Category Archives: British Baseball Beat

Matt Smith’s Thursday morning column, looking at all the latest news, results and fixtures on the British baseball circuit

British Baseball Beat: 2017 Season gets underway

Last Sunday wasn’t just Opening Day in MLB.

It also marked the start of the British baseball regular season for several of the leagues.

NBL: Mets-Mustangs split as Falcons take two

The National Baseball League began with a pair of double-headers.

The London Mets and Southampton Mustangs, the 2016 NBC finalists, split a double-header at Farnham Park.

The Mustangs raced out to a 6-2 lead after two innings in the opener, only for the Mets to charge back by putting up five-spots in two innings on their way to a 13-9 victory.

Southampton fought back in the second game, edging a close contest 5-4.

In the other double-header, the Herts Falcons got their season off to a perfect start by claiming two victories at home against the Brighton Jets.

Further details can be found in Carli Stehle’s NBL report on the BBF website.

This weekend

The Falcons will put their 2-0 record on the line this Sunday against the Mustangs (1-1) in what will be the latter’s first home games in Southampton since winning their maiden NBL title last season.

In the other double-header, the Essex Arrows host last year’s surprise package, the London Capitals. The Capitals put together an impressive debut season in the NBL in 2016, finishing third in the regular season standings with a 16-11 record. They’ll be hoping to get 2017 off to a positive start against the 2014 national champions.

Smile for the camera!

Cameras were out in force at the NBL openers:

Double-A begins

With Triple-A and Single-A not getting their seasons started until 23 April, the only other BBF league action currently is taking place in Double-A.

Last Sunday, the East London Latin Boys earned a 19-9 win against the Brentwood Stags, whilst the battle of Richmond between the Barons and Dragons went the way of the former by a score of 18-14. The Barons will look to go 2-0 to start the season this Sunday as they take on the always-competitive Sidewinders, with the Latin Boys taking on Southampton Mustangs II.

The reigning Double-A champions, the Daws Hill Spitfires, start the defence of their title at Farnham Park this Sunday as they take on the Herts Hawks. First pitch is scheduled for midday.

Northern openers

The new British Baseball league competition began in the North on Sunday.

Although the games between the 2016 Northern champion Liverpool Trojans and the Cartmel Valley club unfortunately got postponed due to rain, other games were able to go ahead and splits were the order of the day.

The results included Hull and Halton splitting a double-header (13-8 to Hull in the opener, 8-4 Halton in the second), the Manchester A’s and Sheffield Bladerunners shared a win apiece (14-4 to A’s, 10-1 to Bladerunners) as did the Liverpool Twojans and Manchester Torrent

Manchester and Sheffield joined other teams in the country in paying their respects to British Baseball Hall of Famers Norman Wells and Ted Gerard-Thesingh who both sadly passed away over the off-season.

Fixtures this Sunday include the Trojans hopefully getting their season underway at Bootle Stadium against the Halton Jaguars, the Twojans taking on the Harrogate Tigers (who defeated the Durham Spartans last week) and Sheffield travelling to Hull to take on the Scorpions.  Further details can be found on the BBL Facebook site.

And finally …

Herts Falcons’ newcomer Hector Miguel learned an important lesson in his debut: where not to park his car at Grovehill Ballpark.

British Baseball Beat: NBL Opening Day 2017

This Sunday (2 April) marks the return of the National Baseball League (NBL), British baseball’s top-tier competition.

The 2017 edition once again involves seven teams, with reigning champions the Southampton Mustangs having the target on their back and firmly in the sights of the London Mets, Brighton Jets, Essex Arrows, Herts Falcons, London Capitals, and South London Pirates.

The teams are scheduled to play 30 games each, generally scheduled as 7-inning double-headers, between April and August before the play-offs – the National Baseball Championships – in late August and early September.

Southampton Mustangs v London Mets

The season gets underway at Farnham Park near Slough with a repeat of 2016’s fantastic final between the Mustangs and Mets.

The London Mets (26-2) narrowly edged the Southampton Mustangs (25-3) over the regular season, yet the latter were able to recover from losing the opener of their best-of-three final by winning the remaining two games and claiming their first ever NBL title.

The Mets have made three national finals in a row, taking the crown in 2015 (the third title in their history) by beating the Mustangs two games to nil to further demonstrate that they have been the two form teams recently. Over those three season, they hold the best regular season record of the five constant NBL teams at 56-14, good for an outstanding .800 winning percentage.

