Exclusive Interview: OF Todd Isaacs – Indians
When you think about the Bahamas you probably think about sunshine, tropical drinks, and a dream vacation. I bet if I asked you to name the first ten things that came to your mind when you thought “Bahamas”, baseball would not be one of them. If that describes you, there is a player in the Cleveland Indians organization that is making a serious case to change the way you perceive the baseball landscape in the island nation.
I had the chance to sit down and talk with Indians prospect, Todd Isaacs who is currently playing for their single-A team, the Lake County Captains, in the Midwest League. Isaacs was born and raised in the Bahamas and is quickly making a name for himself in the professional ranks. During our conversation I asked him to start from the beginning of his baseball journey and tell me about his time in his home country and then the transition to the States.”I started playing baseball when I was three years old, one of my Dad’s friends coached the team, he told my Dad to bring me out and I fell in love instantly” Isaacs told me. He tried all of the other sports most of us grow up with as youths. He ran track, swam, played some basketball and tennis, but nothing compared to his “first love” of baseball.
Being the humble young man that he is, it didn’t take long before Isaacs wanted to shine the light on his home country instead of just himself. “Honestly, I think the Bahamas is a breeding ground for a lot of athletes. If a little more was invested in our sports infrastructure, the Bahamas would have a lot more athletes at the pro level.” Isaacs told me.
He then opened up to share a few stories about his playing days in his home country. “I remember going to play in tournaments in the U.S. and other teams would think since we were from the Bahamas we weren’t any good. Some teams wouldn’t even warm up before they played us, then we’d go out and beat them by 15 runs.” If that doesn’t sum up what people think about baseball in the Bahamas, then I don’t know what does. Here is proof that this perception will be changing soon. “Baseball is a growing sport in the Bahamas, there is about 15 of us that play professionally now, but before that there were only two or three. Antoan Richardson and Albert Cartwright kind of led the way for us. We have to give them all the thanks for opening the door and taking us in.” Isaacs said.
He has a lot of pride in his home country, but in high school Isaacs and his two best friends packed up and moved to the United States. “I was fortunate enough to move to Delray Beach, Florida and go to American Heritage high school. After my four years there I went to Palm Beach State to play for a year and then I got drafted by the Indians.” Isaacs told me. He had actually been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays straight out of high school before deciding to spend a year at Palm Beach State. I was curious to know what influenced that decision. He told me “I think I just wasn’t mentally and physically ready for it. The first time I got drafted it was more about the hype of actually being picked. I was more inclined to sign because of the hype, but after taking some time to think about it, I personally decided I wasn’t quite ready for it.” Some people question how an eighteen year old young man with his lifelong dream sitting right in front of him could turn it down, but clearly, he made the right choice.
I asked Isaacs to tell me a little about his time at Palm Beach State and he told me “That one year definitely helped me. JUCO ball isn’t the best situation, but it definitely prepares you. You have to be mentally tough to do it and it helped prepare me for the next level.”
I couldn’t get to Isaacs’ pro career before asking him the question that is on everybody’s mind, between him and his two friends that went with him from the Bahamas to American Heritage, Lucius Fox and Anfernee Seymour who are also pro players, who was the fastest? I know he gets asked this all of the time and he picked up on my sense of humor, but gave me a better answer than I could have ever expected. He said “The way I always answer that question is just put us on a relay team and just watch us run.” Let me tell you, if you haven’t watched these guys run the bases, you are missing out, but watching those three guys together on a relay team, that would be a sight to see.
While pro scouts, and really the baseball world in general, knew Isaacs mainly for his speed, he has proven so far in his pro career that there is so much more to his game than just being able to fly around the bases. I was curious to know if he could point to anything in particular that had helped him bring the rest of his game up to where his speed tool was. “I remember going into the draft out of high school and scouts telling me that my contact and my power tools would always be really limited, so that made me wonder, what if? What if I learn how to hit and can hit for power one day? What if I can put it all together and prove them wrong? It just lit a fire in me.” he said. Proving them wrong is exactly what he is doing. The 20 year old has a minor league career slash line of .272/.311/.418 with 11 homers and 24 extra base hits in just 98 games. Don’t worry, the speedster still has the wheels as he is 28/32 on steal attempts in his MiLB career.
Isaacs also referenced the coaches in the Indians organization and how they have helped his game. “They all try and help me mechanically and mentally as well, us young players get carried away sometimes with wanting to be successful. I love playing and I love winning so sometimes I just get too hard on myself about not having success right away.” he told me.
One thing I found interesting is that Isaacs is a very good defensive player and profiles well as a center fielder, yet the majority of his pro playing time has been in left. When I asked him about this he said ”It’s really about whatever the team needs me to do. You can put me anywhere in the outfield and I will be comfortable. I have a good understanding of how all three positions operate and no matter where I am playing I always try to be a vocal leader. I believe my game is centered around being a leader and you can put me anywhere in the outfield and I will thrive.”
It is always great when you find a ball player that has a passion for the game, his country, and is strong in his faith. Add in a great deal of humbleness with exceptional talent on the field, and you will find that in Todd Isaacs. Going from a speed demon to a well-rounded ball player, Isaacs’ competitiveness, leadership, and ”whatever it takes attitude” are not only going to put him on the baseball map, but could have a big influence on the way the baseball world views the Bahamas. More importantly, he will begin paving the way for his fellow countrymen the way the ball players from the Bahamas did before him. Keep your eye on Todd Isaacs and as he would say, “Don’t Blink”.
Featured Image Courtesy of: Mathew Carper/Legends on Deck
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