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Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. An Oakland A's fan, Matt has been obsessed with baseball since 1998 and started writing about the sport in 2006.

British Baseball Beat: 2011 Champions crowned

BBBThe 2011 senior British Baseball season came to an end over the past weekend with four teams being crowned as champions of their respective leagues.

The Southern Nationals, Liverpool Trojans, Bolton Robots of Doom and Cambridge Royals all left Hemel Hempstead with trophies and with their hopes fulfilled for the year.

While the rest of the teams competing at the National Baseball Championships (NBC) came away without quite achieving their aim, they can now reflect on their strong seasons that led to them being part of the marquee final event.

There is a full round-up of the weekend’s action on the British Baseball Federation website, including a link to a bounty of photos from the event.  You can also read game reports of the Liverpool Trojans’ matches on their website.

A good year for the newcomers

A few eyebrows may have been raised earlier in the year when it was announced that two completely new teams would enter British baseball at the top-tier level.  The fact that the NBC final was contested by the Lakenheath Diamondbacks and Southern Nationals was conclusive proof, combined with their regular season performances, that they deserved that lofty starting position.

Neither team was exactly a rookie outfit in terms of the players and coaches.  The Diamondbacks are a United States Army Air Force team, while the Nationals club was founded by a group of players with plenty of experience in the British leagues.  However, the pressure was on for them to show that they belonged and there’s little doubt that they succeeded.

The Nationals’ success was remarkable considering they were trailing 6-2 to the reigning champion Richmond Flames heading into the eighth inning of the semi-final on Saturday. 

An eleven run outburst in the top of the eighth, followed by a five-run flourish in the ninth sent them onto the final in incredible style.  It was a tough way for the Flames to see the defence of their title come to an end and their Pool A rivals the Southampton Mustangs also saw their excellent year end in semi-final heartbreak.  Five runs in the top of the ninth gave them a late 11-9 lead, only for the Diamondbacks to charge back with three runs in the last chance saloon. 

Great Britain junior Jamie Ratcliff took over in the final for the Nationals, pitching a gem as his team ran out 13-3 victors.  Their title triumph will paint a big bullseye on their chests and it will be fascinating to see how the Southern Nationals try to build on that momentum in 2012, with the rest of the teams intent on knocking them back down. 

Cambridge Royals reign in Single-A

The Cambridge Royals also had a title-winning debut year and they did it in perfect style.  They completed an unbeaten season by winning  the Single-A final 14-4 over the Birmingham Maple Leafs, with pitcher Brett Curran being the star of the show.

The Royals couldn’t have wished for a better year or a better way to reintroduce baseball to the Cambridge area.  The task now is to build on this successful debut and you would have to think that part of this challenge will involve making the step up to Double-A in 2012. 

Their southern rivals the Southampton Mustangs II also appear ready to move up a level as well so the AA-South, which contained the largest group of teams (13) of any section this year, looks set to either be expanded or restructured for 2012. 

Liverpool Trojans go unbeaten in Triple-A

Joining the Royals in the perfection of an unbeaten season were the Liverpool Trojans.

Their Triple-A triumph must have been particularly sweet after going into the 2010 NBC as favourites and falling at the final hurdle.  Liverpool would have been forgiven for shuddering at the news of their 2010 nemesis, the Oxford Kings, being given a second life after losing their playoff to the Essex Redbacks.  With the Halton Jaguars and Manchester A’s unable to attend the NBC, the Kings lived to fight another day and they took that second chance by beating the Bristol Badgers on Saturday to make it back to the final.

There they met the Liverpool Trojans – who had beaten the Essex Redbacks 9-6 – once again, only this time it was a Trojans team fuelled by the desire not to let the title slip from their grasp another time. 

Liverpool’s excellence raises the question of whether they should get to compete against NBL teams in 2012. 

The Trojans certainly have a case for being given the chance, but accommodating it might not be easy.  The most recent Northern NBL of 2008 ended with only two teams completing the season – Liverpool themselves had to pull out midway through the year – and the inability of the Jaguars and A’s to make the finals this year casts doubt over whether there is currently enough strength in depth for a re-emergence of a top-tier Northern league at this point. 

There might be a case for the first-placed team in the Northern AAA to make it through to the NBC playoffs, but teams competing at a different level in the postseason to the regular season is far from ideal. 

Bolton evens up the north/south contest

Bolton Robots of Doom didn’t quite manage an unbeaten season, but they did help the north to gain a split of the four trophies on offer by taking the Double-A title.

Bolton looked odds on to win the title in the regulation nine innings when they entered the bottom of the ninth with an 8-5 lead over the Latin Boys.  However, their opponents were not prepared to go down quietly – in more ways than one – and they plated the three runs that were needed to send the final to extra innings.

