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.Â 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 isnâ€™t there a professional or semi-pro league already?
The country seems to bring baseball talented players over here already so I guess itâ€™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 tvâ€™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 Britainâ€™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.
â€œWe 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 harderâ€ 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.
What a day of baseball!The NBL is back.After the rollercoaster of game1,the Falcons bounced back to win2nd game 11-10 pic.twitter.com/0dmieY6AQa
— Herts Baseball Club ?? (@HertsBaseball) April 6, 2014
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.
— Leicester Blue Sox (@BlueSoxBaseball) April 6, 2014
And Double-A Daws Hill announced news of their new website going live:
The new Spitfires site is live! Check us out http://t.co/4m93w2iy1V
— Daws Hill Spitfires (@dhspitfires) April 7, 2014