Great Britain versus the Bangers: Game report

Gb

The players line up at the Country Ground, Taunton, for the national anthem

The players line up at the County Ground, Taunton, for the national anthem

 
The much-anticipated contest between Great Britain and a team of cricketers more than lived up to expectations thanks to a classy performance from the national side, a willingness among the cricketers to apply raw talent, and an enthusiastic crowd made up
of baseball fans and newcomers to the sport. Five’s Jonny Gould provided a commentary on the game through the ground’s PA system, which kept the aficionados entertained while guiding the newcomers through the intricacies of the match as it unfolded.

A great amount of effort was put into making this event a success, not least in converting a cricket pitch into a baseball field. You can see on the picture above that an outfield fence was erected and infield dirt cut-outs made (these were not as substantial as on the mocked-up image of the diamond shown in a previous post, but I don’t think the groundstaff would have agreed to that amount of de-turfing). On the picture above, you can also see an electronic scoreboard, a rarity in British baseball.

Among the cricketers, three household names showed up: spinner Ashley Giles; wicket-keeper Geraint Jones; and, of course, Trescothick himself. The other spots on the Bangers’ roster were filled by fellow cricketers as well as two very experienced baseball players, Tom Gillespie and Cody Cain. Cain caught the whole game (which was a smart idea, as an experienced catcher is one of the fundamental ingredients of a decent ball game), while Gillespie was there to help with pitching duties if required.
 

Overview of the game

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Final
Great Britain 2 1 10 4 1 1 1 1 21
The Bangers 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1

The 20-run margin of victory reflected the gulf in ability between talented athletes with baseball experience and talented athletes who had not been exposed to the game before. This is clearly not a sport that you can excel in from day one. Even over the course of eight innings, though, there were marked improvements in the quality of fielding by the cricketers. Early in the game, the lack of experience made for some curious fielding plays, but by the end of the game, the Bangers were producing some slick outs.
 

Highlights for the Bangers

Marcus Trescothick was the pick of the batters, going 3-for-4 on three infield hits (Gould suggested in his commentary that one of these may have been a “home-field call”, but it would have taken a harsh scorer to deprive Trescothick of a hit during his benefit match). James Hildreth, who plays his cricket for Somerset, was the only other Banger to get a hit, a single that resulted in the solitary score by Trescothick’s side, with Geraint Jones coming home from second on the play, after having got there via a walk and a steal. Steffan Jones was perhaps a little unlucky not to get a hit, picking out Alex Malihoudis in centre-field with hard-hit fly-balls in his first two at-bats.

Between Charl Willoughby, Ashley Giles, and Craig Kieswetter, the cricketers pitched five of the eight innings, calling on Gillespie for the other three. All three of these cricketers looked like they could develop into very effective pitchers, with Giles showing great control and the other two players some raw velocity.
 

Highlights for Great Britain

Everyone in the ground must surely have wanted to see a ball sail over the outfield fence at some point in the game, and while Great Britain managed only one home run, off the bat of Ian Young, it came with the bases loaded. Aside from this grand slam, other highlights were Brant Ust’s four hits (including a triple that drove in the opening run) and doubles from Chris Falls, Ryan Trask, and Will Lintern. The winning pitcher was Craig Pycock.
 

Potential benefits for British baseball

While the day’s main purpose was to form a part of Marcus Trescothick’s benefit year, there were clearly also some potential benefits for British baseball. 

There was no official attendance figure, but estimates for the number of fans at the County Ground ranged from 800 to 1000, which represents the biggest crowd to watch a baseball match in Britain for some years. The high-quality performance from the Great Britain side should have raised the sport’s profile among newcomers at the game. And the cricketers appeared to have really enjoyed the experience, which is a good sign if we are to have a repeat event (there were rumours that a similar day could be organized at Kent’s ground in Canterbury).

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29 Responses to Great Britain versus the Bangers: Game report

  1. Stephen Stafford October 6, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    As a baseball fan (Go A’s) and player (Go Croydon Pirates), I really enjoyed Saturday’s matchup.
    It was a great opportunity for GB baseball to get some much needed coverage, and it would be fantastic if there could be an annual (or more frequent) match to make it a tradition.
    Many thanks to the players from both sides for making it a very enjoyable event.

  2. Tim October 6, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    A great day out. It was a unique experience on two counts: firstly the intriguing nature of the baseball v cricketers matchup; secondly a rare chance to see the GB baseball team on British soil. I was impressed with the calibre of the team put out by Coach Rapaglia and his comments after the game reveal that he saw this is as an opportunity to give spectators a taste of what the GB team is about, regardless of the opposition. That was helped by Jonny Gould, as announcer, providing snippets of information on each player in the team and some background on GB’s achievements.