The Robots could have short circuited after that letdown; instead they went into overdrive by rallying for four runs in the top of the tenth before shutting down the Latin Boys in the bottom of the frame to secure the Double-A crown.

That triumph could encourage Bolton to step up to Triple-A, although any such move will of course be dependent on how the Midlands/North leagues are structured in 2012.  Final decisions are a long way off as yet and in many respects that’s no bad thing: let the teams enjoy their 2011 successes for a while before turning their attention to 2012. 

Whatever 2012 does bring, it’s sure to provide another good year of baseball.

Perfect Predictions

It should be noted that although the official report states that “the Southern Nationals defied the regular season standings and the predictions of Britain’s online baseball pundits by sweeping through to the 2011 championship title”, I did predict on Sunday morning on Twitter that the Nationals would prevail.  In fact, I got all four predictions correct.

I wouldn’t normally be so shameless as to point such a thing out, but bearing in mind my usually terrible attempts at predictions when it comes to MLB, I thought I would enjoy it a little to balance out the normal embarrassment that predictions cause me.

And finally …

Don’t forget that the Youth National Baseball Championships take place this weekend in Richmond.  Good luck to all of the teams that are competing.

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41 Responses to “British Baseball Beat: 2011 Champions crowned”

  1. Great stuff this season, Matt. I have to admit that I didn’t think the Flames would fall away so much nor that the Diamondbacks would provide such little resistance, but the Nationals have been good for their title this year.

    Now to try to convince more people to take up the game and ensure people stay with it so we start building more baseball hubs throughout the lands; more youth teams, more teams within clubs.

    Game on!

    Youth NBCs this weekend should be good – the Essex Redbacks’ Chris Keifer pitched a perfect game over 5 innings on Saturday to defeat the London Mets (of their five teams, only one has made an NBC this year which is vastly different from usual).

    Mike

    September 15, 2011 at 7:27 am Reply
  2. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Nice to see the BBF (sorry, Southern) Nationals win the BBF trophy.
    After all, anyone can see that it’s a BBF team in all but name.
    3 of the 4 founders of the team work for either BBF or BSUK in some way, they’ve taken players from a number of other National League teams (which could be argued has therefore diluted the level of the competition if those teams haven’t been able to replace those who have left with players of the same standard) and I believe they were the only NBL team to have no games scheduled at all whilst the GB team were preparing for and playing in the European Championships.
    (Some teams would have had at least one week off as they would / should have been playing the Nationals).
    To me, it’s really a BBF GB development team (hence the name) but the BBF seem a little shy in admitting it!!

    September 15, 2011 at 8:55 am Reply
  3. Will Lintern #

    Paul, you couldn’t be more right!

    When we started the team the primary goal was to provide additional playing opportunities in the National League for GB Junior National Team players. And this was certainly achieved. For the final our starting lineup included Jamie Ratcliff (P), Dan Parker (LF) and would’ve had Luis Goncalves (2B) had he not suffered and injury the day before, all of whom are GB Junior National Team players. Then Aaron Webster who was a late defensive replacement in RF is also a Junior National Team player. Only the Bracknell Blazers can boast to field a similar number of young talented ballplayers as we did in 2012 and for this I am very proud.

    Of course our talent was supported by the veterans on the squad but the term ‘taken’ is one I don’t agree with. Of all the players who played for the Nationals this year only two were recruited and they we both believed to have retired. Everyone else formally asked to be a member of the club whether through myself or one of the other founding members. I am not opposed to the notion of recruiting, because if you have a better offer or a better product then why shouldn’t you be able to attract the best talent, but we as a staff decided to try and avoid any such criticism by making our stance known to the BBF that we would not actively recruit a current or active member of another BBF team, but we would accept players who made requests to us.
    Other people may fee differently, but everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion.

    I hope that we have demonstrated to other National League clubs that GB Junior National Team players are more than capable of holding their own at this level, and I hope to see more clubs accommodating these young talented ball players.

    September 15, 2011 at 9:35 am Reply
  4. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Will

    Thanks for the reply.

    Of course the GB Juniors have to be playing at the highest level possible in order to be competitive at an International level – I fully support that.

    My issue is that if this was the idea of setting up the team – as you state, this was your primary goal – and no doubt with support from the BBF, then why hide it from the baseball community?
    I’m sure they’d have no problems with the team being called the GB Junior Development team.
    The communications from the BBF however were not clear on this, instead presenting the team as a completely new baseball team playing in the NBL when several clubs have never, and perhaps will never, achieve that status.

    September 15, 2011 at 10:44 am Reply
  5. Jason Greenberg #

    Paul: You allude to a conflict of interest in your first comment above. You’re half right. Our team founders (Will, Brendan Cunliffe, Marty Cullen and myself) are the first to admit we have multiple **interests** in British baseball – we’re not shy about that, but rather proud of it. But that does not mean there is any conflict. Rather, it means we are willing to give our free time over to the sport, too, and that is no bad thing.

