I had a discussion with someone about a UK University baseball league a number of years ago but ultimately the idea never came to fruition. Then in 2007 the British University Baseball Association (BUBA) suddenly appeared on my radar. It took the hard work and collaboration of three university baseball teams, Nottingham, Southampton and UEA, to get to that point. In the last couple of years, the association has continued to grow.
Playing baseball at universities has been around for a while but in an informal way with teams often playing in the BBF leagues or friendlies against each other, but in October 2008 the BUBA had its first championship at the Nottingham’s Grove Farm sports fields. There had been other university baseball events before, but this was first one exclusively for university students.
The BUBA hit another milestone this year with the first ever spring league that started in February and runs until June. The Northern division includes Durham Bishops, Leeds Oaks, Lincoln Commoners, Nottingham Thieves and UEA Blue Sox. Then there is the southern division made up of the Brighton Panthers, Oxford Kings and Southampton Mustags.
As this is the association’s inaugural season they have kept the format quite loose with games not fixed on certain dates and the teams deciding between themselves what date to play.
John Irving, Director of Operations commented, “There can quite often be scheduling problems with teams (transport, exams, pitches not ready etc.) and as such the schedule acts merely as a guide for teams to work off. Fixtures are usually arranged amongst the teams themselves and are then reported to us later on. This has allowed the teams the flexibility they need to operate in what is our inaugural season.”
There will be the Final Four competition in June that will take place at UEA’s Colney Lane Field that involves the top two teams from each division playing to be league champion.
As previously stated, the schedule has been made deliberately loose with a number of games having already been played. In the south, Brighton still has to play Oxford and Southampton home and away. In the north there are many fixtures remaining that involve Lincoln, Nottingham, Durham, UEA and Leeds.
Next year I hope that the schedules are made more concrete. While I can understand the need for it, the flexible nature of the schedules this season makes it very difficult for fans to follow and ultimately building up that core fan base will make university baseball a success. The BUBA has started well and has done well to achieve so much in so little time. What do you want to see from BUBA and university baseball?
More Information Can Be Found At http://www.unibaseball.co.uk/.