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British Baseball Beat: Reflecting on the NBC

by Matt Smith

bbbHlsqAs the equipment was packed away at Grovehill Ballpark on Sunday evening, so another British baseball season was brought to a close.  There is still some baseball to be played, not least in the youth qualifiers this coming weekend, but the marquee competitions at adult level have now all been decided.

A brief round-up of the results was provided here on Sunday evening and Simon Fitzjohn has written a comprehensive report of all of the action from the weekend on the BBF website.  That leaves me to reflect back on what happened.

The winners

It’s difficult to write about ‘surprise’ winners from the NBC simply because all of the teams had played well during the regular season just to make it to the finals. 

However, if I had to pick a surprise winner from the day then it would have to be the National Baseball League champions: the Richmond Flames.  They finished third in the NBL regular season, so it was not unfair to peg them, alongside Southampton Mustangs, as the underdogs in comparison to the league-winning London Mets and last year’s NBC winners, the Bracknell Blazers.

That was before the Flames beat both the Blazers and the Mets on Saturday to be the first team to qualify for the final. While the Blazers showed last year that they could lose their opener and still win the event, repeating the feat in 2010 was asking for a little too much and the veteran Cody Cain’s MVP performance led the Flames to a deserved championship. 

The AAA NBC also followed the ‘double elimination’ format and it produced the final that most neutrals wanted: the Northern champion Liverpool Trojans against the Southern champion Oxford Kings.  They took different paths to get there. The Trojans won both of their games on Saturday, including a 3-2 win over the Kings, while Oxford narrowly edged past Bracknell Inferno, late substitutes for Menwith Hill Patriots, 11-10 and then benefitted from a controversial umpiring decision to beat the Herts Eagles. 

Those results made the Trojans favourites in what figured to be a close final, yet as the Trojans put it themselves, “it was definitely a different Liverpool Trojans team that turned up to the one that played so well the day before”.  The Kings won comfortably in the end, 13-3 after six innings, which must have been especially disappointing for the Trojans as they had beaten the Kings the day before. 

The Trojans would have gladly played the games again and swapped over their victories, but you can’t pick and choose the games you win and Oxford won the game that mattered most.

If it was possible to go back and do things over again, I’m sure the Leicester Blue Sox would jump at the chance after their AA final against the Richmond Knights. 

They seemed to have everything in hand after a ten-run second inning and had decent leads heading into the top of the eighth and ninth innings, only for the Knights to send the game to extras and then win it in the bottom of the tenth.  Heartache for one side produced delirium for the other and there’s no doubt that the Knights had a season for the ages.  To lose your opening game of the season and then win twenty straight the rest of the way, including that incredible final, borders on the miraculous.

The A Final was made to look a bit ordinary by comparison, but take nothing away from the efforts of Guildford Mavericks and MK Bucks.  The Bucks made sure the A title would stay in the Midlands as they followed the Leicester Blue Sox’s 2009 triumph by breaking away late on in the game to win by 10-3. 

For those who were there

Judging by the post-tournament comments, Herts Baseball Club appear to have been very accommodating first-time hosts of the NBC, as was expected.  Those in attendance witnessed several exciting games including some controversial umpiring calls, had plenty of time to talk about baseball and were fuelled by some decent food as well.  I bow to Herts’ Rob Jones in his assessment of the culinary offerings:

“I have to address the crowning glory of the weekend — the food! The ubiquitous hot dogs were enormous, tasty, sensibly priced and happily devoured by my own two kids. And they were supplemented by a more exotic sandwich — pulled pork. When I first saw this on the adverts for the event I wondered what on earth it was all about and had to Google the answer. When I finally got to eat one for my Sunday lunch it all made sense! A masterpiece of rich meat and tangy sauce which made my weekend experience even better. Compliments to the chefs”.

For those who couldn’t make it

Those of us who couldn’t get down to Hemel Hempstead were able to follow the action this year via the new GameChanger service. 

Coincidentally enough, I had read an article about the iPhone scoring system only a few weeks ago and noticed that the Richmond Knights were using it to score their regular season games.  As a fan, I prefer the ‘pencil and paper’ approach as an individual’s personal quirks are a fundamental part of what makes a fan’s scorecard a unique record of a game, and personal quirks are exactly the sort of thing that a standardised technological system is designed to eliminate. 

From the official point of view, that standardized process has clear advantages and the live publishing side of it is a real boon.  We might be used to watching the whizz and wonder of MLB.com’s At Bat with Gameday, but following a live account of British baseball games is far from typical and it added to the impression that the NBC was an important, special event. 

There are pros and cons with any system and the most obvious drawback to GameChanger is that it requires a scorer to have access to an iPhone or iPad.  Maybe Apple would consider sponsoring the Great Britain Baseball Scorers Association?

No, that doesn’t sound very likely to me either. Still, if it’s time for us to start dreaming up our ‘hopes for 2011’ wish list, which it surely is, we might as well start with an ambitious one.

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1 comment

Adam Brown September 10, 2010 - 4:08 pm

It does sound like an awful call. You should only call interference or obstruction if its completely clear. I wonder if it was the same umpire who made a similarly horrible interference call in the London tournament?


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