Pre-season comments from the club note that they have lost some key personnel over the winter, but London’s great strength for years has been their depth through their host of teams. They are sure to be a formidable force once again.

The Mets hold a 9-4 series record over the Mustangs combined across the past three regular seasons and won their 2016 season series 3-2. Those two wins for Southampton were the only losses inflicted on the Mets all season, doubled up by the two defeats to the Mustangs in the NBC.

The Mustangs have also made some changes over the off-season, but all-time top-tier home run leader Maikel Azcuy is still on the squad and there is set to be a return to the NBL for the Trask brothers, Ryan and Michael, whose British league careers have been with Richmond up to now.

And, the Mustangs will have Great Britain pitcher Rei Martinez on the mound. When these two teams mets on Opening Day last season, Martinez pitched a no-hitter.

It may be too much to expect such an epic start to the season this time around, but the two teams are sure to show why they were the best of British in 2016 and once again will be heading off to represent British baseball in Europe later this season.

Herts Falcons v Brighton Jets

The other NBL double-header on Sunday takes place at Grovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead, where the Herts Falcons host the Brighton Jets.

Brighton stepped up to the top-tier last year and had a very creditable first season by finishing fifth out of seven teams.

Most notably, five of their nine victories came at the expense of the Falcons. They won all three meetings between the two teams at Grovehill, whilst also sweeping a double-heading in Brighton.

That gives the Falcons even more incentive to use Opening Day to put a challenging 2016 behind them.

Herts finished second in the 2015 regular season standings before their title charge was brought to a crashing halt in the play-offs. They led their ‘play-in’ game against the Mustangs 5-1, but Southampton turned the game around and prevailed 11-6 to deny Herts their second NBL final appearance (the first – and only so far – a 6-3 loss to the Harlow Nationals in 2012).

Some key player departures also followed and saw the Falcons fall to a 6-24 record in 2016. Lee Manning’s squad will be intent on getting more wins on the board this year and pushing for a play-off spot.

Head along!

It’s free entry at Farnham Park and Grovehill Ballpark, so if you’re in either area on Sunday get yourself to a game or two before heading home to enjoy the MLB triple-header on TV that evening. For further details, check out the BBF website.

British Baseball Beat: HSL and Spring University Baseball Championship

British spring training officially got underway last weekend with the Herts Spring League competition.

The hometown Falcons and Hawks got impressive wins against the South London Pirates and Milton Keynes Bucks respectively, whilst Kent Mariners, Birmingham Bandits and Tonbridge also started their pre-seasons with a victory apiece.

This weekend’s games include a debut for the Taunton Tigers.

They will be joining Triple-A this season and have a chance to measure themselves against National Baseball League opposition in the form of the South London Pirates.

Leagues taking shape

Some of the BBF league structures are now up on the website.

Alongside the already-announced top-tier National Baseball League …

Triple-A South Division

The Richmond Knights will be looking to defend their Triple-A crown, competing again with the Oxford Kings, London Mammoths and Essex Redbacks. They’ll be joined by another team out of the thriving London club – the Meteorites – and the Taunton Tigers.


This will include three pools: South A and B and a Central division.

Daws Hill Spitfires are the reigning champs and their South A pool is the same as in 2016 except for the addition of the reigning Single-A champs: the Herts Hawks.

The Hawks met the Tonbridge Wildcats in the Single-A final last year and Tonbridge will also be stepping up a level in 2017, moving into the B Pool.  Details on the Central division are still to be published at time of writing, as are the Single-A pools.

UCLU win the NUBC!

Congratulations to the University College London Baseball team after they captured their first National Spring University Baseball Championship at Farnham Park last Sunday.

The defeated, Loughborough Baseball Club, 1-0 to take the prize. Loughborough will be hoping to bounce back this weekend as they compete in the Spring University Softball Championships.

British Baseball Beat: 2017 Spring Stirrings

As MLB Spring Training continues, and the World Baseball Classic reaches a climax that will be the one bit of the event us in the UK will be able to watch, attention turns to our own shores and the early throes of the British baseball calendar.

Spring has sprung in Britain (sort of)

The Herts Spring League gets underway today (Saturday) at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, with 16 teams taking part in the event across the next three weekends.

The full schedule can be found here. Hopefully the weather is kinder to those attending than the hardy Herts faced last Sunday.

