“Roundshaw Hop” is the new name for my column on the National Baseball League (NBL). This year, I am going to try to keep to opinion-style pieces on BaseballGB (last season, I mixed up opinion pieces with more factual pieces).Â You will be able to find more factual reports on theÂ NBLÂ once the season getsÂ startedÂ under theÂ British baseball leaguesÂ category on Mister Baseball. In this first instalment, I will look at the format of the NBL in 2009, details of which were released this morning. But before I do that, let me explain the new name and logo for the column.
Roundshaw Hop: What’s in the name?
I wanted to give this column a baseball-themed name that was specifically related to Britain. One term I’ve heardÂ over and over during the past fewÂ seasons is “Roundshaw hop”, which describes the unexpectedly high bounce aÂ gentle grounder canÂ sometimes take (as depicted in the logo)Â on the field of the Croydon Pirates, the team I score for.Â I suspect that, owing to theÂ unpredictability of infield bounces all over Britain, thereÂ areÂ similarÂ terms in common use:Â “Grovehill hop”,Â “Finsbury hop”,Â and “Connare hop”Â are just a few potential alternatives that spring to mind (the punÂ here isÂ accidental, but it should be noted that these hops more often than not adopt brainward trajectories).Â OneÂ diamond said to haveÂ a reliable bounce in itsÂ infield was Pavilion Field, where the Brighton Buccaneers used to play, butÂ burrowing bunnies in the outfield did their best to ensure that theÂ field wasÂ not flawless.
The NBL format for 2009
Each time I’ve checkedÂ my email over the past few days I’ve been hoping to see a message with theÂ NBL schedule. It came this morning.
It is now confirmed that the NBL will be exclusively southern teams this year, with the London Mets (last year’s national champions), the Richmond Flames (last year’s losing finalists), and the Bracknell Blazers and the Croydon Pirates being joined by the Herts Falcons, who were invited to join the top tier following their AAA championship in 2008. The schedule is 24 games long, with each team playing every other team in three double-headers. The season starts on Sunday 19 April with the Falcons visiting the Pirates and the Flames hosting the Mets.
Returning to the subject of the email I received this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find something else includedÂ among the attachments: a post-season structure. The top four teams from the five that make up the NLB will qualify, but a weighted double-elimination format will give an advantage to the higher-placed teams (see below).
For the past few years, the post-season structure has been announced mid-season, and even then uncertainty about what a team needed to do to qualify remained. This was not good for players, managers, spectators,Â or writers.
Aspi Dimitrov, the new Southern Senior League Commissioner, deserves a lot of credit for the work he has put into the league and post-season structure. I feel confident that baseball across the south of England is going to benefit from Aspi’s talents, in the same way that the Herts Falcons (his club) have been benefitingÂ in recentÂ years.
The NBL National Baseball Championship will be played on the same weekend as the A-championship. The AAA- and AA-championships will be played the weekend after.