Further details about the 2012 British Baseball leagues are currently being added to the BBF official website. The information provides us with some confirmed details of league and division structures for the upcoming season.
National Baseball League: one division, with the Falcons aiming to fly high
As previously reported, the National Baseball League is reducing from 10 teams to 8 in 2012. It looks like the top-tier will be structured as one overall league, rather than two pools of four teams.
Postseason details have not yet been announced, but the likely format would be for the top two teams to qualify for the National Baseball Championships automatically, with the teams finishing from third to sixth place going through an extra playoff round (3rd vs 6th, 4th vs 5th) to determine the other two qualifiers.
The main news since the last report concerns the headline-grabbing recruitment drive conducted by Herts Falcons. Following their disappointing 4-20 campaign in 2011, the Falcons seem intent on mounting a serious challenge for top honours this year. Their additions include two-time MVP Ryan Bird and the 2011 NBL Most Valuable Pitcher Robbie Unsell.
Bird and Unsell are two of several former Richmond Flames players who have shifted their allegiance to the Falcons following their previous club’s withdrawal from the NBL. While it’s a real shame that the Richmond Flames are no longer competing, it’s good news for British baseball that many of their former players are not being lost from the British leagues as a result.
Adding the former Flames, and their other new recruits, will undoubtedly make Herts Baseball Club an even stronger organization. Finding out how quickly the new players can be integrated and moulded into a successful team will be one of the many fascinating subplots to follow during the early stages of the season.
Northern teams split across two divisions
After consideration was given to creating a single Northern division, the teams from the north will once again be split into two divisions. In Triple-A, the Bolton Robots of Doom are making the step up after winning the Double-A National Baseball Championship last year in such impressive style. They will be joined as newcomers to the division by the Cartmell Valley Lions, with the Liverpool Trojans aiming to carry on from their unbeaten 2011 season and to keep the streak going for as long as possible.
There are two new teams in the AA North Division. Harrogate Tigers are back in the fold after the club withdrew from the AAA division midway through the 2010 season, while the Newton Aycliffe Spartons should be an exciting new addition to the British leagues as they help to spread the baseball word in the North East.
It’s also worth noting that the Humber Pilots have become the Hull Scorpions. Having spent some of the offseason being part of a team researching British baseball history, I’m particularly pleased to see that the ‘Hull’ name – so long a prominent feature of the sport’s history in this country – will once again be appearing in the reports and record books.
AAA and AA South
In the South, the Latin Boys had a successful debut season last year in Double-A and they’ve wasted little time in progressing up to test themselves against Triple-A opposition. The Cambridge Royals are taking an even bigger step. The Royals name re-emerged in the British leagues last year and the team went on to have an unbeaten season on their way to the Single-A NBC title. Moving up two levels will be a challenge, but one that the Royals will relish.
The Southampton Mustangs II, the Royals’ Single-A rivals from 2011, have been promoted up to Double-A and are one of several new teams to this level. They will be joined in Pool A by the newly formed Latin Tigers, while Pool B will include the Daws Hill Spitfires (a team based at RAF Daws Hill in High Wycombe and a definite contender in the ‘best team logo’ stakes), and the London Mammoths: a new team managed by Matt Cartwright in the burgeoning London Mets organization.
Midlands: welcome to the Titans
As noted previously by Matt Crawshaw, the Leicester Blue Sox 2 are vacating the Midlands division, hopefully to compete in a ‘Midlands second tier development pool’. Their spot will be taken by the Stourbridge Titans, a new team to the British leagues, as the Midlands remains a five-team division.
Single-A on the way
Details about the Single-A competition will be added to the BBF website in due course, with any notable points being added in the Comments section below.
Opening Day in the fifth annual Herts Spring League is scheduled for Saturday 17 March, while the inaugural Leicester Spring League is set to begin on Sunday 25 March, when teams will start to enjoy the benefits from the facility improvements currently underway at Western Park.