Three weeks to NBL Opening Day

The final Sunday (2 April) of the HSL will include a National Baseball League season-opening double-header between the hometown Falcons and the Brighton Jets.

Whilst that’s taking place at Grovehill, the London Mets and Southampton Mustangs will be staging a repeat of the 2016 NBL Championship at Farnham Ballpark near Slough.

There will be a full day of events at Farnham alongside the NBL clash and attendees will be able to enjoy the new combination baseball and softball field and, perhaps even more importantly, a new clubhouse, the ‘Home Plate Bar and Kitchen’.

University Baseball and Softball

The first excuse to check out the improvements at Farnham Park comes today with the first of two weekends of university action.

The Spring National University Baseball Championship takes place this weekend with 15 teams taking part. The following weekend is the turn of the Spring National University Softball Championship. Updates can be found by following the new @unibaseball account.

Up North, and South West

There have been major developments over the off-season within northern baseball, with eight teams deciding to opt out of the BBF and forming an independent league. Details about the new British Baseball League can be found on their Facebook page.

Meanwhile the independent South West Baseball League has recently published its fixture list for the 2017 season.

Bristol’s Field of Dreams

The SWBL’s Bristol Baseball Club are making great progress with their exciting new facility at Somerdale Pavilion in Keynsham between Bath and Bristol. The CrowdFunder page for the project can be found here.

Norwich Iceni

The Norwich Iceni Baseball Club has found a home at Locksley School, just south of the city centre. They will be getting ready for their first season in the BBF leagues with two fixtures against the Cambridge Monarchs and then the latest installment in the #BattleOfTheBroads with the UEA Blue Sox.

New logo, new mojo?

Finally, the NBL’s South London Pirates are looking to gain some ground on their competition after three consecutive finishes at the bottom of the NBL standings. If their new logo is anything to go by, they certainly mean business!

British Baseball Beat: Rain again

BBBBad weather was a factor again last weekend as teams across the country battled wind and rain to get their games in.

The Northern section didn’t have much luck as all of the scheduled games in both Triple-A and Double-A were sunk by heavy rain.

However, things were a bit brighter down south where some teams were able to take to the field.

Where the rain stayed away

In the National Baseball League (NBL), the Southampton Mustangs were one of several teams delighted to be able to get some game-time after several weeks on the sidelines. They extended their unbeaten run to 20 regular season games, stretching back into last season, with two victories over the Essex Arrows and their 4-0 start to the season keeps them at the top of the league. Still, the Arrows pushed them close as both games were decided by a single run, showing that whilst the Mustangs may be out in front, they are far from being out of reach of the other teams.

The Arrows are 5-3 following those two losses, a win-loss record matched by the London Mets after they picked up two wins against the South London Pirates. The Bracknell Blazers also picked up two good wins at the expense of the Herts Falcons. The Falcons slipped to a 1-3 start as a result, a disappointing and perhaps not-too-surprising consequence as injuries and the loss of some key players has left them with a weaker roster than the one that topped the NBL with a 24-4 record last season. They’ll be keen to fight back quickly, that’s for sure.

In the AAA-Central division, the Cambridge Royals are continuing to lead the way thanks to strong pitching and more-than-timely hitting. They picked up two more wins last Sunday against the Leicester Blue Sox and will put a 6-0 record on the line this Sunday in a double-header at Birmingham against the Maple Leafs.

The London Mammoths are another team that has come off the diamond with that winning feeling every time so far this season. They’ve started their AA-South campaign with four consecutive wins, the latest a 6-5 rain-soaked battle against the Richmond Dragons. The Mammoths’ Single-A clubmates, the Marauders, are also enjoying an unbeaten start to the season (3-0), whilst Haverhill Blackjacks earned a 13-9 win at home against Kent Mariners to make it two wins from two for them.

GB All-Star Series

The BBF league action was joined last weekend by the second round of the inaugural Great Britain All-Star Series. Judging by Marty Cullen’s report on the BBF website, the series is producing some great games and working well as a chance to get GB youngsters playing together in competitive contests.

Tweets of the Week

Plenty of news coming from the Essex Redbacks club

Herts continue their sterling efforts to get the next generation involved in British baseball

The Robots expressing sentiments the rest of us can all agree with


British Baseball Beat: Moving into May

BBBApril provided something of a stop-start beginning to the British baseball season.

Indeed, there are a number of teams still waiting to play their first league game of 2014.

