With Major League Baseball in full swing, it’s time for the top-tier of British baseball to get going for another competitive season.
The National Baseball League (NBL) has reduced down to six teams for 2015 after the departure of the Southern Nationals. They certainly left their mark in the British baseball record books by securing three consecutive national titles between 2011 and 2013, but the record books is where the Nationals will now reside as the team has ceased to exist.
No teams have been promoted up from Triple-A this time around; however the introduction of a new BBF Cup will see those teams getting the chance to have a crack at the NBL stars and potentially proving that they may belong among the elite in 2016. The cup competition will hopefully provide additional impetus to the season, giving teams something else to play for if – for various reasons – fielding their strongest side week-in, week-out across the regular season is not so easy.
The Essex Arrows will head into the season as reigning champions and it will be interesting to see how they respond to having the big target on their back for the first time. Alongside the Southern Nationals, the London Mets (2007, 2008), Croydon Pirates (2004, 2005) and Brighton Buccaneers (2001, 2002) have all achieved the impressive feat of retaining the title over the past 15 years and the Arrows will be doing everything they can to join that list.
They will face plenty of competition, not least from the London Mets (who the Arrows beat in the final last year), the Southampton Mustangs and the Herts Falcons. The Falcons took a step back in 2014 after impressive campaigns in 2012 and 2013. They’ve shown their intent by signing Maikel Azcuy and Robbie Almanzar who were part of the Nationals and Arrows championship winning teams.
Farnham Park near Slough and Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead will be the Opening Day venues on Sunday. The Arrows and Mets will meet in a repeat of last year’s final at Farnham Park, with the Bracknell Blazers facing both teams on the day too. At Grovehill, the hometown Herts Falcons will play games against the Mustangs and the South London Pirates, with those two teams also facing off against each other.
Clive Barker’s NBL preview provides further details over on the BBF website.