    I wish more volunteers in the British baseball community were willing to wear multiple hats, so to speak. The biggest asset we have in British baseball is hard working volunteers. The number of GB families helping to raise money for the national teams programme at last weekend’s NBC was inspiring.

    More volunteers would mean a stronger GB Baseball programme, a healthier future for our Academy, a more constructive base of Federation participants, more scorers and umpires, and in general more people working passionately on behalf of our great game in the UK. It’s time for more quality volunteers to get out of the clubhouse and into the BBF’s wider sphere of effort.

    (Point of note: The Nationals requested just one week off from scheduled league action in 2011 due to GB Baseball commitments, on Sunday 17 July when the Juniors and Cadets were in Florida. We also missed out on the London Tournament in Croydon, of course. We attempted to schedule games with Mildenhall on July 3 and 24, but they were unavailable to play. The Nats were also one of the few NBL teams to complete their entire game schedule in 2011.)

    September 15, 2011 at 11:10 am Reply
  6. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Jason

    Both yourself and Will have confirmed that I have valid points in my initial post.

    If so, why were the BBF not upfront and open that one of the goals for the team was to provide this development opportunity for the GB Juniors program?

    I wish that I had more time to devote to baseball and the work that the BBF does – but my work commitments need to come first during the week and then my weekends are spent at Herts Little League on a Saturday and then with the seniors on (most) Sundays playing or assisting Herts with umpiring, and hopefully this will be the case for many years to come as long as my son continues to want to play.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:23 am Reply
  7. Will Lintern #

    Hi Paul,

    I take your point but we did not want to enter the GB Junior Team or a development team into the NBL. Firstly I didn’t want to force players to leave their clubs, especially those who live in the north or west of England. Secondly I wanted to start a new club that not only served to provide additional playing opportunities for GB Jr players but would also grow into a fully fledged club with many layers of adult and youth competition. This would be much more difficult to achieve if it were just a GB Development team.

    The favourable treatment that the Nationals received is not without precident. The Lakenheath Diamondbacks were welcomed to the NBL this year without previously competing in other tiers of British Baseball and the London Mets in 2007 were also welcomed straight into the NBL and won the championship in their debut season.

    I think the BBF would take any team and based on the teams’ merits including strength of roster and consider placing them in whatever league was best. I do recognise that perhaps this point was not well communicated to the wider community and needs to be addressed over the winter as part of a general improvement of communication on all levels.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:33 am Reply
  8. During the tail-end of the 2011 season, I found myself taking on an unofficial and unexpected additional role: a PR guy for the Southern Nationals. This was a purely reactive “role” that came about as a result of a large number of emails landing in my inbox and conversations riding the soundwaves to my ears that were having one dig or another at the Harlow squad. I’m not a PR natural by any stretch of the imagination, but many rumours were doing the rounds, trying to fish for some hint of underhand practice or foul play, and they just didn’t seem to me to stack up against the facts, so I did what I could to supply the evidence needed to fill the gaps. Clearly, some gaps still remain.

    My own conflict of interest in this response is that I score for the Nationals, but I am happy to note that I would have not been willing to shift my devotion of efforts at a club level from the Croydon Pirates to this new team if I was not myself convinced that the set-up was one that would take baseball in Britain forward, both at the domestic level and as a platform for international success, and that the team’s addition was going to comfortably be a net positive for the National Baseball League. I believe this to be the case more than ever. This is partly down to the commendable convictions of the founding members, but also in part attributable to the fact that the management, coaching, and playing personnel who assembled to form this new team were great people.

    The Southern Nationals are indeed a BBF team, but then so is every other team that plays in a BBF league. The Nationals are not special in this regard. Several key personnel are employed by BSUK (the development agency, working for the governing body, not as part of the governing body), but BSUK employs great baseball people, and thus the fact that they are willing to contribute to the sport on a voluntary basis outside of their working hours must surely be a good thing.

    At the same time, it is in part understandable that people outside of the Nationals’ sphere might jump to some of the conclusions that they did, given that British baseball is so prone to rumours. In this regard, it’s fantastic to have Jason and Will leaving comments to clear up some of those here (they have every reason to be proud of their club’s achievements). In additon, it is true that everyone is entitled to their views, but the best views are those grounded on hard evidence. As always, I recommend critical thinking on every individual’s part when British baseball rumours do the rounds.

    If people still think that something is not right or not fair, then 2012 already sounds like a juicy proposition, where the Nationals look to defend their crown. My final recommendation is that if you need more evidence to make your own mind up, then come along to watch the team next season, and see how professional their pre-game preparations and in-game conduct are and what a great bunch the team’s “groupies” are (maybe I could take a crack at this PR thing after all!?).