The late Easter Bank Holiday weekend created an early off-weekend for most of the league, with the exception being a successful opener to the new GB All-Star series at Farnham Park.

Then last weekend came around and the weather decided to force many of us indoors, with rain either ruining Sunday or ruining the prospect of playing on the fields a day or two before.

Last weekend

Some games did manage to escape the weather last weekend. In the National Baseball League, the Essex Arrows swept a double-header over the Southern Nationals to leap to the top of the standings with a 5-1 record as the previous leaders, the Southampton Mustangs, had their double-header against the South London Pirates rained off. The three-time champion Nationals are rooted to the bottom with no wins from their first four games, although few would think to count them out from mounting another challenge for NBL honours so early in the season.

In Triple-A, the Cambridge Royals are off to a perfect 4-0 to start the year after following up an Opening Day sweep against the Nottingham Rebels with another two wins against the reigning champion MK Bucks. In the North and South, double-headers were split by the Hull Scorpions and Cartmel Valley Lions, and the London Metros and Essex Redbacks respectively.

The Sheffield Bladerunners have sprinted out to a 2-0 record with two wins against the Oldham North Stars in the AA-North, whilst there were two wins for the Daws Hill Spitfires in the AA-South over the Bracknell Inferno. Newcomers the Brentwood Bucks earned their first ever win at the second attempt with a 36-20 triumph over the Richmond Dukes in the A-South. Newcomers are also playing well in the A-Midlands as the Cambridge Monarchs picked up two more victories, this time at the expense of the Leicester 2 Sox, to match their AAA Royals team with a 4-0 start to the season.

Tweets of the Week

Action shot from the Essex Redbacks v London Metros match-up

The Herts Hawks’ Andrew Slater in action

Hove Tuesday’s Triple-A opener was postponed last Sunday, but the team is staying sharp and it’s great to see the Pavilion Field facility being used once again.

And it’s not just on the south coast where teams are putting in the practice. They’re a hardy bunch in Yorkshire!

This weekend

Hopefully the weather will be kinder this Sunday and allow more teams to ‘play ball’. Check out the BBF website and team Twitter and Facebook pages for the fixtures and news of any late schedule changes.

British Baseball Beat: Season openers

BBBAfter the National Baseball League openers on 6 April, last Sunday was opening day for many teams across the rest of the British baseball landscape.

Around the leagues

I was at Coldham’s Common on Sunday to watch the Cambridge Royals start life in the new AAA-Central division with an impressive double-header sweep over the Nottingham Rebels, a two-game set that also saw the debut of the Royals’ ‘Ump Cam’.

There was a good atmosphere at the ground; the barbecue wasn’t the only thing creating smoke as Matt Maitland flirted with a no-hitter in the opener. The Rebels put up a sterner test in the second game, but the Royals rallied late on to start 2-0 and to set up an early season humdinger of a double-header against the MK Bucks on 27 April.

The Bucks started their title defence with two victories in Leicester against the Blue Sox with Jarrod Pretorius having a strong day at the plate for the Bucks after performing well in the NBL last season with the Nationals. Fingers should be firmly crossed for good weather in Cambridge on the 27th to allow both teams to show the quality of play that can be found in Triple-A.

That extends out from the Central division to the North and the South. Halton Jaguars have jumped ahead in the North after a two-game sweep over the Harrogate Tigers, whilst the Oxford Kings and Herts Eagles split a double-header in the South.

The postponement of two of the three NBL double-headers last Sunday resulted in a reduced day of action in the top-tier and leaves several teams with a fair wait before they get back out onto the diamond.

The London Mets and Essex Arrows split their double-header, improving the Arrows’ record to 3-1 after their Opening Day sweep of the Bracknell Blazers and maintaining the Mets’ solid .500 start with a 2-2 record. The NBL, as with most of the rest of the BBF leagues, takes a break this coming Sunday before getting back underway on 27 April with a slate of games that includes the 2-0 Southampton Mustangs’ home opener against the South London Pirates.

Check out the BBF website for round-ups from the games in AA-South (including a Triple play by the Herts Hawks), AA-North and A-South.

