By Frederick Halley
DURING my recent visit to Guyana, occasioned by the death of my mother-in-law, I met with Patrick Edwards, considered a simple and ordinary Guyanese by many, but in his own little way, he has been carving a name for himself in the softball arena.
Edwards, popularly known as ‘Bliney’ has been involved in softball cricket for close to 30 years, the last 25 years as an umpire while prior to that he was an active player.
In an exclusive interview at the Everest Cricket Club, Edwards spoke of his love for cricket, how he got the name ‘Bliney’ and his continued involvement in umpiring, among other things.
According to Edwards, prior to 1992, he led Young Guns softball cricket team in matches organised by the-then Guyana Softball Cricket Association (GSCA), which was one of the forerunners of the sport in those days. However, when several of his players migrated, he found it very difficult to put a competitive team together.
Encouraged by the late Mervyn Bagot, a stalwart umpire in those days and also by former Test umpire, Eddie Nicholls, and Kenneth Kingston, Edwards turned his attention to umpiring and hasn’t missed many softball games since his debut appearance in 1992.
Edwards, who has shied away from the hardball version despite urgings from the same individuals, cited work commitments as his main reasons. What is also significant, he pointed out is he has never attempted any umpiring exams despite keeping abreast with the laws of the game.
Quizzed on how he got the sobriquet ‘Bliney’, Edwards disclosed with a chuckle, that most players in the softball arena are of the opinion that the name has to do with his perceived inability to see properly when giving what they consider “right’ decisions.
Edwards, however, explained that it all started during a street game in Middle Road, La Penitence, when in attempting to take a catch, he ended up in a nearby trench, fully drenched in mud. This prompted one of the opposing players to yell out, “look a blind man fall in the trench and still tek the catch.” The name ‘Bliney’ stuck ever since and according to him, he’s sure over 95 per cent of the current softball players aren’t aware how the name originated.
Touching on the current state of softball as compared to the 90s, Edwards opined that it was more competitive and added to that, there were far more teams involved with matches being played both mornings and afternoons.
Edwards also recalled that there were two categories, the major and minor leagues where teams competed mainly for trophies unlike currently where cash incentives play a major part in tournaments. He also alluded to the fact that there were far more venues – abuse as is evident these days wasn’t as prevalent.
According to ‘Bliney,’ players were also very respectful to umpires.
Considered one of the premier softball umpires in Guyana, Edwards has stood alongside the likes of Nicholls, senior umpires Gavin D’Aguiar, Trevor Whitney and the late Bagot among others.
Among the “big” games he has officiated in are Inter-county tournaments, an international between Guyana and Barbados, Guyana Softball Cup matches and the inaugural Prime Minister Cup tournament.
Edwards believes he has a satisfactory relationship with most players in the softball arena and pointed out that being the number one softball umpire in Guyana, “he never took sides and calls it as he sees it”.
Edwards disclosed that when he’s not involved in umpiring, his pastime is baking and he supplies a few grocery outlets with bread, cakes and pastries, albeit on a small scale, operating direct from his home.
Prior to that, he worked at Chuck Wagon Bakery as a supervisor, an entity owned by the late Oliver Hinckson. He also served for five years as a Shift Captain at Professional Guard Service (PGS) before quitting the job.
A product of Carmel RC, the 60-year-old Edwards was forced to quit school at an early age after his father became very ill and died at the age of 46, At 13, he became the sole breadwinner of the family, being the eldest of three.
So, after some 47 years in the workforce, Edwards believes “it’s time to relax and enjoy life” but he has no intention of quitting umpiring in the near future as according to him, “the love for the game of softball is unending”.