On Saturday 4 October at 14:15, a person standing on a big patch of grass in Somerset and wearing a chest protector is going to say “Play ball” (or perhaps just “Play” if feeling economical). In case you’ve just returned from a holiday on Mars or have had your head in a long-jump pit for 6 months, the event of course is the baseball game between the Great Britain National Team and a squad of top cricketers picked by the blazing left-handed batter Marcus Trescothick (“Banger” to friends). Basic details of the event can be found here, while below I take a look at the make-up of the Great Britain squad.
A lot of attention has been given to the cricketers who are down to take part – and that’s obviously great for the event as a whole, and therefore good news for baseball – but no less attention should be given to the players in the Great Britain squad. So, having previously taken a brief look at the cricketers named in the publicity material, I will here run through the composition of Great Britain’s roster.
Let’s start with Brant Ust, tournament MVP from the 2007 Euros. With his only other appearances for Great Britain so far coming in the Four Nations Tournament in Belgium earlier this year, he has not previously competed on British soil. He owns an incredible .636 batting average in a Great Britain shirt, going 28-for-44 to date. Ust is based in the US and in 2007 played for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate.
Other players on the roster who live abroad to play club baseball are Ian Young (in France) and Chris Falls, Craig Pycock, and Sam Whitehead (all in Germany). Like Ust, the three Germany-based players have never competed for the National Team on British soil before, but Whitehead did play a season in the British domestic league back in 2005, helping the Croydon Pirates to win the National Championships (in the regular season he batted .380 and finished with a 3-0 record from the mound). Young has played here on several previous occasions for the National Team and has also played in our domestic league.
Completing the roster are a number of players from the British league, with representatives from the Bracknell Blazers, Burgess Hill, the London Mets, the Manchester Eagles, and the Richmond Flames.
Even though I might wonder why I wrote this when I’m battling to keep my scoresheet dry, it is going to be a great weekend, not least because the first annual BaseballdeWorld rankings have just been announced and place Great Britain ahead of Italy (a traditional European powerhouse). I don’t think these are official rankings, although they are mentioned in a headline in the IBAF news archive, giving some credibility to them. And I should also point out that Great Britain’s high placing in the rankings is clearly not due to a bias on the website, as our domestic league’s governing body is inexplicably ignored on their listings at the time of writing. [Update: BaseballdeWorld picked up on this story and kindly added the British Baseball Federation’s details to the site.]
Once the Baseball Cup of the Americas is completed, Great Britain will probably be leap-frogged by at least Puerto Rico and Panama, but more importantly we will know who the fourth team in our group for next year’s Baseball World Cup will be. Also in that group will be Russia and Japan; the latter team ranked first in the BaseballdeWorld rankings. The last time Great Britain played a non-European national team was in 1938. (Note: the group currently has “France/Great Britain” down in the IBAF press release, as noted by Matt, but at BaseballGB we are working under the assumption that Great Britain will be given the place that they won in last year’s Euros and that France’s name will be removed in due course, unless we hear otherwise.)