What a year it was!
2022 has come to a close and it’s time to take stock: with this being the first mostly-normal year after the Covid-19 pandemic, there was so much to celebrate from the season. This was a big year across our sports, and below we’ve put together some of the highlights for you.
A huge thank you to both the British Baseball Federation and British Softball Federation for their assistance with compiling this year’s major milestones.
Without further ado, let’s start with…
The year started with a major hire by BSUK, with Head of Performance Gary Anderson joining the staff. Gary's appointment brought years of Olympic experience – including a 2014 Bronze Medal at the Sochi Games for GB Bobsleigh – to baseball and softball and marked the start of preparations for the LA 2028 Olympic Games!
With Covid-19 restrictions still in place in January, the Coach Summit 2022 was held online, free for all to attend. With eight weeks of webinars covering a wide variety of topics, the 2022 edition of the Summit was attended by more than 120 coaches from across the globe, setting the stage for the return to an in-person summit in 2023. The Coach Summit kicked off at the end of January, bringing us into…
February saw one of the largest ever British Softball Federation Hall of Fame classes take its place among the immortals at the BSF AGM. Eleven new members were called to the Hall in the first induction since 2018 – congratulations to Dan Spinks, Steve Hazard, Roger Grooms, Amy Moore, David Lee, Rachael Watkeys, Jim and Karen Murray, Chris Moon, Julie Spittle, and Jenny Fromer!
Following the BSF AGM at the end of February, things started to pick up in…
…with the first-ever British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Softball and Baseball Championships held at Farnham Park National Baseball & Softball Complex in Buckinghamshire. With baseball and softball making their BUCS debut after years of work by BSUK’s Development Staff, the culmination of the university season was a spectacle of university sport! A huge congratulations to all the competitors, but especially to Loughborough University, which won the double!
That brings us to a very busy…
Colin Barrett, who had been working with BSUK since the autumn of 2021, joined the staff full-time, first in the Development Department before moving to the newly-formed Performance Department later in the year. Colin’s experience in South Africa with both baseball and softball brought new ideas and perspectives to the company, especially as the Performance programme launched. The Development Team had a busy April, with the second Facilities Fund award announced early in the month. Seven clubs were awarded a total of £10,558.24 for grassroots facility development, bringing the two-year total to more than £22,000 of funding from BSUK. However, BSUK wasn’t just working on external projects in April: a brand new BSUK website was launched, the first major site update in 11 years. The new site is mobile-compatible and streamlined, setting the stage for further improvements – and more publicity for the sports – in the future!
In international play, the reigning WBUK champion Belles Baseball made their first trip to the continent, playing in a four-team tournament in France.
The BSF’s Mike Jennings was appointed to the WBSC Europe Softball Commission, where he continues to work hard to elevate the game – especially slowpitch softball – in Europe!
To wrap up April, the popular BSUK Slowpitch Cup started on the 30th of April, and ran right into…
…where the Slowpitch Cup wrapped up after two great weekends of Fully-Loaded Softball and more than 1000 participants across the two weekends. The Slowpitch Cup will return in 2023.
The worst-kept secret in baseball was revealed on 9 May, when MLB announced the return of the London Series in 2023, 2024, and 2026! These London Series will see BSUK work closely with MLB Europe and the Greater London Authority to help deliver on the legacy of the games, with a specific staff role for the job – more on that below!
Longtime softballer Liz Warner joined the Farnham Park staff as head groundskeeper at the beginning of May, bringing years of experience in the sports to field preparations. Liz’s hard work and dedication to Farnham could be seen with every well-groomed field throughout the season – thank you, Liz, for all your hard work this year!
BaseballSoftballUK reached a major milestone in May with the announcement of the latest Sport England Investment into the organisation. The three-year award amounts to £2.3 million until March 2027 and is one of the most significant single investments in the sports over the last 22 years. This funding will allow BSUK to continue and expand its work at a very important time for both sports in the UK. This was evident right away, with the debut of the All-Star Fastpitch League (ASFL) in May, a compensated, high-level women’s fastpitch softball competition in the UK. Featuring GB National Team players as well as athletes from around the globe, the two-game series was a trial of the concept and attracted a couple of hundred spectators to each game.
