Next week will be an exciting one in the British baseball calendar as two of our teams will be heading abroad to once again show the rest of Europe that – Brexit be damned – we’re still a part of European baseball and a good part of it at that.
Off to Serbia and Sweden
The reigning NBL champion Southampton Mustangs are in Belgrade, Serbia, for the Federations Cup Pool 2 qualifier. They will compete in a group alongside Athletic Sofia (Bulgaria), Atletico Alexandria (Romania), Beograd ’96 (Serbia) and Diving Ducks W.Neustadt (Austria).
The London Mets, currently riding high in the NBL after sweeping a double-header against the Mustangs, are in Stockholm, Sweden, in Pool 3. Their opponents will be Kaunas County B.C. (Lithuania), Sant Boi (Spain), Stockholm Monarchs (Sweden) and UKS Deby Osielsko (Poland).
British teams in Europe
It will be the third consecutive year in which the top two BBF teams will pit themselves against European competition after European participation had been a thorny subject for many years in the British ranks.
After early forays in the 1960s by Stretford Saints (1965) and Hull Aces (1966, 1968, 1969), British teams went through a strong spell of competing in Europe from the late 1980s to the mid-2000s. Teams flying the British baseball flag included:
- Birmingham Bandits
- Birmingham Braves
- Brighton Buccaneers
- Crawley Comets
- Croydon Pirates
- Edinburgh Diamond Devils
- Enfield Spartans
- Greater Berkshire 1938
- Hessle Warriors
- Hounslow Rangers
- Hull Mets
- Kingston Cobras
- Leeds Royals
- London Warriors
- Menwith Hill Patriots
- Nottingham Hornets
- Richmond Flames
- Windsor Bears
2005 was the high-water mark with three teams – Croydon Pirates in the Cupwinner Cup, Greater Berkshire 1938 in the European Cup B Pool and Edinburgh Diamond Devils in the Cup Qualifier – playing on the continent, but then we entered a drought.
The CEB introduced a revised European Cup qualifier structure in 2008, creating 4 Pools for the ‘smaller’ clubs to compete in. Whilst many European countries were represented – from Belarus to Lithuania, Romania to Serbia, Finland to Norway, Austria to Switzerland etc – Great Britain was a very notable absentee.
Back into European competition
The Essex Arrows and London Mets changed that in 2015 when they competed in European Cup Qualifiers in Antwerp, Belgium, and Karlovac, Croatia respectively. Both teams went 1-3 in the first European representation by British senior teams in 10 years.
The Arrows got the better of Finland’s Espoo Expos in their opener before three defeats against Belgium’s Borgerhourt Squirrels, Croatia’s Split Nada (the Arrows getting nada runs in the process) and Sweden’s Stockholm.
London went the other way, suffering defeats in their first three games to Olimpija Karlovac (Croatia), Zajcki Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Leksand Sweden before batting against Gepardy Zory (Poland) to ensure they came home with a victory.
Last year was another significant step forward with the London Mets, assisted by the BBF and BSUK, hosting a Federations Cup Qualifier at Farnham Park, the first European games on British soil for almost 20 years. Meanwhile the Southampton Mustangs travelled to Sant Boi, Spain.
Both teams acquitted themselves extremely well, with the Mets going 2-2 from their four games and the Mustangs making it all the way to their Pool final where they valiantly lost 6-1 to a strong Sant Boi’s team.
Follow the action
London Mets will try to get some British revenge on Sant Boi’s this time around and both they and Southampton will be sure to play hard and show that there’s plenty of talent in British baseball, just as Team UK did this past weekend.
Team UK are coming home today with the Yellow Cup trophy! 🏆⚾️🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/QvQaSbeOfT
— Team UK Baseball (@teamukbaseball) June 5, 2017
Updates will no doubt be available on their Twitter accounts (@LondonMets and @SotonMustangs) with reports on the BBF website. Best of luck to the Mets and Mustangs.
Further information about British baseball teams in European competition can be found on the Project COBB website.