    September 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm Reply
  9. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Will

    I have no problem with the treatment received by the Nationals re: Lakenheath and London Mets also receiving similar. The BBF needs to maintain the integrity of the leagues and provide teams with a suitable level of competition.

    It will indeed be interesting to see the improvements made by the BBF over the winter in terms of communication – a point highlighted by these posts being made on an independent forum and not on a BBF forum!

    I understand the nature of the issues suffered previously on BBF forums but surely the BBF wants to hear from its members?
    A reinstatement of a BBF forum on their own website would I’m sure be welcomed.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm Reply
  10. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Joe

    I’d like to hear your thoughts as to why British baseball is so prone to rumours?

    It’s clearly doing damage to the game, and I too am grateful that Will and Jason have taken the opportunity to not shoot me down and tell me where to go, which they would have been within their rights to do, but to explain things in a calm rational manner.

    September 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm Reply
  11. Luke Foley #

    Congratulations to the Nationals for winning the NBC, as an Essex Arrow player despite their record, I feel they were the hardest team that we played this year, solid hitters 1 through 9 and decent pitching, I think the record doesnt really tell the full story due to obviously the teams commitment to blood youth there may have been games that they lost due to this but it obviously paid dividends come the postseason.

    I liked what the Nationals brought to the league this year, they have taken over a good previously unused baseball facility in Harlow and they have created a competitive team, that plays the game hard which is good to see.

    As for diluting the talent pool I think this was a more competitive year than the last, there was not many mercy-rule wins, and on their day anyone could beat anyone this year, we had two blown saves against the d’backs, and a blown save in a split against the flames which shows progress.

    I’m already looking forward to next season!

    September 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm Reply
  12. Paul,

    To be honest, I don’t think this is a problem limited to British baseball. It could well be symptomatic of all smallish sports in Britain (and probably further afield too). I used to work with a guy who was heavily involved in British table tennis, and his experiences were strikingly similar to mine in baseball. He did have better jokes about rubbers, though.

    Perhaps when you have sometimes over-stretched people doing the best they can to take the sport forward (and I’d include pretty much all volunteers in that), consistently clear and thorough communication might be one of the first casualties of time (and here I’m talking generally, not about the Nationals per se).

    Hope you have a good off-season.

    Cheers,

    Joe

    September 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm Reply
  13. Hi guys

    Communication is the key at this point – I don’t know how rumours have started spreading, but I know there is a lot of tension among a generation who came through and experienced the two leagues that ran against one another during the early 1990s with what’s going on now.

    I have heard this season alone comments along the lines of ‘it’s the BBF – things will never change’ and ‘it’s always been like this’.

    To what I don’t know, although these guys often alude to a BSUK AGM/conference to the Caribbean a few years ago which ran up bills in excess of £10,000 (apparently – I have no verification for this, although many at my club have been fed this information from somewhere) and accordingly I think people feel disenfranchised from the authorities running the game they love.

    I think personally that the BBF’s task is a tough one as the people in important roles with the BBF are also taking on a lot of individual club responsibility (e.g. team managers/chairpersons) and at the moment there are too few ‘impartial’ parties in vital roles.

    This won’t change until people are able to find time to share responsibilities – at the Redbacks we are so heavily thankful to the work of Richard Crabb and Sean Briscomb that however many volunteers we have, I don’t think we would be able to function without them given the amount of time they give up (bit of added PR there!)

    Mike

    September 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm Reply
  14. Thomas Murray #

    Brett Curran – You Da Man!!!

    September 16, 2011 at 1:21 am Reply
  15. Thomas Murray #

    To my #3 Son, Brett Curran, pitcher for the Cambridge Royals – Congratulations! Great job!

    September 16, 2011 at 1:54 am Reply
  16. Will Lintern #

    Mike,

    Great point about many of the BBF Board members also being key club volunteers and how in some circumstances those individuals may become overwhelmed or simply overloaded. The biggest positive change that the British Baseball community at large could make this winter is to focus on what we can control and try to affect change in a positive and constructive manner over those things we can’t control.

    What I can’t control vs what I can
    - I can’t control that the government still refuses to financially support the GB Baseball programme, but I can control the amount of fundraising that the GB Junior Team does in preparation for the European Qualifier next summer.
    - We can’t control the BBF schedule in the Midlands, but we can start a development league and a mid-week league in Birmingham next summer to increase playing opportunities.
    - We can’t control that football is king in the UK, but we can control the effort and time we put in to make our clubs the ‘best’ and more welcoming sports clubs in the country.

    I really hope this winter is used as an opportunity to make a lot of small things better, because when you add up all those small things, all those small victories I think we’ll have a much more positive 2012 season.

