Play is now under way in most BSF slowpitch leagues around the country for 2023. In this report, a number of leagues describe their preparations and set out their hopes for the new season.
Manchester Softball League
The Manchester Softball League began the year by hosting a BASU training course. Attendees participated in six online learning sessions, finishing with a practical session, and we had 10 “pass” results, though an additional assessment is required to become a full BASU member. Thanks to everyone who participated, and we hope to run the course again next year.
We also ran a series of indoor games at Platt Lane Sports Complex to get back into the swing of things. Innings were six minutes each with each batter starting with a 2-1 count to increase the pace of the game. Everyone was happy to pick up a bat again and we were pleased to see some new faces interested in taking up the sport.
Our players are raring to go for the start of the 2023 season, which kicked off with our First Ball Tournament on 22-23 April. Eight Comp teams and 14 Rec teams battled it out at Wythenshawe Sports Ground. This year we had visiting teams from South Wales, Manchester University and our regulars from Leeds and we enjoyed seeing them here.
Last year, the Travelling Dodgers took the league title for the first time, stealing the top spot from the 2021 champions Thunder. Mavericks were close on their heels, finishing only two points behind, while Thunder came third, a mere three points back. Travelling Dodgers captain Jonny Huck expects a tough fight with those teams in the coming season.
Meanwhile, all 30 teams from last year have re-registered. Divisions 1 and 2 now have nine teams each, with Speeders and the feisty Meerkats having been promoted to the top flight last summer. Didsbury Bats, Mayhem Freeze and Hackers all joined Division 2 and Tiggers were promoted to Division 3 along with rookie teams Sluggababes and Screwballs, who have only been playing for a season and a half!
Top division teams Meerkats, Travelling Dodgers, Sharks and Camels are all taking teams to the National Softball League this year, with Travelling Dodgers scheduled to play in the European Super Cup in Bulgaria after winning the NSL Nationals in 2021.
The Manchester League, suffering from a post-Covid lull, was unable to generate a rookie team last season, but we hope to attract enough rookies this season through attention to marketing and communications and revamping our website. Rookie sessions will run on Tuesdays from 7.00 pm at Parrs Wood High School playing fields and we invite anyone who wants to give softball a try to come and join in.
We are proud of our players, their enthusiasm and love for the sport, and the friendly, inclusive atmosphere they nurture here in Manchester. We’re looking forward to the coming season and we hope to attract some new faces to our softball family.
Liverpool Softball League
Here in Liverpool, we’re excited for the new softball season. We ran a successful series of 10 indoor sessions on Mondays at Archbishop Blanch School at the start of the year, and there was an excellent turnout, so thanks to everyone who attended. Find us on Facebook to see videos and photos of our indoor efforts.
Last year, Sefton Sharks won the league title. With only three teams currently, we aim to grow our league and are hoping to have enough players to form a fourth team this year. Our rookie sessions are running on Mondays for the first six weeks of the season, from 17 April to 22 May, from 6:30 pm at Childwall Sports and Science Academy. Come and check us out and try out a new sport in Liverpool.
Our popular tournament, the Liverpool Shield, is fully booked, with 12 teams joining us in Widnes on 27-28 May. We are looking forward to welcoming visiting teams from Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow, Cardiff, and Oxford! See you on Merseyside!
Oxford Softball League
The Oxford Softball League is heading into the 2023 season off the back of another strong development and recruitment month. There will be an extra team in the league as a result of the recruiting done by the league, so we will now have 10 teams.
This could be the most competitive season we have ever had, with many teams improving over the winter and throughout last season.
League games started on 2 May and will be played every Tuesday and Thursday, following a series of Grapefruit friendlies in the second half of April.
Milton Keynes Softball League
The Milton Keynes Softball League is now entering its eighth year and continues to go from strength to strength, with a new team added to the ranks for this season. The eight-team competition is now underway on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Conniburrow Sports Pavilion in Milton Keynes, a purpose-built dirt diamond that has been our home since last season.
After record player sign-ups, a new team, The Tribe, has joined the league line-up, which includes the established Milton Keynes teams: the reigning champions from 2021 and 2022, the Roundabout Rhinos; the three-time champions Homerun Hornets; four-time runners-up the Willow Lakers; 2018 champions the OddSox; 2016 runners-up the Double Ds; and finally, the Base Cadets, who joined the league last season. The league is completed by local neighbours the Towcester Tigers, who always provide a tough game for any opponent.
In the league opener, the OddSox recorded a 16-6 win over the Lakers, with Jarrod Pretorius becoming the first player of the season to hit a home run over the fences – not once, but twice! The league’s first-ever Thursday game then saw both the Hornets and Rhinos get a real soaking by the weather, but the Rhinos came out on top in the rain, winning 8-6.
The following week, the league saw its first draw since 2018. The Tigers started strong and led for the whole game until Double Ds captain Jon Reynolds hit a home run in the bottom of the final inning with two out to bring the score level at 14-14. There have only been four draws in MK Softball League history and all four have involved the Tigers as the away team!
Photo by Benton Phillips
Sadly, the final game of Round One between the Cadets and the Tribe had to be postponed until later in the season, so we will have to wait a few more weeks to see both teams in action.
Training takes place each week alongside the Tuesday games, led by our excellent team of coaches, and we also enter tournaments at different levels around the country under the banner of Milton Keynes Diamonds. Our new NSL team was promoted from NSL3 in its first season and will now battle it out in NSL2.
This year, our Committee is running two tournaments – the popular and award-winning Codebreakers Cup will be back in late September, and we recently ran the inaugural Milton Keynes Charity Cup, a smaller tournament for local teams which raised £850 for the domestic violence support charity, MK:Act.
On top of all that, we will be running our first-ever ‘Dinky Diamonds’ sessions at Conniburrow across the spring and summer for children aged four to seven.
So we are looking forward to our biggest league season yet, and in particular, if any small-ball hitters in the area are looking for regular league games, there are plenty of spaces in our teams!
Learn more at https://www.mksoftball.co.uk/.
East Midlands Softball League
This year the East Midlands Softball League will see six teams facing each other to fight for those coveted Nationals places. With a strong focus on development and growth, the aim is for a development team to enter the league in the summer to bring some fresh faces to the sport we all know and love!
The Nottingham Pyros and the Sheriffs of Nottingham will be heading down to Farnham Park this August to represent the league at the BSF League Nationals. Good luck -- and bring some silverware back to the Midlands!
A number of our league members have also been selected to play for GB across a variety of teams. We wish them all the best of luck!
Leeds Softball Association
After a couple of tough years recovering from the pandemic, hopes are high for the LSA this season!
Following a trial in 2022, the newly-formed Leeds Softball Community Club (the weekday league arm of the LSA) has become the newest sporting member of the Adel War Memorial Association.
Formed almost 100 years ago, the Association offers a great range of facilities, including changing rooms, bar, function rooms and a hall, along with a great community atmosphere!
This gives us a proper home and a base to build lots of development plans around. Umpire and First Aid training is already in progress, with ethical funding and youth programmes on the drawing board.
Seven teams will return to the field this season, but open free try-out sessions are already popular with a lot of new faces, so we aim to form new teams during the season with a target for next year to be back in double figures.
Practice/taster sessions open to all will run every Tuesday from 6.30 pm until dark (weather permitting).
The league’s online presence is undergoing a revamp, but we can be contacted directly on LeedsSoftball@gmail.com or on Facebook under Leeds Softball Association.