Just before we take a break for Christmas, there’s time to pass on some interesting news about both Britain’s domestic league and the senior men’s international team.
An expanded National Baseball League for 2010
We reported two weeks ago that a number of new teams could be added to the British Baseball Federation League system and stated that “it seems likely in one way or another that the creation of new teams will lead to another revamp of the BBF league structure in 2010”. That’s proved to be correct as the National Baseball League (NBL) is effectively going to increase from five to twelve teams next year.
This year’s NBL, the highest level of competition in Britain, consisted of Bracknell Blazers, Croydon Pirates, Herts Falcons, London Mets and Richmond Flames. The Essex Arrows, Mildenhall Bulldogs and Southampton Mustangs will join those five to form an eight-team league in the south. All three fully merit their promotion. The Arrows’ ascent to the top league had been predicted here after their incredible 25-0 regular season campaign in AAA South, while the Mustangs were close behind them with a 20-5 record at the same level. The Bulldogs won the AA Championship in their debut season, continuing a long line of success by United States Air Force (USAF) teams in British baseball.
The Harrogate Tigers, Liverpool Trojans, Manchester A’s and Menwith Hill Patriots (another USAF team)will form a new four-team NBL North. 2009 was the first season for several years in which the north was not represented in the top level of British baseball, after it was decided to create one large Northern Conference rather than have Northern divisions of the leagues used in the south. That situation will change next year with a two-tier Conference containing the NBL North and a six-team lower level. The Trojans and Patriots competed in the NBL North in 2008 alongside a disbanded team from the Manchester A’s organization, the Eagles. The Tigers won the 2009 AAA Championship and will make the step up to the top level for the first time in 2010.
The postseason structure, including who will qualify, has not yet been announced and there is a bit of uncertainty over the status of the NBL North. The BSUK statement refers to the NBL as increasing by three teams only, which suggests that the southern section could be seen as the NBL proper and the NBL North will be a step between this and the AAA level, or maybe even part of AAA for the purposes of the postseason. Further news on this, and how the other leagues will shape up with new teams coming in, is expected in the new year.
Great Britain’s European Championship schedule
Mister-Baseball.com has published the schedule for next year’s European Baseball Championship, held in Germany. Great Britain will play five games in the first round, starting out against recent World Cup opponents Croatia and finishing with a game against Greece.
- Friday 23 July 2010: Croatia vs GB (10.30, Stuttgart)
- Saturday 24 July: GB vs Sweden (14.30, Stuttgart)
- Sunday 25 July: GB vs Italy (10.30, Stuttgart)
- Monday 26 July: GB vs Spain (13.00, Heidenheim)
- Tuesday 27 July: Greece vs GB (17.00, Neuenburg)
The games in Stuttgart should be particularly worth attending as the stadium (which has a capacity of 5,000) will be staging three games per day during the first round. The other games on those three days will be:
- 23 July: Italy vs Spain (14.30), Ukraine vs Germany (19.00)
- 24 July: Spain vs Croatia (10.30), Germany vs Czech Republic (19.00)
- 25 July: Germany vs Belgium (14.30), Spain vs Greece (19.00)
Moving on to Heidenheim on Monday would also give you a chance to see the Netherlands vs Germany game at 19.00, while GB’s game is the sole one being staged in Neuenburg on the Tuesday. All twelve teams will play an additional game either on Wednesday 26 or Thursday 27, with the date, opponent and venue being determined by the final standings in the two initial groups.
Great Britain qualified for the European Baseball Championships after finishing second in the tournament in 2007: the last time it was held. Our ability to participate in major tournaments always seems to be under slight doubt at the moment due to the difficulties faced in funding the trips. The Great Britain Women’s Fastpitch Softball team recently took a novel approach to covering some of the cost of attending next year’s Softball World Championship. As highlighted here at BaseballGB, they entered a “Great Britons” competition run by British Airways to win free flights and it was announced on Monday that they were successful. Not only did they win 16 free flights, the team has also been offered £10,000 in corporate sponsorship “by a firm in the Midlands”.
It’s great news for the softball team and hopefully our senior men’s baseball team has similar success with their future fundraising efforts.