In conjunction with the BSF and GB Men’s Softball, Farnham Park hosted the Swedish Men’s National Fastpitch Team for a weekend of games at the end of May – the first WBSC-sanctioned international friendly at the venue. Dubbed the “Sweden Series,” the weekend saw three different GB teams take on the Swedish Senior Men’s Team, giving both countries a taste of international play. During the Series, UK inductees to the Softball Europe Hall of Fame were honoured, with Steph Jardine and Brett Gibbens becoming the first-ever slowpitch players elected, along with the first slowpitch umpire inducted in Chris Moon.
That brings us to…
…a month chock full of league play, with competition across the National Softball League, National Baseball League, ASFL, Great Britain Fastpitch League, and AAA/AA/A Baseball. The ASFL wrapped up during the first weekend of the month, with the Eagles defeating the Ravens for the league title at Farnham Park.
June also saw the first hardware of the year, collected by the GB Men’s Slowpitch Team, which won the gold medal at the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship in Colorno, Italy. Congratulations to the GB Men!
As the month went on, preparations were well underway for…
…which brought the brand-new MLB Home Run Derby X (HRDX) to London. Featuring the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox, with all four teams playing host to a GB Baseball player, the all-day event on 9 July was the first of its kind – not just in Europe, but in the world! With the baseball and softball community providing volunteers for the event, and more than 100 people signing up to hear more about British baseball and softball, the day brought a spotlight to the sports in the UK. The timing of HRDX was serendipitous too, as the very next day, the GB Women’s Senior Fastpitch Softball Team arrived in the UK for training camp at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre and Farnham Park prior to the European Women’s Championship.
Before the GB Women’s Team could start play, however, the GB Co-Ed Slowpitch Team cemented its place as Europe’s best, winning its 12th gold medal in European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship history. Well done, GB Co-Ed Team!
The GB Women’s Team had a successful training camp in the UK before flying to Barcelona, where the team won its first nine games – including a no-hitter by ace pitcher Georgina Corrick – en route to their best finish at a European Women’s Championship since 2009, a silver medal. The European Women’s Championship saw BSUK’s role with GB Softball increase, with Gary Anderson leading the delegation, and BSUK providing additional administrative and communications support to the team. With their second-place finish, the team qualified for the 2023 Softball World Cup Qualifier and will head to Dublin in July with a spot in the 2024 World Cup Finals on the line. Congratulations to the GB Women’s Team and staff on this incredible accomplishment!
The 2023 London Series teams were revealed in early August, with the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs – the teams originally scheduled for the 2020 London Series – named to make the trip in June 2023. The London Series wasn’t the only international news, though, as British Baseball umpire Blake Taylor made history as the first British-born umpire to work the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Taylor wasn’t the only UK representative in North America at the time, as the London Archers played in the Pony League World Series by virtue of their U-14 Pony League European Championship!
While Taylor and the Archers were representing the UK in the US, two club softball teams were making waves of their own in Europe, with The Mix coming fourth at the 2022 European Women’s Cup, and The Stags – playing in only their second full season – picking up their first international win at the European Men’s Super Cup.
Also in Europe, the GB Women’s Baseball Team made its international debut, winning their first-ever game in international competition and finishing fourth in their debut tournament – well done!
Back home, the domestic seasons started to wrap up, with the NBL Final at Farnham Park concluding with a London Mets win for the sixth straight season, as well as the Co-Ed Slowpitch League Nationals in softball, which saw the Blue Sox (Platinum), Archway Thunder (Gold), Liverpool Sharks (Silver) and Liverpool Seagulls (Bronze) taking home the prizes.
BSUK also added to its staff in August, with Calum Opere-Hoyle joining as a Development Officer, with a focus on the Development Charter and supporting clubs and leagues in the South.
The outdoor playing season reached its climax in…
…when both the BBF and BSF had the majority of their domestic competitions wrap up. The BBF crowned five 2022 National British Baseball Champions, with the London Mets (NBL – in August), East London Latin Boys (AAA), Croydon Pirates (AA), Bracknell Inferno (A) and Sheffield Bruins Women (WBUK/WBL) taking home the titles. Congratulations to this year’s baseball champions!
On the softball side of things, the BSF NSL Nationals saw H20 – after 17 years of trying – lift the NSL1 crown for the very first time. Tempest took home the NSL2 title for the second straight year with a win over the Terriers, while NSL3 – which wrapped up in July – was won by Blitz Havoc. Congratulations to this year's softball champions!