Tweets of the Week

Great news for baseball-loving kids on the south coast as the Southampton Mustangs reveal details of their new youth programme:

A nice action shot from Grovehill Ballpark and the Kings-Eagles double-header:

The view from Newton Aycliffe:

This weekend

The main baseball attraction on the Easter Weekend is being staged at Farham Park as the inaugural Great Britain All-Star Series gets underway. The series will bring together the GB Lions, GB Juniors, Northern All-Stars and Southern All-Stars teams over four weekends across April, May and July in a competition designed to create some additional high-level contests to aid the players’ development and to produce some great games for fans to enjoy at the impressive new facility near Slough.

The only standard BBF league action this weekend comes in Single-A, where there are two double-headers scheduled for Sunday. The Cambridge Monarchs take to the field for the first time at Coldham’s Common against the Northants Centurians, whilst the Milton Keynes Coyotes host the Nottingham Rebels II team.

British Baseball Beat: The season begins

BBBThe National Baseball League, the top-tier of British Baseball, got underway last Sunday.

The Southampton Mustangs spent the off-season looking back at the 2013 NBL Final when their dreams of a first championship were dashed by the Harlow Nationals in a 12-7 defeat.

Opening Day brought the two teams together, Harlow now back to being the Southern Nationals, and the Mustangs exorcised a ghost or two by sweeping a double-header against three-time reigning champions at Farnham Park.

Southampton went into the playoffs last year on a 16-game winning streak and, whilst they might be keen to put 2013 behind them for the most part, they will have an 18-game winning streak to defend the next time they take the field on 27 April in a home game against the South London Pirates.

Elsewhere, the Essex Arrows got their season off to the perfect start with two home wins against the Bracknell Blazers. The Arrows travel to Finsbury Park this Sunday to take on the London Mets, who opened their campaign by splitting an eventful double-header at the Herts Falcons.  Herts will take on the Nationals this Sunday, with the other double-header seeing the Blazers traveling to Roundshaw Field for the South London Pirates’ season opener.

Check out Clive Barker’s round-up on the BBF website for the full story on last Sunday’s games.

Opening Day for the rest

This Sunday is Opening Day for the other three levels of senior British baseball.

There’s a comprehensive preview of the AAA divisions on the BBF website and it really shows how competitive it is going to be this season. The London Metros have the biggest target on their back as reigning champions, but the Liverpool Trojans will be strong challengers again having narrowly missed out on three titles in a row last year and there are plenty of other interesting teams in the mix too, not least Hove Tuesday who make the step up to AAA after winning Single-A and Double-AA titles in their first two seasons.

The future of British Baseball?

The arrival of a new season brings plenty of optimism and makes for a good time for all to assess the state of the game and what it may become.

The Nottingham Rebels’ have completed a successful recruitment drive over the offseason, finding players from many different backgrounds keen to join. Their efforts had the team posing the question as to whether there is scope for British baseball to make a step up from its current amateur level.

“England does not have a professional league like other countries as you may know, so every player must pay to play but when a local team in Nottingham can recruit players from all around the world and gather fans to almost every single game we play, you have to start wondering why isn’t there a professional or semi-pro league already?

The country seems to bring baseball talented players over here already so I guess it’s up to us to make it more readily available in more areas of the country if we are going to see British Baseball on our home tv’s anytime soon”.

It was a topic also being addressed by the NBL Herts Falcons as they reflected on the news of losing their 2013 MVP Xavi Gonzlez to the German Bundesliga team the the Stuttgart Reds.

“So does this transaction carry any significance in terms of the long-term prospects for growth and development of Herts Baseball Club and the British baseball league as a whole? Does this mean that clubs like Herts cannot compete with teams in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy due to their financial superiority? Will all of Britain’s rising stars end up playing under similar professional or semi-professional contracts in these countries? A few years ago the answers to these questions would probably have been pessimistic, but there are signs of a shift in direction in the UK. There is a buzz around the leagues right now and obvious signs that clubs are starting to realize that there is potential to grow the sport and secure a market share similar to the British ice hockey and basketball professional leagues. Front offices are beginning to approach the running of their clubs as a business generating extra income which is then quickly reinvested into baseball infrastructure, grassroots development and promoting the game in the community.

“We are very optimistic that in the next few years we will be able to turn the table and compete financially with the big European leagues. The traffic of players will change direction and we hope that we will be able to see Xavi back in a Herts jersey. This gives us one more reason to push even harder” said [Herts Club President Aspi] Dimitrov”.

Clearly there is plenty of work to do, but British Baseball does not seem to be lacking in enthusiasm and ambition among its ranks.

