Great Britain will begin their European Championship campaign at the impressive Hoffdorp, Netherlands, ballpark against the host nation. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. local time, 6 p.m. BST.
As in 2012, Great Britain’s involvement in the marquee World Baseball Classic later in the month could lead some to think that the Euros will be a mere warm-up exercise for the main event.
However, such thoughts are far from the minds of Head Coach Liam Carroll and his team. Their aim is to win a medal at the tournament and whilst this will be a tough task, such ambitious intent will surely bode well for both competing at the Euros and preparing for the WBC.
This year’s European Championship consists of 12 teams split into two pools of six. Great Britain are in Pool A and their first objective is to do well enough in their five group games to finish in the top three in their pool and qualify for the next round. GB’s schedule is as follows:
Friday 9th, 19:00 (local time) – Netherlands (10)
Saturday 10th, 14:30 – Czech Republic (14)
Sunday 11th, 15:45 – Germany (20)
Monday 12th, 14:30 – Sweden (28)
Tuesday 13th, 11:00 – Russia (22)
Take one hour off to get the start time from the UK.
The numbers next to the teams are their current position in the World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings. These take into consideration performance of youth teams as well as the senior set-up, and like all such rankings should be taken with a pinch of salt, but we have to start by acknowledging that GB (30) are the lowest ranked nation in the pool. The team will be confident that they can prove that such a ranking is not representative of the talent they possess.
The task ahead
What can’t be denied is that Great Britain will have few opportunities to ease their way into the tournament. The first three games are against the reigning champions (the Netherlands, who have also won seven of the nine previous European Championships held in their country), the fourth-placed team from the 2014 event (Czech Republic) and the bronze medal winners (Germany).
The second game could be the most important. The Netherlands and Germany are good bets to take two of the top three places, but GB beat the Czech Republic 6-1 the last time they played in 2012 and if they could win their match-up this time around then a 1-2 record with Sweden and Russia to come would still give them a good chance of progressing. Great Britain beat Sweden 7-1 in the group stage two years ago and also got the better of Russia in their most recent meeting (a 6-2 win in 2012).
However, let’s not count out those games against the Netherlands and Germany. A big pressure opener against the host nation can sometimes be exactly the type of challenge that a team can rise to. Great Britain did exactly that in 2007 when they shocked Spain 12-8 in the tournament opener and ended up claiming a silver medal, equalling the team’s best ever performance at the event.
Details of the playing and coaching staff can be found on the BBF website.
Two years ago at the Euros Spencer Kreisberg pitched a superb eight innings in the aforementioned victory over Sweden. He’s back on the roster – as well as the WBC roster – fresh off helping the Southampton Mustangs capture their first British National Baseball League championship.
And when GB shut-out Croatia in 2014 it was Jake Esch who starred with a seven-inning pitching masterclass (10K’s, 0 hits or walks allowed). Just two weeks ago, Jake made his Major League debut for the Miami Marlins.
It will be exciting to see which players stamp their names in the online GB Baseball history books this time around.
How you can follow the event
It’s been announced that some of the games will be broadcast live (and in English) on the German online sports radio station http://meinsportradio.de. The first batch of games selected include Great Britain’s games against the Netherlands and Germany.
The official CEB tournament website will have a live play-by-play service running for all games (an old school MLB Gameday is the best way to describe it), whilst no doubt we will be able to keep up with reports via the GB Baseball Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/GB_Baseball.
Around the horn
First – The team will be displaying a new Lion logo and some very fetching uniforms. An online shop will be open soon so that you can support the GB cause in more ways than one. Much as I love my old GB cap (as evidenced by my Twitter pic), I’m definitely going to have to upgrade to the new version.
— Great Britain Baseball (@GB_Baseball) September 5, 2016
Second – If you want some background to the GB set-up, you can listen to an excellent in-depth interview with Liam Carroll on the Bat Flips and Nerds podcast:
— Bat Flips and Nerds (@batflips_nerds) September 5, 2016
Third – We shouldn’t overlook that it’s not just the national team representing Great Britain at the Euros. Veteran National Baseball League umpire Petter Nordwall is on the tournament umpiring crew.
Home – As well as the upcoming Team GB online shop, you can support the set-up directly be contributing to and/or publicising the GB Baseball Go Fund Me campaign.