The BSF Softball World Series was also held at Farnham Park in September, with the Yanks (America) taking home the title from a pool of 14 talented teams representing countries or regions across the world.
All eyes then shifted from Farnham Park to Regensburg, Germany, where Drew Spencer and the GB Baseball staff led the GB Men’s Baseball Team to their first-ever World Baseball Classic berth, defeating France, Germany and Spain in consecutive games. Great Britain’s final game against Spain saw the team come back from an 8-3 deficit, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth when down to their last strike, and winning the game on a walk-off sac fly in the 10th inning! GB has been assigned to Pool C in Phoenix, Arizona for the WBC, which will take place this coming March!
With all this exciting news, the British Baseball Federation took the opportunity to launch a new website of its own, with updated graphics, formatting, and functionality!
…where the Academy, dormant for a couple years due to Covid-19, relaunched with the Fastpitch Academy Lite programme under the direction of BSUK’s new Performance Team. The new Academy will be rolled out to more formats of the sports in 2023, with a full elite player pathway to be announced shortly.
With the 2023 London Series inching closer, we head into…
…when Jon Rye joined BSUK as the MLB London Series Legacy Manager! Jon will be responsible for working across BSUK, the Greater London Authority and MLB Europe to ensure that the London Series leaves a lasting impact in East London, across all 32 boroughs of London, and throughout the UK. Jon’s hiring coincided with the beginning of…
…and the London Series ticket pre-sale, with an exclusive opportunity to get tickets for the 2023 games. As tickets for the Series were being snapped up, the British Softball Federation and BaseballSoftballUK made international news of their own with the announcement of Tara Henry as the new GB Women’s Softball Head Coach. Henry joins GB Softball after previously coaching around the world, including with the GB Under-18 Women's Team, and brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to the programme. Henry will also appear at Coach Summit 2023 – the first in-person Summit since 2020.
Towards the end of the month, BSUK CEO John Boyd was appointed to the WBSC Europe Governance Department, giving the UK a representative in one of WBSC Europe’s most important areas of work.
We asked the baseball and softball community to share their favourite memories of the year – here’s what they said!
GB’s incredible comeback against Spain— Gav (Tramps like us) (@GavTramps) December 27, 2022
Watching from France and sharing the experience (via WhatsApp) with the @BatFlips_Nerds team strewn across various parts of the UK pic.twitter.com/eN4bKGkeuz
������ pic.twitter.com/o3cJB18fLK— GB Women’s National Softball Team (@GBWomenSoftball) December 27, 2022
Nothing to add @WBCBaseball @GB_Baseball pic.twitter.com/KZ3J8u5uaS— British Baseball Federation (@BritishBaseball) December 27, 2022
I’m cheating here but in no particular order….— Jonathan Rodriguez (@JRod__9) December 28, 2022
- Taking GB Baseball to my favorite piece of earth, Turf Moor, to watch Burnley vs Liverpool.
- GB U18s historic summer.
- Sonny Rodriguez making his Herts debut.
- UCLan Baseball’s first game & W after 2 years of planning. pic.twitter.com/yym5xNtZiK
GB ���� WBC ⬆️ takes the cake, but we enjoyed this one as well! pic.twitter.com/IsF5IDjCVk— London Archers Baseball UK ���� (@LondonArchersUK) December 28, 2022
Our Bats winning the @swbleague championship- it was a fantastic game of baseball against @CardiffBaseball on a beautiful day pic.twitter.com/CRuDW3klhm— Bristol Baseball Club (@BristolBaseball) December 27, 2022
But on the other hand our combined A team winning the @BritishBaseball end of season championship at Farnham Park might be a contender pic.twitter.com/ijC84RjhSM— Bristol Baseball Club (@BristolBaseball) December 27, 2022
Gotta be working the Little League World Series for me pic.twitter.com/krtuCuJO2N— Blake Taylor (@BlakeTaylor83) December 28, 2022
A post shared by BaseballSoftball���� (@baseballsoftball_uk)
A big year ahead
2022 was a great year for British baseball and softball, but 2023 is set to be even bigger – with the World Baseball Classic, the Women’s Softball World Cup Qualifier, the London Series, European Baseball Championships, the first-ever Co-ed Slowpitch World Cup, and a full slate of domestic competitions -- just to name a few. It could be the biggest year yet for baseball and softball in the UK and we can’t wait for it to get started.
From all of us in the British baseball and softball community, Happy New Year!