    WL

    September 16, 2011 at 9:14 am Reply
  17. Adam #

    The thing is, its difficult to make baseball clubs the best and most welcoming sports clubs in the country when I’m forced to “welcome” players by asking them to cough up five times the amount in club fees that they would pay to play any other sport. No wonder teams keep folding, no-one can afford to play in such an expensive league. Every year the fees go up and the amount of services provided goes down. Two years ago the BBF provided balls and umpires for the final 3 games of the A and AA championships, and gave every player on either side a prize for competing – this year it was only the final of each and no-one was given anything. So when do we receive our refund for the withdrawal of services?

    September 16, 2011 at 11:18 am Reply
  18. Will Lintern #

    Adam,

    I can’t really comment on what is or is not provided by the BBF during post season play. In previous years there may have been more money made available through event sponsorship or private donations but I do know that this year GB Baseball stretched the budget for the finals as much as possible.

    Regarding fees however I found the opposite to be true where playing baseball is considerably cheaper than playing football, rugby, cricket, hockey or the monthly gym membership. This is testament to the experiences of friends and family members who pay for club membership that is typically higher than the average baseball club plus practice fees and match fees. Your experiences and the experiences of your club members may be different to mine but in general I do find baseball to be by comparison a more affordable sport to play.

    However if the cost of membership fees, balls, equipment and umpires fees do continue to be an obstacle then there are some options open to you:
    1) Apply to your local authority, sports council or county sports partnership for some micro grants to help off set the over head costs of running a baseball club.
    2) Run club fundraisers in your community including bbqs, quiz nights at the local pub and come and try it days.
    3) Use programmes such as ‘Sportivate’ to pay for coaching and equipment to run recruitment drives which will hopefully bring in income through the programme and then keep some additional new paying members to bring down the price for all.

    Hope this helps.

    WL

    September 16, 2011 at 11:45 am Reply
  19. Marty Cullen #

    Matt,

    As always….great article. Keep up the good work.

    Congratulations to Liverpool, Bolton, Cambridge and of course…my beloved Nationals!

    Thank you to all the incredible volunteers and baseball fans that came out to the park in support of GB Baseball.
    It was a fantastic weekend.

    I’m unsure why this well written, very positive article was used as a bitter soapbox by some.
    The BBF and GB Baseball are always keen to have volunteers with ideas.

    In future….it may be more productive (and more rewarding) for them to come out from behind the keyboard and get involved.

    September 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm Reply
  20. Matt Smith #

    Thanks for the compliment, Marty. I think the comments above have been discussed well, so don’t have a problem with that.

    I would completely support Will’s comment about making a lot of little changes. There are lots of positives in the game, but there are also many things that can be improved and that process doesn’t have to be lengthy, burdensome or greatly contentious. That doesn’t mean every person’s gripes will be resolved or that everything pans out the way each person wants (can’t please everyone all the time etc!), but so long as there’s effective communication and understanding about the expectations that can be placed on volunteers, there’s no reason why everyone cannot benefit to some degree.

    Small changes can add up to big improvements over time. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and all that!

    September 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm Reply
  21. Paul Auchterlounie #

    The subject of money is, as always, close to everyone’s heart.

    We all want to receive value for money in whatever we do with it, whether it be spending on holidays, food, or playing sport.

    It is however, a finite resource and until such time as an enormously wealthy benefactor decides to invest in British baseball (!) clubs will continue to have to find ways to reduce as much as possible the amounts required for members whilst still being able to complete a baseball season.

    This is also true for the BBF, except their remit is on a national level not an individual club level. Bear in mind the vast majority of the income they receive is from the member clubs, and each of those member clubs is likely to have different expectations of what they should get for their money. Within the remit of developing and promoting the sport nationally, the BBF will have to deal with conflicting priorities and where funds have been made available for some things previously, these may be considered less of a priority for the future of the sport in general at this particular time.

    Having spent close on 10 years as a club treasurer in the recent past I know it’s a fine balancing act to get it right.

    September 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm Reply
  22. Adam #

    It is all about value for money. Take the single A South this year as an example. The 10 teams paid over $4,000 between them (excluding insurance charges), and in return received the value of 3 1/2 pitch usages (about £100), half of 3 umpires for one game (about £30), half of a scorer for one game (not much, surely?) and half of 4 match balls (about £8). We also received the right to put up our own scores on the website which costs £70 per year according to the budget. Approximately £200 worth of services.

    £4,000 for roughly £200 of services? Value for money? I’ll let you decide. Seeing as the youth teams pay for the youth events and the GB team pays for itself, I’m not entirely sure where the rest of this money is going…

    It’s really not surprising that well over half the baseball teams I have spoken to this year have mentioned that they were thinking of leaving the BBF entirely and just playing friendlies instead.

    September 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm Reply
  23. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Adam

    You’re clearly feeling aggrieved about this, and I don’t know the answers and don’t at present have any solutions either.

