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British baseball: Past and Present

by Matt Smith

The past couple of months have showed just how much there is to enjoy about British baseball, whether that’s watching games or reading up on the sport’s history.

The GB Way

Great Britain’s U18’s achieved their aim of staying in the main European Championship event for 2018, rather than needing to come through a qualification event. This came about thanks to two wins in Spain, the first two wins for a GB U18 team in the Euros since 1994.

This was followed by the U15’s finishing a very creditable second-place in their Euro qualifier. Rule changes meant that this wasn’t quite enough to qualify for the main championships, as it has done in the past, but that shouldn’t detract from a strong showing.

A lot of hard work has gone into developing the youth set-up in British baseball over recent years by Liam Carroll and his team and ‘The GB Way’ looks like being the way towards a brighter future. Creating a national youth set-up that inspires players – and not just boys, as the U18’s Laura Hirai shows (she helped the GB U-19 Women’s Softball team win the European Championship this past weekend too) – is really important, but especially for a sport that is always going to face an uphill battle against the more established British sports.

A national programme is emerging that should be something that the promising young players – and just as importantly their parents – want to be a part of and give them the encouragement and opportunity to develop. For all of us that have an interest in British baseball, that’s great to see.

The senior GB team are on-deck ready to follow on from their younger counterparts in September with the European Championships (9th to 18th) and then the excitement of a World Baseball Classic qualification tournament in Brooklyn (22nd to 25th). Add that all to the ongoing domestic season action, and the London Mets and Southampton Mustangs showing well in CEB Federations Cup Qualifiers at the end of June, and 2016 looks like being one that will be remembered very fondly in the history of British baseball.

Two great publications now available for free!

And what a rich history it is! Whilst it may not be littered with high profile events, for over 100 years there has been competitive baseball of some form being played here and wherever there is baseball you’ll find entertaining stories and interesting characters.

Project COBB is designed to lead the way in recording and researching the history of British baseball and two publications under the Project COBB have just been made available for free download.

‘What about the Villa?’ by Joe Gray documents the story of Britain’s  pro baseball league of 1890. My review when it was first published in April 2011 stated that “alongside Josh Chetwynd and Brian A. Belton’s ‘British Baseball and the West Ham Club’, it’s an essential purchase for anyone interested in Britain’s baseball heritage and, more generally, Britain’s sporting culture during the late nineteenth century”. You now get to enjoy the fruits of Joe’s hard work for free!

‘Nine Aces and a Joker’ tells the tale of nine “Ace” pitchers and a less conventional standout – the “Joker” from the history of British baseball and I had the pleasure of contributing two of the chapters.

Anyone interested in doing their own research should also be keen to delve into the Anthony Taylor Collection of British Baseball programmes, which has just had three new programmes from 1936, featuring West Ham Baseball Club, added to the digitised selection.

From more recent history, the Southampton Mustangs’ Ross Arieta is four parts into a project in which he is “analysing season-by-season stats to determine the best teams and team performances in British baseball history”. Part One (“Herts Falcons”) can be found here and the others published so far can be found by looking through the News stories on the BBF website.

Whether you’re playing, coaching, umpiring, watching, researching, writing or reading, it’s a great time to be involved in British baseball and long may that continue.

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A August 8, 2016 - 3:04 am


Do you have GB’s Euro Championship roster? Or do you know if any pros are playing in it?

Matt Smith August 8, 2016 - 7:39 pm

Hi. Don’t think it’s been announced just yet. There will probably be a few pros in there, but I suspect the pro focus will be on the World Baseball Classic qualifier coming just after it.


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