Tweets of the Week

The skies may have been overcast, but the mood was in no way gloomy at Grovehill Ballpark as the Herts Falcons hosted the London Mets.

The Leicester Blue Sox and Nottingham Rebels were able to get ready for the start of their regular seasons thanks to a suitably blue Blue Sox tarp.

And Double-A Daws Hill announced news of their new website going live:


British Baseball Beat: A new season begins

Just as the start of the MLB season creates plenty of excitement, so does the thought that the British baseball season is just around the corner.

BBBThe Herts Spring League is already in full swing, whilst other teams are playing friendly games and working hard in pre-season preparations.

On my part, the off-season has been a useful time to re-evaluate this weekly British baseball column. The main aim over the past couple of seasons has been to try to bring together all of the key stories from around the leagues. Whilst the National Baseball League naturally gains the most headlines, I’ve always wanted to make sure here that a no-hitter in Double A or a long-awaited first win for a team of rookies in Single A would get just as much attention as a key top-tier double-header.

The only problem with that is it takes a fair bit of work every week, from all of the initial research across the leagues to then planning out the article and then writing it all up, adding links (and some pics where available) along the way. I’m far from being the first person, and certainly won’t be the last, in and around British baseball to find that over several years other commitments have come along that have left me with less spare time to dedicate to the task than I once had.

The result last year was that the column fell by wayside during the second half of last season as I always work on the principle that if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly. Just knocking up a quick half-baked article for the sake of it is not my style.

So, I’ve been thinking about the format of the column and what I can do that adds something to the mix of British baseball coverage, whilst committing myself to a realistic amount of work. I’m going to stick to the aim of publishing the column every Thursday; however I’m going to rid myself of the self-imposed obligation of trying to give everyone space in the resulting article. I’m going to pick out the key things that caught my eye, as well as highlighting some of the main fixtures across the leagues to look out for on the coming Sunday, and then make that a starting point so that others can then use the Comments section to add in other stories that deserve a mention.

In short, don’t be offended if I fail to mention that Team ‘x’ picked up a great double-header sweep or player ‘y’ had a brilliant day on the mound, give the team/player a shout out in the Comments instead.

Fixtures published

The 2014 league fixtures have now been published on the British Baseball Federation website, with a ‘Road to Farnham Park’ guide coming soon to explain the playoff qualification and postseason format.

The late withdrawal of the NBL team Lakenheath Diamondbacks was both a real shame (to lose a top-level team as the latest consequence of US military personnel and operation changes on these shores) and something of a pain (as the timing meant that large swathes of the original schedule had to be completely re-worked).

Although the fixtures have now been uploaded onto the website, the full details for the two AA South Pools and the AAA South and (new for 2014) AAA Central divisions are still to be published. Triple-A, Double-A and most of Single-A will get their seasons underway on Sunday 13 April, with the exception being a Single-A contest between the Richmond Dukes and London Musketeers at Finsbury Park this coming Sunday.

NBL Opening Day this Sunday

This Sunday is Opening Day in the National Baseball League and there are three exciting double-headers to look forward to.

The Southern Nationals come into the season looking to earn a historic four top-tier titles in a row, although there have been some changes over the offseason. The team has reverted back to their original Southern name after two years as Harlow and they have moved from their previous base to the impressive new Farnham Park facility. Meanwhile catcher Will Lintern will be a tough man to replace following his decision to join up with the fast-developing Hove Ballclub.

Youth set-up changes

A new structure for youth baseball has been introduced this year. Four new age categories have been introduced - Under-17 (ages 13-16), Under-15 (ages 12-14), Under-13 (ages 11-12) and Under-12 (ages 7-11) – to replace the previous Pony and Bronco age groups and to align the British set-up with more conventional Little League age groups. There will also be greater local flexibility over fixtures so that travel considerations can be taken into account more easily.

The overall aim of the changes is to create a framework that allows for a set-up that can match up with the Little League structures of other countries – factoring in European and World Series timetables, for examples – whilst keeping some freedom within the structure so that the kids, parents and teams can enjoy games in a way that suits them locally.

Team GB

On the National Team level, Glen Robertson of Brentwood Baseball Club has taken on the role of General Manager for the Great Britain Men’s National Team. He will work alongside  National Teams Programme Director, Marty Cullen, Head Coach Sam Dempster and the rest of the staff as the senior team prepares for this year’s European Championships in Germany and the Czech Republic in September.