    What I do know is that there aren’t enough baseball resources to go around everybody – and by resources I mean umpires, coaches, balls, bats as well as money.

    Yes it would be great for every single game in the BBF leagues to have 1 umpire if not 2, and balls provided by the BBF so clubs don’t have to pay for them, and maybe a scorer provided too, but there simply aren’t that many umpires around which is something the BBF is working on. And the BBF does secure the best deal it can on the balls.
    Therefore the BBF need to look at the priorities and allocate the resources accordingly – and the priority for them in terms of leagues is the NBL as it’s the highest level of baseball in this country. Unfortunate for those clubs outside of the NBL, but true.

    I hope that whichever club you play at you don’t leave the BBF as that’s the easy thing to do.
    The hardest thing to do is to effect change which can benefit all but requires concerted efforts from all.
    As has been mentioned above by those within the BBF / BSUK they are crying out for more people with ideas to help develop the sport of baseball in this country.

    September 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm Reply
  24. Hi guys

    Interesting aside that we’re taking here.

    I play hockey and cricket as well. This is what we get at my level (5th XI cricket, 3rd XI hockey):

    No league-appointed umpires (batting side umpire and score cricket, each team expected to provide own club umpires for hockey)
    No match balls (home club expected to provide these for both)
    Use of our home astro turf/cricket square every other week (cost to club between £90-£150 depending on type of pitch)
    No equipment provided by league (all equipment provided by club or individual)
    No league coaching (all coaching provided by club)

    In addition, the websites are less easy to navigate and nowhere near as visually impressive as the BBF one.

    All cricket clubs in the league must have club houses, and most hockey clubs double-up with cricket clubs or go to a local pub after games. Tea is provided at cost of £40 for away team for cricket and no cost for away team at hockey.

    League fees are around the same for cricket and hockey clubs (both youth and senior) ranging from between £300-£500 for the season.

    Only first eleven cricket and second eleven premier division cricket get league-appointed umpires, no one gets official scorer – both clubs have to provide scorers at top levels. In hockey, only top three leagues (teams can play against other teams in the same club in the same league if they are good enough) get league-appointed officials.

    There are some cup competitions run through the year with regional finals, but this is an added cost to the club to compete in these. Very little is provided by the league other than the schedule and the contact details for opposition clubs. However, it is this structure and long-term stability that has made the leagues as competitive as they are, and as well-liked and respected among other divisions.

    I hope this helps put British Baseball in a bit more context in terms of costs to play and what’s received back compared with other sports in the UK.

    Mike

    September 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm Reply
  25. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Mike

    Very informative post.

    The only sport I can compare with is badminton, which doesn’t necessarily require umpires / scorers at league level, only the top professional tournaments get those (possibly at Inter-county Premier league but I don’t know as never reached that level!)

    Membership fees (£160 for 8 month season) are on a par with baseball (£120 for a 6 month season) – that covers all court hire costs and shuttle costs. Match fees are extra.

    I’m not even sure what the club pays to BadmintonEngland (governing body) but I’m sure it’ll be an awful lot more than £400, for not much return except insurance cover.
    There may also be additional fees to the county association too.

    September 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm Reply
  26. Adam #

    I also play league cricket hence I feel able to make the comparison. I pay £20 a year membership fees. The other teams around here charge similar amounts. At baseball I am forced to charge 5 times that amount simply to cover costs!

    We receive the EXACT same services from the county cricket association (ie public liability insurance and virtually nothing else, no match balls or officials are provided unless we reach some kind of cup final) – which is absolutely fine by me. Let clubs opt into extra services if they wish to pay for them. The difference is my cricket club is asked to pay only a fraction of the league fees that the BBF charges. (The website is better as well, but we won’t go into that)

    September 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm Reply
  27. AB #

    I just looked up the exact amount for clarification in the league handbook. CCA league fees are £40 per affiliated league club per year. For which we receive the exact same services as the BBF provide for £515.

    September 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm Reply
  28. That is most likely because there are more teams and sponsorship, donors and legacies built into the funds, which does dramatically offset the amount each club would be required to pay.

    Personal fees at my cricket club are £50 for youth members for a season and £100-120 for adults, and the same for hockey. On top of that, match fees come in at £5-8 for cricket per match and £6-10 for hockey per match.

    Baseball this season has worked out about the same, but without match fees.

    Mike

    September 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm Reply
  29. Adam #

    I disagree. We pay £40 to play cricket, and we receive about £40 worth of services, which is a fair exchange. In the BBF we pay £500 and we receive about £20 worth of services, which is anything but. If your hockey or cricket club are charging you that then they are either providing an extremely high level of services year round or they are ripping you off something rotten.

    The question is: if an entire league split off from the BBF, what would change, apart from the fact that they would all be a lot stronger financial footing? It’s not like the BBF actually does anything for clubs that you couldn’t replace for a fraction of the cost.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm Reply
  30. I think it’s a but short sighted to be focussing on “we pay X and only get Y in return”. It’s quite subjective and I’m sure if you asked every club you would get a different answer.

