softball World Championships in Tacoma, Washington in 1980, and made the All Tournament team as a pitcher in 1986, at a meet in Santo Domingo.

One of his proudest moments in softball came when he coached the Bahamas national team to victory over the United States in 1989.

Johnson, who played on several of those national teams with Smith, said he remembers how their relationship started 60 years ago and they became close friends after playing for the Jets respectively. and the Heroes.

“He always gave us advice, that was after he beat us, on how we should play the game,” Johnson said.

“He never tipped us before he played, but he tipped us after he played. But he was always good to us, me, Edmund Bethel and George Johnson, all the JC (James Cistern) guys.

“Even after he went to play in the Mets organization, like Shad Rolle, who also played in the Mets farm system, he always tried to find a way to help Eleuthera’s young players, especially those of us from JC.”

Taking on the role of his older brother, Johnson said he could go to Eleuthera for weeks on vacation and he stayed with Smith.

He noted that if he went with Perry Seymour and others from the Budweiser Eagles, they would go fishing. “My first trip with the national team was in 1977 and he took me under his wing,” said Richard.

“No one could say or do anything to me during this trip. He was my big brother on this trip. He told (manager) Apache (Leon Knowles) when it was my turn to pitch, he told me when it was my turn to rest and when I had to practice. He was the kind of person he was to me.

Willie, 59, was a police officer/inspector attached to the police canteen. He left behind a son, Javon Willie, brothers Paul, Godfrey and Wesley Willie, sisters Juanita Pinder, Angela Williams and Yvette Willie and his partner/financier Shantell Cox. His younger brother, Godfrey, said Jeff, who was only a year older than him, was his idol.

“He was also a coach for me because growing up we always played together,” Godfrey said. “I started shortstop and he played third base. We were side by side. It was the kind of bond we shared together.

“We were so inseparable that a lot of people thought we were twins. He was a calm person, but he always knew my potential and he tried to get the best out of me. I always wanted him to be proud of me. When Jeff Willie joined the force in 1980, Godfrey Willie followed the next year in 1981.”

The Willies went to the park together and although they played on one or two teams together in the senior league, they ended up reuniting in every league they played in with the New Providence Softball Association, New Providence Oldtimers Softball Association and the Bahamas Government Departmental Softball. Association.

“It’s going to be very difficult for me because we even traveled together on vacation,” Godfrey Willie said. “We even went to watch many National Football League football games together. He was preparing for his 60th birthday this year, but he never got to experience it.

“He wasn’t a sick person, which makes it so difficult for us. We have an older brother who was sick and a lot of people thought it was him. Jeff wasn’t sick or anything. , so it was a surprise when we got to the hospital and he was dead.

May the souls of Dougie Smith and Jeff Willie rest in peace.

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