The 2012 European Championship was a disappointment for Team GB as they lost four of their five games and were forced into qualifying for the 2014 event. However, Dempster’s men did just that thanks to winning their B-Level qualifying tournament in Zurich, Switzerland, last July.

Team GB will face a tough task at the Euros, playing a group that contains the reigning champions Italy, a strong host German team and good national set-ups in Belgium, France, and Sweden. Still, with Liam Carroll’s GB Lions roster giving young domestic players a great opportunity to develop, hopefully the event at the impressive Regensburg facilities will prove to be a positive experience for all involved with the Brits determined to spring a surprise as underdogs.

British Baseball Beat: The home straight

Last weekend’s London Tournament provided a brief respite in the British Baseball league action, just as the All-Star Break has done in MLB this week.

Teams are now jockeying for position in the final few weeks of the regular season, looking to book a place in the postseason or to create some positives to build on in 2014.

Three can’t go into two in the National Baseball League

In the top-tier there’s a compelling race for the top two league positions – and automatic qualification to the National Baseball Championships (NBC) – with three teams all determined to avoid being the odd one out.

The Herts Falcons currently lead the way and are in a ridiculously good run of form having won their last 13 games in a row. The third-placed Southampton Mustangs are one game behind the Falcons in the standings and they have a 10-game winning streak on the go too. Whilst the London Mets’ 6-game winning streak doesn’t look quite so impressive in comparison with those runs, they are arguably the team to keep an eye on.

The Mets have played 18 games, four less than both of their rivals, and if they are able to complete those fixtures and win them all then they would be in pole position.

NBL fixtures

The remaining scheduled fixtures for the top three NBL teams

The above table includes the season win-loss records for the Falcons, Mets and Mustangs and then the numbers in brackets are their records so far against the teams they are due to play. The Mets’ games in hand are double-headers against the Bracknell Blazers and Harlow Nationals and they are already due to play those teams during their remaining three scheduled match-ups of the season.

Neither the Blazers or Nationals are scheduled to be in action on 11 August so the Mets may be able to make up one of those double-headers that Sunday, with the gap weekend of 24-25 August before the NBL playoffs start on 1 September a potential chance to make up the other double-header.

The run-in looks favourable on paper for the Mustangs as they’ve got three home double-headers against teams they have already swept over a twin-bill already this season, starting with the Essex Arrows this Sunday.

The Falcons split a double-header against the Lakenheath Diamondbacks earlier in the year so they could pose a threat to Herts’ winning streak this Sunday, although the D-Backs were unable to field a team last time out and a repeat would hand two more wins to the Falcons’ total. The Mets complete the home set for the top three – facing the Harlow Nationals – and it may be that if any of the leading sides slip up on their own turf this weekend then it could prove very costly.

There’s plenty at stake in the other NBL double-header this Sunday too. The Essex Redbacks have the daunting task of facing the Mets and Falcons in their final two double-headers of the season. After a creditable 2-4 start, the NBL newcomers have lost their last 16 games and their home match-up against the South London Pirates is their best chance of adding to their win tally.

Other key fixtures this weekend

Cartmel Valley Lions at Halton Jaguars (AAA North) – The league-leading Liverpool Trojans (12-1) will likely further improve their win tally with two scheduled games against the 0-12 Menwith Hill Patriots, leaving the Lions and Jagaurs battling it out for the second playoff spot.  The two teams have split their first two double-headers this season.

Milton Keynes Bucks at Leicester Blue Sox (AAA Midlands) – The Bucks (12-2) are now just half a game behind the Nottingham Rebels (13-2) in the standings and, with their rivals not playing this weekend, Milton Keynes will jump to the top of the division if they secure a sweep. The Bucks are 3-0 against the Blue Sox so far this season.

Bristol Badgers at Cambridge Royals (AAA South) – The standings are so tight at the top of the AAA-South that several match-ups could have made this list. This clash between the teams currently lying second and third in the division is arguably the pick of the bunch.

London Mammoths at Hove Tuesday (AA South) – The division’s top two teams meet at Pavilion Field, Brighton, in Hove’s final game of a very successful regular season.

Harrogate Tigers at Sheffield Bladerunners (AA North) – The second-placed Tigers travel to Sheffield to take on the third-placed Bladerunners.

Herts Raptors at Guildford Mavericks II (A South) – The Raptors look to become the first team in Single-A to reach double digits in the win column.