    That said, I think there is a great opportunity to push through a lot of much needed reform in the off season, but this is primarily dependent on clubs engaging more with the BBF and more importantly, with other clubs.

    To have 56% of all teams qualifying for the playoffs, AA teams dropping into single-A playoffs, Southern Teams having a guaranteed finalist at A/AA level, many teams not completing their fixtures, certain teams unable to make the NBC due to insufficient players/changes in scheduling and certain teams forfeiting or withdrawing at the season end (again), there is plenty to look at.

    There is much to be improved, but it will be up to the member clubs to lead the innovation.

    Don’t hibernate this winter unless you want more of the same.

    September 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm Reply
  31. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Matt

    Excellent post.

    Whilst working I have come across all kinds of bizarre consultant-speak (“blue sky thinking”, “helicopter vision” to name two!) – but there is one that I have heard that I think applies here to baseball as much as anywhere

    If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got

    If the membership of the BBF want to see things change for them then we’ve got to put pressure on the BBF to change what they do. This can only be done by working collectively, on some achievable non-club-specific goals.

    September 19, 2011 at 8:54 am Reply
  32. Adam #

    I think the main problem for the Midlands and the North is simply the small number of teams, which makes for long travelling times and lopsided games. Double the number of teams and you would have a far more satisfactory league.

    How do you attract more teams? Well for one thing you could stop pricing them out of the market with extortionate league fees. The first year in the league should be free for all new teams. A bit more direct support in finding a ground wouldn’t hurt either.

    We also need to stop softball pinching all our players (why do they play softball? because its cheaper to play and it involves less travel of course). It’s the elephant in the room because we share a development agency so we have to act all chummy, but the truth of the matter is that the BSF know they are in direct competition with the BBF and act accordingly. There are lots of softballers in this country who are far too good to be messing around playing mixed slowpitch and really should be being pushed to play baseball instead. But the BSF aren’t stupid enough to do that!

    September 19, 2011 at 11:17 am Reply
  33. Paul Auchterlounie #

    Ok so yes we are “blessed” in the South with probably a disproportionate number of teams!

    But there is a BSUK Regional Development Officer for the Midlands Region – Peter Evans – and a Midlands Regional Coach who should be approached through BSUK to find out their plans for development of Midlands baseball and what they can do for your club in terms of increasing participation.

    By plans that should be hard and fast concrete action plans, with a defined timetable of events and responsibilities for carrying out those events, utilisation of suitable resources, and then further follow up actions once said events have taken place.

    If they have no development plans for baseball in the Midlands region, then put forward some suggestions, ask why not, or ask what you can do to help – after all if you help them to increase the number of teams in the Midlands then you’ll get more satisfaction out of playing with reduced travelling and more competitive games.

    September 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm Reply
  34. Will Lintern #

    As the Regional Coach and Club Development Officer for BSUK in the Midlands I am pleased to say that our plans for the 2012 season will hopefully bring more and better baseball for all. We currently entering a period of consultation and planning with the existing and Midlands teams and will making some proposals to the BBF shortly. More to come soon.

    As far as costs I think it is dangerous to price anything of value to low and even free for first time customers. In the development work done by BSUK I have come across many instances where people are happy to take your services for free with little investment or committment from themselves. Then when the ‘free period’ ends the group has no interest in paying for something they have become accustomed to getting for free. It is far better in the long term to ensure sustainability that there is a precedent set for paying for services, even if it is at a discounted rate.

    I think the BBF provides some level of this service be providing an equipment rebate to all first year teams (normally in the form of a discounted membership). Whether this is enough to encourage new teams is debatable and certainly worth raising with the BBF.

    September 19, 2011 at 11:36 pm Reply
  35. Will Lintern #

    A larger question is whether the cost of playing baseball in the UK is prohibitive to the game growing? I would say not, in the states many families will pay several thousand dollars for a summer of baseball, but this is the UK and the sporting climate is different. However I still feel that baseball;s growth and development is not stiffled by the cost playing.

    The most common reasons for club folding in my experience are
    a) We can’t recruit enough new players to replace the ones leaving/retiring.
    b) A key volunteer stepping down and no one replacing them or the infrastructure not being in place to support a change of management.
    c) Internal politics within the club.
    d) External politics within the baseball community.

    I have not yet come across a team that has considered folding due to the cost of playing organised baseball in Britain. However even if it was there are micro grants and other fund raising measure (see above) which can be utilised to help reduce any overhead costs incurred by the club as well as fund development activities including facility development, marketing and the purchase of new equipment.

    I would like to echo many of the comments already made here and state that we should all endeavour to many lots of little changes and make this the busiest off season in recent British Baseball History.