    Although the game in itself was captivating enough for the cricket and baseball afficionados there (and I think there was a fairly equal split among them), I have to say that Jonny Gould’s running commentary throughout the game was also a key feature. There was the dry humour he provided at the expense of everyone pretty much everyone on the field (who were very sporting to play along with it – it can’t be easy to concentrate on the mound in a bases-loaded situation with the ball park announcer telling the crowd that how you handle this will determine what kind of ball player you are). But I think he also did a great job of giving enough information at particular junctures to let spectators who were new to the game know what was going on and keep them engaged.

  3. Joe Gray October 6, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    Another benefit for British baseball is the coverage in the national media today. Check out page 64 of today’s Times if you can get hold of a copy, or see here:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/cricket/article4887575.ece

    While Major League Baseball gets covergae from time to time in the national press, it’s extremely rare for British baseball to get even a mention. In this case, the story takes up over two-thirds of a page.

  4. Joe Cooter October 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    It’s great to see. It really is. I have to tell you that this can only be a positive for baseball in Britian.

  5. Matt Smith October 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    It’s fantastic to see the game getting some coverage in a national newspaper (courtesy of Josh). Sounds like it was an event enjoyed by all and hopefully it could lead to a few more games in the future.

  6. Tom Sunderland October 6, 2008 at 8:03 pm #

    I was at the match on Saturday with some friends and it was without a doubt an exceptionally enjoyable event. I will always be a cricket fan foremost but I have always enjoyed watching Baseball whenever the opportunity has arisen. Good luck to team GB at the world championships I will try and follow it.

    Good game on Saturday looks like the players all had a really good time.

  7. Matt Smith October 6, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    Hi Tom. Glad you enjoyed the game.

    Team GB will be in the Baseball World Cup next year (September) and although they’ve got a tough first round group (including Japan), we’re all hoping they will be able to follow up their excellent showing in the 2007 European Baseball Championships, where they came home with the silver medal.

    The more support, the better!

  8. Matt Smith October 6, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    And to add to Josh’s piece from the Times, there’s a spirited article by Andy Bull on the Guardian website that is well worth a read:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2008/oct/06/cricket.trescothick

  9. Joe Gray October 6, 2008 at 11:38 pm #

    In the way that some of the talented cricketers on display showed great potential for baseball, Andy Bull, a really good cricket writer, shows promising potential as a baseball writer.

    Also, there are a couple of really thought-provoking comments after his piece.

  10. Liam Carroll October 7, 2008 at 2:18 am #

    Great article, Joe. Keep up the great work.

  11. Joe Cooter October 7, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    That second article in the guardian is very interesting. THe author seems to lament the fact that the two sides “put to rest” a barstool debate that has raged for as long as they’ve been playing cricket and baseball. I’m not sure I agree with that, but I do believe there is potential for crossover between both games.

  12. Joe Gray October 7, 2008 at 11:36 am #

    Joe, I agree with the potential for cross-over, particularly for fielding and pitching.

    While ballplayers’ overall fielding skills are generally considered to be superior to those of cricketers, there is a part of cricket that demands greater accuracy than is ever required in baseball: shying at the stumps in an attempted run-out from side-on. This is a target approximately 18 cm in width (taking into account that the ball could clip the stump with its leftmost or rightmost edge). In contrast, the fact that there is always a fielder on the end of a throw in baseball gives margin for error. (As an aside, in the rounders that I played at primary school, you could throw a runner out by hitting them with a direct throw [we played with a tennis ball] – I’m not sure baseball would be such a popular sport if this was part of its rulebook.) Also, most cricketers should presumably be pretty decent at barehanding a ball (say on a bunt to third base), given that they have no other option in their sport.

    Since batting is much more of a knee-jerk activity (given how little time you have to react in either sport), my guess is that it is harder to be proficient at batting in both games (think of the number of shots a cricketer must play in their lifetime, and consider the fact that with each shot it will become a little bit harder in the future to over-ride the instinct that it burns into the brain). That stated, I would not say that it is impossible to bat well in both sports at a very high level, and I have seen Australians playing both baseball and cricket in this country who can bat extremely well in either.

  13. Tom Sunderland October 7, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    I think it is hard to compare the batting styles of a cricketer and a baseballer. Cricket is all in the arms, whereas you watch the baseballers use the entire body to hit the ball. I thought one of the main problems for the cricketers was adjusting to the different stance.

    Incidently back in the late 1980’s early 1990’s an American challenged Graham Gooch (one of the most prolific cricket batsmen) do see who could hit a baseball further in an innings break at the Oval, the baseballer was able to out hit Gooch everytime.

    There was also the instance that Australia started using an American Baseball coach to help improve their fielding (which has been one of the many assets of Austrlia’s dominance in all forms of cricket)

    I’ll be honest the only aspect of baseball I can not tolerate is the level of abuse the umpires get for calls they make from managers.

  14. Joe Gray October 7, 2008 at 9:53 pm #

    Tom: yes, the level of confrontation that you’ve hit on is probably one of the biggest differences between the two sports. To think that in cricket you can get a hefty fine for shaking your head.

