2012 British baseball season structure beginning to take shape

The 2012 National Baseball League schedule has been released, revealing that this year’s competition will involve eight main teams, with the Great Britain Juniors gaining some valuable experience by facing the top-tier sides as well.

Goodbye Bulldogs, Farewell Flames

Eight NBL teams makes for two less than last year’s ten. The loss of the Mildenhall Bulldogs was perhaps to be expected after they were unable to field a team during the latter stages of the 2011 season; however losing the 2010 Champion Richmond Flames was more of a surprise. Hopefully both teams will rejoin the top-tier again in the future.

GB Juniors

No teams have taken the place of the Bulldogs and Flames, after three straight years of new teams joining or progressing up to the NBL. However, the introduction of the GB Junior team ensures that there will be a new dimension to the NBL season in 2012.

The GB Junior team will get involved on four Sundays when a venue will host three games. Two NBL teams will face each other in one game and will also play a game each against the GB Junior team. The first takes place on 22 April, featuring the Southampton Mustangs and Lakenheath Diamondbacks.

This looks like being an excellent way to strengthen the important link between the British baseball leagues and the national team set-up. The GB Juniors will not only get to test themselves against the top teams in the country, they will also gain valuable experience of playing alongside each other on a more regular basis. Add on the fact that it will produce an interesting triple-header of baseball and it should be a positive and progressive development for the game.

As the GB Junior team are not specifically an NBL team, presumably the results of the games involving them will not be included in the standings (that’s not officially been confirmed as yet).

Season dates set early

The BBF, particularly Nick Hadley, BBF Southern Senior Leagues Commissioner, have done a great job in getting the season structure and NBL schedule finalized by an early date this year. There’s no doubting that it’s a difficult task, but the delays and late revisions of the schedule in 2011 were far from ideal. Credit should go to all involved for putting that right this year. Hopefully the postseason structure will be finalized and announced before the start of the season as well.

The regular season will run from Sunday 1 April to Sunday 5 August, followed by a playoff round over the 18-19 August weekend and the National Baseball Championships over the 25-27 August Bank Holiday weekend. This is slightly earlier than last year so that the end of the domestic season doesn’t clash with the European Championships.

NBL Opening Day

The opening fixtures on 1 April will make for an intriguing start to the NBL season.

The defending NBL Champion Southern Nationals will immediately renew their burgeoning rivalry with the London Mets at the latter’s Finsbury Park diamond. The Nationals knocked the Mets out of the playoffs with a 7-3 victory last season and London will be keen to get some revenge at the first available opportunity.

Lakenheath Diamondbacks, the beaten finalists from last year, begin their battle to go one step further in 2012 with a double-header against the Southampton Mustangs. The Diamondbacks narrowly defeated the Mustangs 12-11 in the National Baseball Championship semi-final last year, so we can expect two fiercely competitive games between these two sides.

Herts Falcons were disappointed with their 4-20 2011 season and will look to start 2012 off on a positive note with two home games against the Bracknell Blazers, while the Essex Arrows aim to build on their 9-17 season, starting with two games hosting the Croydon Pirates.

Other leagues

Now that the NBL schedule has been finalized, attention will turn to the schedules of the other levels of play in the South and the structure of the North.

We shall not be lacking for teams, with a recent BBF tweet explaining that “56 adult teams have signed-up for the 2012 season of #BritishBaseball. In the south alone: NBL (8), AAA (7), AA (14), Midlands (5), A (8)”.

That would leave up to 14 teams in the north (some of the remaining 14 may well be independent teams based in the south but not actually playing in the above mentioned divisions) and there has been some talk of a return to a single Northern League, which we last saw in 2009, rather than separating out into separate divisions.

There are arguments for and against a single league. From a purely competitive point of view (i.e. not as someone actually involved and therefore dealing with the logistics of it all), I would always favour separating teams into divisions modelled broadly on experience and ability. Throwing everyone together will inevitably produce complete mismatches and they don’t do anything to help player development or enjoyment.

I’m sure the different merits of a single league or divisions will be fully debated and an agreement will be reached in due course.

6 Responses to 2012 British baseball season structure beginning to take shape

  1. Matt Smith February 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    The Herts Falcons certainly are intent on improving on their 2011 season. Announced on Wednesday evening that reigning MVP Robbie Unsell has joined the team. A great addition for Herts.
    http://hertsbaseball.com/2012/02/08/nbls-best-pitcher-joins-herts-2/#.TzLk3fFYCK0

  2. Michael Jones February 23, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    What a season we’re looking forward to – Oxford Kings have announced their plans to compete again in AAA so will be a good league, with the Latin Boys and Cambridge Royals stepping up I believe. Richmond’s former NBL players will make the Knights a competitive unit and matched to the Badgers, Metros, Redbacks and hopefully a resurgent Bracknell side, we’re looking at a very exciting division.

    Can’t wait to see how things happen this year. Talk of two divisions of four, keeping teams in the hunt for the playoffs all the way. Watch this space…

    Mike

  3. Matt Crawshaw February 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Here in the Midlands, things are hotting up. New team Stourbridge Titans will replace Blue Sox 2 in the AA division. The Titans are currently busy working on creating premium facilities, including a permanent backstop.

    Elsewhere, the Blue Sox will be erecting their own Sport England funded backstop next week and they will also host the inaugural Leicester Spring League (inspired by the HSL), over 3 weekends before the regular season starts (this event will be formally launched on Facebook/Twitter next Friday eve with a live announcement of the fixtures).

    The beginnings of a Midlands second tier is also starting to move closer, with the established clubs in Leicester, Birmingham, MK and Nottingham all expressing an interest in fielding second teams in what could be a trial development/friendly pool, incorporating new team the West Midlands Razorbacks.

    If the experiment goes well in 2012, it could well be the springboard for a bona-fide Midlands single-A division in 2013.

  4. Matt Smith February 27, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Thanks for the updates, guys. Certainly looks like there’s lots of great work going on and lots to be optimstic about, for 2012 and beyond.

  5. ron dobbyn February 27, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    We miss pitcher phil. Will we ever hear him doing scores on the radio again.?

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