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British Baseball Beat: Springing into action

by Matt Smith

bbbHlsqWelcome to the first edition of what hopefully will become a weekly column, published every Thursday morning, focusing on the British baseball scene.

Once the season begins, we’ll be looking back at the results from the previous weekend and looking forward to the games set to take place over the weekend ahead.  In doing so, I also hope to include plenty of stories from people involved in the sport, from players talking about recent games to off-the-field news and developments. If you have any stories that you’d like to share, please pass them on to me via the Contacts page.

This seemed as good a time as any to launch the new column as the major pre-season event on the British calendar is scheduled to get underway this coming Saturday. 

Herts Spring League

The Herts Spring League enters its third year in 2010 and promises to provide the record number of entrants (17) with some ideal preparation for the season ahead.

HertsBBThe HSL will be staged over the next three weekends at the homes of Herts Baseball Club, Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, and Richmond Baseball Club, Ham Ground in Ham (between Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames in south west London). The competition is split into two levels, with teams from the National Baseball League (NBL) and AAA making up the ‘Majors’ and teams from AA and A playing in the ‘Minors’.  The teams include Mildenhall Bulldogs and Southampton Mustangs, who have been promoted to the top tier of British baseball for 2010, and the new Essex Redbacks organization. Full details are available at http://www.hertsbaseball.com/HSL/index.html .

Grovehill Ballpark is staging 3 Major league games on Saturday (27th), with the home team Falcons and Eagles being joined by the MK Bucks and the Mildenhall Bulldogs.  Ham Field plays host to 3 ‘Minors’ games involving the Richmond Dragons, London Marauders, Guildford Mavericks and Sidewinders.  Games begin at 10.00, 13.00 and 15.00.

The venues reverse their roles on Sunday.  Five ‘Minors’ teams will congregate at Grovehill Ballpark: Herts Hawks, Herts Raptors, Leicester Blue Sox, Thames Valley Bisons and Windsor Bears.  Richmond stages the 3 Majors games with the home team Flames starting proceedings at 10.30 with a repeat of the 2009 National Baseball League final against the Bracknell Blazers.  The Flames then face the Redbacks before the latter takes on the Mustangs to end the day’s play.

New teams for 2010

The regular season Opening day is scheduled for Sunday 18 April and hopefully the league entrants lists, schedules and postseason formats will be released over the next week or so.  Prior to Christmas, there were hopes that the British leagues would be expanded by up to eight adult teams and it will be very interesting to see if those hopes have been realised.

We do know that the Essex Redbacks are preparing to field team in the AAA league in their debut year, while the Chelmsford Clippers are joining the A League. Both teams will be playing their home games at Melbourne Park in Chelmsford.  Meanwhile the Leicester Blue Sox, donning some classy new club logos, will be fielding two teams in the Midlands League.

Great Britain appoint a new General Manager

While we await the announcement of domestic news, there has been an important development concerning Great Britain’s Senior team.

Team GBJason Greenberg has been appointed as the new Great Britain Senior Baseball Team General Manager.  He was recommended for the post by his predecessor, Alan Smith, and has been part of the successful Herts Baseball Club since 2005.

The BBF Board, newly elected at the Annual General Meeting on 28 February, moved quickly to address the National team structure following the resignations in February of General Manager Alan Smith and Head Coach Stephan Rapaglia.

Marty Cullen was elected at the AGM as the new National Teams Programme Official and subsequently set up a National Teams committee that recommended Greenberg’s appointment.  The Committee includes Alan Smith and Stephan Rapaglia (who are staying on with the National team in a consultant capacity), BBF President Mark Salter and James Pearce, BBF Development Official and MLB’s World Baseball Classic Tournament Director.  Greenberg’s appointment to the GM position was followed by the decisions to retain Paul Vernon and Will Lintern as the Head Coaches of the GB Junior Baseball Team and the GB Cadets respectively.

There’s no doubt that Greenberg is taking on a sizeable challenge.  A significant amount of work goes into sending a team to a major international tournament, such as this year’s European Baseball Championships in Germany. For Team GB one of the most crucial tasks is finding enough funding for a well-prepared and competitive team as none of the British baseball and softball national teams receive any public funding.

The Committee has set a challenging target of £50,000 for the European Baseball Championships.  Greenberg and the rest of the team will need to work extremely hard to find sponsors and other sources of funding to meet their target, but the dedication and professionalism of the people involved gives reason to be optimistic that they will be successful.

And while the search for funding continues, the new GM also will be considering the appointment of a new Head Coach to replace Rapaglia, who had such an impressive six-year tenure.

Great Britain Funding

As part of the continuing funding drive for all GB baseball and softball teams, a webpage has been created through which visitors can donate money to specific tournament pots using PayPal.  It’s a novel way to allow baseball and softball fans to directly contribute to the national effort. Find out more at: http://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/donate/

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2 comments

Matthew Crawshaw March 25, 2010 - 1:10 pm

Nice round up Matt.

I am looking forward to the first HSL games this weekend and will be travelling down with a Sox 1 & 2 combined team on Sunday, hoping for good weather! (the forecast doesn’t look so good at present)

The latest news from the Midlands I can share, is that we think Mildenhall may have sufficient players to field two teams in 2010. Their elite players will of course be contesting in the NBL, whilst the second sting should be re-joining the Midlands AA-Division along with Birmingham, Milton Keynes and the two Leicester teams.

Regular season schedules as you say are being finalised at present and hopefully can be published shortly after they have been approved by the respective league commissioners.

Here’s hoping that 2010 becomes a vintage year for British Baseball, both domestically and at the ECB!

Reply
Joe Gray March 25, 2010 - 1:17 pm

Yeah – I’m a little worried about those two drops of rain on the Met Office website over Hemel on Sunday.

I’m really hoping I aired out my baseball brolly after the end of last season – otherwise it could be a bit musty.

Reply

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