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Great Britain Baseball Funding Boost

by Matt Smith

$300m is an eye-catching figure, there’s no doubt about that.

Manny Machado’s impending payday with the San Diego Padres has received UK online media coverage today and you can understand why.

However, from a British perspective news of a much smaller sum will have a much larger impact.

It was announced at the end of last week that Great Britain Baseball will receive £30,500 from the UK Sport Aspiration Fund as part of the team’s preparations for the 2019 European Championships and associated Olympic qualification attempt. This came after the incredibly disappointing news from early December in which it was announced that baseball would receive no such funding, although GB Softball was awarded £62,500.

The hard work put in since that point, not least by BaseballSoftballUK, to gain some baseline funding for baseball should be applauded.

It’s easy to look at £30,500 and think it’s not a great deal of money in the general scheme of things, and it’s certainly true that this is far from a transformative sum. But for a programme that has become accustomed to doing all it can to build Great Britain baseball, from the juniors up to the seniors, with no national funding, any financial help is a bonus and can be used to good effect.

No one is underestimating the challenge Great Britain will face in finishing in the top five at the Euros and thereby making it through to the Africa/Europe qualifier.

The Netherlands will be prohibitive favourites to win the event, with Italy, Spain and the hosts Germany at good odds to join them in the top four, before a keen battle for the fifth spot, likely led by Belgium.

Liam Carroll’s team finished ninth overall at the most recent event (2016) and GB have only finished in the top five twice in the history of the tournament (silver medal finishes in 1967 and 2007), so it will be a big ask to break into that group. However, no one should be in any doubt as to the commitment and fight that the team and coaching staff will show to give their best and to make it happen.

The provisional schedule has handed GB the toughest start possible in opening up with games against the Netherlands and Germany, yet you kind of think that may be how the team will like it. We saw the same situation back in 2007 when Great Britain, led by Stephan Rapaglia, spoiled Spain’s Opening Day party and then rode a wave of confidence all the way to a final against the Dutch.

Great Britain heads into 2019 on the back of an encouraging bronze medal performance by the U23s in the European Championship Qualifier in Slovakia.

The U23s will be part of the European Championship U23 in Prague, Czech Republic in early August, with the U18s heading to the European Championship Qualifier Juniors U18 held in Sundbyberg, Sweden in July, a week after the U12s will have been in European action in Trebic, Czech Republic.

All worth noting for the next time someone hears about the MLB London Series and tries to tell you no one plays baseball here.

It’s also worth noting more generally in regard to the promotional impact that the Yankees and Red Sox coming to London will have. Understandably, MLB is coming to these shores to promote MLB, but there’s a great opportunity for us to use it as a way to promote British baseball too and in particular the Great Britain programme.

What better way for our teams to head into European competition starting in July than on the back of a late June MLB London Series that makes many more people aware (even among MLB fans based here) of our national team set-up.

And maybe even with a few fundraising events and initiatives to add to the £30,500 already in the pot.

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