I have recently updated the GB archive for 2010 for both the Seniors and Juniors, and the additions – alas – tell the tale of a season of huge disappointment. The GB Seniors slipped back to the European Championship Qualifying Pool for the first time since they won the B-Pool event on home soil in 1996. The Qualifying Pool is where the GB Juniors still find themselves, after a mixed showing at their European Championship event. One positive to come from the season is the possibility of Britain hosting a major international tournament for the first time since that B-Pool triumph with 6 wins and no losses 14 years ago.
Prospects of hosting the Qualifying Tournament
Our facilities are way below what would be needed to host an A-Pool event, but we would have a chance of hosting a Qualifying Pool tournament. There would be other countries in the Qualifying Pool with better grounds and a guarantee of bigger crowds – Spain, to name but one – but maybe a huge collective rally from the British baseball community could persuade the decision-makers that the tournament could come to Britain. Spain have benefited from hosting both the European Championship A-Pool and a group in the World Cup in recent years, and so it could be perceived that to give them another event would be unjust. Similarly, Croatia – another country with superior facilities to Britain who will be in the 2011 Qualifying Pool – were given a group in the World Cup. However, even if the argument presented here was accepted, I suspect that another country would have a better chance than us, that being Belgium. Ultimately, our best chance might be if the countries with better cases than us were not interested in hosting the event because it was “just” a Qualifying Pool.
A record for Brad Marcelino
Other positives to come from the European Championship A-Pool were at a personal level. Three British pitchers posted sub-2.00 earned-run averages: Stephen Spragg, 0.00 from 8.2 innings; Jeff Mottl, 1.29 from 7.0 innings; and Alex Smith, 1.93 from 14.0 innings. And two batters hit .350 or better: Matt McGraw, .450 from 20 at-bats; and Brad Marcelino, .389 from 18 at-bats.
For Marcelino – who was born in Essex and schooled in Middlesex before he moved to the United States at the age of 11 – it was the sixth European Championship. This is a number bettered only by Alan Bloomfield (with eight) and Brian Thurston (seven), and matched by Nick Carter, David Donaldson, and Frank Parker, Jr. Marcelino turned 28 in February this year and has a chance to take this record away from Bloomfield. But he has already achieved one record, that being the most appearances in a top-level international championship by a British player. For this, we add in World Cup appearances (from 1938 and 2009) and discount European B-Pool and Qualifying events. This gives Marcelino a total of seven, with the next best figure being five (held by several players).
I still believe that considering all European Championships together, regardless of tier, and without the World Cup, is the fairest way to compare longevity of contribution to the national team. This is because it is not fair to penalize players whose careers did not overlap with a World Cup appearance, and also because whether the team was in the European A-Pool or a second-tier pool, the individuals selected were considered to be the best from those available. (That said, not even the system of including all European appearances and no World Cup selections is perfect because individuals playing during a time of oscillation between the two tiers of competition will gain or have gained extra chances to compete at a European level.)