  15. Joe Cooter October 7, 2008 at 11:38 pm #

    That ball player who Gooch participated in a Homerun hitting contest was Ernie Banks aka Mr. Cub. Banks is on Major League Baseball’s all century team for the 20th Century as a short stop. However, because of his ability to hit the long ball, 512 careeer home runs, he spent the majority of his career as a first basemen.

  16. Tom October 13, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    Would anyone think it would be interesting to see a team of USA baseballers being coached by the best cricketers for month take on the USA cricket team in a twenty20 match? It’d be TV gold.

  17. Joe Gray October 13, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    If not TV gold, it would certainly be more entertaining than 99% of the stuff currently sent over the airwaves. Pragmatically, though, it’s hard enough to get Major Leaguers to play in any baseball event that isn’t MLB, and I imagine that another sport might be even more tricky (although that didn’t stop Aaron Boone playing basketball). Maybe Allen Stanford(‘s billions) could be the exception to that rule.

    I must admit that I probably know about as much about the US cricket team as the average American knows about the GB baseball team, although I am aware (from learning the hard way on a pub quiz machine) that the US were invovled in the first cricket international.

  18. Chico October 15, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    I am a former high school and college baseball player from Chicago. I have coached HS baseball for over 20 years. I am a White Sox fan. I say all of that to give you my background. I have read with interest the game between the Baseball team and the Bangers. I enjoy reading BaseballGB and try to follow British Baseball. My Grandparents were from Leeds, so I have British roots. Any way, nice to read the commentary and hope to post in the future. I am a baseball fasnatic and would love to talk ball with fans there in GB. Chico J.

  19. Matt Smith October 15, 2008 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi Chico. Glad you enjoy looking at the site. As you can probably imagine, there isn’t a big baseball scene in Britain, but those of us that are part of it are passionate supporters of the sport. I look forward to reading your future comments.

  20. Joe Gray October 15, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    Yep, Chico, I’d echo what Matt says about the baseball scene being fairly compact but incredibly keen, and also that it’d be great to get comments on the site from someone like yourself who is based in the States but has some sort of tie with Britain.

  21. Chico October 15, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    Thanks for the nice welcome Matt and Joe! Hopefully I can add some thoughts about the game from here. Maybe I can give you some more details of my involvement in baseball. Our family lives and breathes baseball. Thanks again.

  22. Chico October 16, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Well, the Phillies took care of the Dodgers. I think it will take total collapse for the Rays to not get to the WS. In my opinion, baseball was meant to be played outdoors! That Tropicana Field is by far the worst place to play in MLB. The next worst would be the Metrodome in Minneapolis. I speak from experience about the Dome. My spring high school team plays a game there every year in April. The good thing is that we are assured of a game as the weather is not always so good in the early spring in the North. It could be sunny and 75 or snow and 35! Our kids(aged 15 to 18) enjoy playing on a major league field. The surface is fast. Pop ups and flyballs are hard to read off the dome roof. Also it takes time to adjust to the background at the “baggydome”. The Twins have probably the best home field advantage in MLB because they play 81 games there. Speaking of the Twins, I know their hitting coach and coached his 2 nephews in HS ball. I am friends with the White Sox pitching coach also. Anyway, I have a 16 year old son who plays SS and pitches. He wants to be a professional player and works extremely hard at it. He played almost 70 games this past year. We have a batting cage in our back yard. We have Jugs curveball pitching machine and I also pitch to him almost every day, game or not. He hits literally thousands of balls every season. The weather is beginning to turn a bit cold now, so we will have to go indoors to batting cages soon. We don’t have the advantage of living in the South where they can be outdoors much longer. I hope I have not gone on too long. If you ever have any questions to ask about the game here, I’ll try to answer them. I teach the game at player and coaches clinics in our area of the country. Hope all is well! Long live baseball!!

  23. Joe Gray October 16, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    I don’t think anyone can go on too long about baseball!

    It sounds like you have a great training plan set up. It would be fantastic if your son makes it.

    And I can imagine that playing on a Major League field (even if it has a roof and no grass) must be an incredible experience for anyone.

    Great to hear your comments.

  24. Matt Smith October 16, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    Hi Chico. Great to hear about your son and your high school team. It must be a real thrill to be able to get on an MLB diamond, albeit one of the less picturesque! There were several occasions in the opening two games of the ALCS where a Red Sox outfielder had a bit of trouble with what would normally have been a routine fly ball as they lost it in the dome. Like you say, playing in such a place must be a real advantage for the home team. Having said that, I’m sure the Twins are looking forward to their new stadium.

  25. Chico October 17, 2008 at 5:54 pm #

    Wow! The Red Sox continue to amaze me. They love to be down to an elimination game and they explode. What an incredible comeback. Beckett against Kazmir tomorrow night in the “dismaldome”. Hope everyone can get to see it. Still a longshot for the Sox, but with their track record one never knows! Chico

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