Young player from Caribbean loves the game

Tournaments : : Story
Jim Ecker        
Published: Thursday, October 22, 2009

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jovan Robinson lives in Saba, a picturesque island in the Caribbean that's considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's a great place to live, but Robinson loves baseball player and there's just one problem.
 
They don't play baseball in Saba, which is the smallest island in the Netherlands Antilles with a population of about 1,800. There are no teams, no fields, no games. Robinson and a few friends do the best they can.
 
"No, there is no baseball. All we get to play on is the rocks," he said Thursday. "No grass."
 
Robinson, 18, loves the game so much that he travels to the neighboring island of St. Martin in the Caribbean to play ball in a league. In this case, "neighboring" is a relative term. It's not that easy to get from Saba to St. Martin.
 
"He takes a boat ride, a ferry, every week," said Julius Robinson, his father. "He takes the plane every once in a while. It depends on the weather."
 
It's 28 miles from Saba to St. Martin. It takes 80 minutes by boat and about 15 minutes by plane. Jovan makes the trip on a regular basis, so he can play in a league and improve his skills.
 
"Every weekend," he said. "From Friday to Sunday, and I go back to school on Monday."
 
This week is different. Jovan is playing in the BBWA World Championship at the Roger Dean Sports Complex in Jupiter, Fla., as a member of the South Florida Perfect Game Navy ballclub. He's here to improve as a ballplayer and to be scouted by the college coaches here.
 
"His dream is engineering, and to play baseball," his father said. "He always wanted to be a baseball player."
 
Julius Robinson began playing baseball with Jovan when his son was 4 years old, although it wasn't exactly baseball. They played with tennis balls on a tennis court and invited a few of Jovan's friends along. "Everybody thought I was crazy," said Julius.
 
Jovan grew into a student of the game.
 
"I got interested because my father used to play baseball and I used to watch it on TV with him," he explained.
 
"He's always on PlayStation and everything," his father added.
 
Robinson is a good-looking athlete at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. He started at second base Thursday in South Florida's 3-2 victory over the Homeplate Chilidogs and looked comfortable with all the plays and all the angles. "Most of that I get from watching TV," he said.
 
Jovan struck out on a nasty curveball in his only plate appearance. He was looking forward to his next opportunity to swing the bat and play the game against some of the top players and top travel teams from near and far.
 
"It's good for my experience," he said. "I hope to gain more skills."
 
Jimmy Breslin, the director of player development for Top 10 Florida Baseball, met Jovan at a baseball academy in St. Martin a few years ago and has developed a relationship with Jovan and his family. Breslin helped Jovan get into the BBWA tournament this week.
 
"He brings a lot of tools to the table," said Breslin. "He's very strong, he's got a great body, a great work ethic and he's got tremendous speed. He's got world-class speed. We've got to polish him up a little bit, but I think with the right instruction in the next couple of years he's going to be playing ball some place."
 
Jovan, currently a senior in high school, hopes Breslin is right.
 
"I enjoy the game," he said, "because it's exciting for me and I like to run a lot, I like to exercise."
 
Jovan's favorite major league player is Andruw Jones, who is from Curacao in the Caribbean. His father said Jovan idolizes Jones and would love to get a chance to play pro ball himself.
 
"This is his dream," Julius said while watching his son play, "so we hope everything goes well this weekend."
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