    September 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm Reply
  36. Adam #

    Why do you think the key volunteers step down, Will?
    Because they’re fed up of the stress and hassle and the loss to their own pocket.

    What causes by far the most stress and hassle?
    Raising money.

    What’s the single easiest thing the BBF could do to make life easier for volunteers?
    Reduce the amount of money they have to raise.

    A LOT of players leave because of the costs, trust me. I probably lose 10 players a year due to the fees being more than they were willing to pay. That adds up to a lot of lost baseballers.

    This is me speaking from experience in being this “key volunteer” starting two clubs and helping in the beginning stages of another over the past 6 years. The one thing that really grinds you down and makes you feel like quitting is constantly having to use your own money to pay for things, or risk asking so much of the players that they all decide they don’t want to play baseball after all and the club folds. In order to get baseball clubs going in this country I have personally paid hundreds of pounds of my own money to the very organisation whose job I am effectively doing for them, free of charge. How does that make sense? How is that fair? I’m not asking for a refund, I’m just explaining why these “key volunteers” are so hard to come by.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:15 am Reply
  37. Will Lintern #

    Adam,

    I totally understand your frustrations, especially if it has lead to your club losing so many quality people. I can only suggest that if you feel this strongly about reducing the BBF fees that you put together a proposal for the BBF outlining how to reduce the cost to the membership and then have the membership vote on it at the forthcoming AGM.

    If the problem persists and the BBF fees remain cost prohibitive to your or any club then perhaps there are some other solutions to relieving the financial burden. In addition to applying for funding from local sports and community grants perhaps you could empower a volunteer to take on the role of fundraiser. Between you and the other committee members in the club you can create a vision of how the club will look in 6 months, 18 months and 5 years from now. With that vision in mind you can set fundraising goals and targets. When reached the initial result maybe to lower the cost of membership but then it can also facilitate club development and facility enhancement.

    Another idea could be to provide incentives to those club members who do bring in more funds to the club. Perhaps they can keep a percentage of the money brought in?

    Perhaps we could even have a league wide, or federation wide fundraising initiative. What do you think?

    September 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm Reply
  38. It’s all about engagement pure and simple.

    Engagement with Baseball clubs in your division and outside your division. Engagement with the BBF/BSUK via your point person. Engagement with Softball teams in your area about joint initiatives that will break the barriers down and cross fertilise players between both sports, as well attract new ones. It’s about engagement with your local authorities, Sport England, other funding applications, corporate sponsors, local press, radio and television.

    It’s a lot of hard work and it needs to be shared out between willing and able members within the club. For every problem, there’s usually a solution.

    It’s not about running a team, it’s about building a club. There’s good bits and bad bits, the trade off may not seem that fair but it’s a minority sport and that creates a whole heap of obstacles that are not there in other sports. Sure the BBF aren’t perfect but the situation can only be improved through engagement.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm Reply
  39. Marty Cullen #

    League fees……..extortionate?

    £375 for an A, AA or AAA team. (£455 for an NBL Team)
    £27 per team for Personal Accident insurance
    £125 per team for Civic Liability insurance

    £527 per BBF Adult team

    Based on a 15 man roster and a 24 game schedule, this equates to:

    £35.13 per player, per year or
    £1.46 per player per game.

    Without the insurance (Which is a ‘pass through’ cost), the actual BBF League fees are:

    £25 per player, per year or
    £1.04 per player per game.

    Of course….within our sport, there are large financial committments to equipment, uniforms, field usage/maintenance etc.

    This is where I believe, the costs really add up.
    This is where I believe, we should concentrate our efforts to make it more affordable to teams and players alike. Recources to do just that, exist via the BBF and BSUK.

    Every year, the BBF AGM pack includes the financial accounts.
    This includes….all of the services that the members receive for their affiliation fees.

    Take a few minutes and check it out. It makes good reading.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:58 am Reply
  40. Adam #

    I did read it – that’s exactly how I worked out that single A teams received £20 worth of services each.

    Another way to look at it, is that the BBF charged us roughly £30 per league game, for which they provided us with… nothing whatsoever. We provided the balls and the equipment. We recruited and coached the players. We built the field and payed the rent to the council. We erected the backstop and took it down again. We gave the opposition directions to the ground. We umpired the game and kept the score. We updated the scores on the website and wrote the summary for facebook. And for the priviledge of doing all this, we paid the BBF £30.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm Reply
  41. Will Lintern #

    I was once told my a mentor of mine that all good coaches are thieves and sponges, stealing ideas from others and soaking up as much information as possible. Well why not apply this to club development.

    http://static.ecb.co.uk/files/fundraising-guide-for-cricket-clubs-11600.pdf

    The ECB fundraising guide for clubs. I think there is some valuable information in here for all baseball and softball clubs.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm Reply

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