BSF Annual Awards to eight deserving recipients were announced at the BSF’s remote AGM on Saturday 25 February, and the trophies will be presented to these award winners at softball events during the coming season.
The BSF presents Annual Awards at each AGM, most of them related to the previous season, in categories where candidates are nominated.
Here are the details of the winners – and why they won.
The Glover Cup, presented for outstanding long-term service to softball by a coach, administrator or organiser, was awarded to Mark Saunders.
Mark’s credential as a coach were recognised when he was inducted into the BSF Hall of Fame in 2018.
Having retired as a GB player and then won two European Championships as the GB Co-ed Slowpitch Team Head Coach, Mark moved to Bristol, where he managed and coached local teams. Over the past several years, however, he has dedicated his efforts to building a large and successful softball programme at Archway School in Stroud in conjunction with the school’s Head of PE. A team from the school entered the Bristol Softball League in 2017, and it was no surprise when they won their division!
Mark then moved to Stroud, and the Archway School programme has since gone from strength to strength. In 2021 Archway Thunder won the First Division in Bristol and in 2022 they took first place in the Gold section at the BSF Co-Ed Slowpitch League Nationals. Also in 2022, Archway Lightning won the Bristol Third Division and in 2023 there will be a third Archway team in the Bristol League.
Mark Saunders has been contributing to British softball for a very long time, and his youth development achievements at Archway School are just the latest chapter.
League Glover Cup
The League Glover Cup for outstanding development achievement by an affiliated league was awarded to the Oxford Softball Association.
Softball has been played in Oxford since the 1980s, with an official league being set up in 1990. Because of participation by a transient student population in Oxford, the league has always been relatively small, with the highest number of teams across two divisions being 10 in 2009-10.
In 2019, the league had seven teams, but following the pandemic the League Committee was concerned that there might only be six teams in 2021. However, following successful Facebook campaigns in 2021 and 2022 and free taster sessions, plus running female-only training sessions, the league was able to backfill existing teams and start a new one, resulting in eight teams in 2021 and then nine teams in 2022. The new influx of players in 2021-22 has also led to new volunteers.
For the first time in seven years, the Oxford League entered both a men’s and a women’s team in the BSF Single-Sex Nationals in 2022, and both teams were led by and made up of new players who had joined the Oxford League over the past two years.
The league also put on its first tournament in over 10 years in September 2022, with teams from Oxford, Reading, Swindon, London and Milton Keynes taking part, and for the first time, the league will be entering a team in NSL3 in 2023.
All of this has been achieved with a development model that works to attract, train and retain players and provides a positive playing environment – a good reason for Oxford to be awarded the League Glover Cup.
President’s Club Award
The President’s Club Award for outstanding performance or development by an affiliated club or team was awarded to The Stags from the Great Britain Fastpitch League.
Since they were founded in 2019, the men’s fastpitch team The Stags has entered the GBFL, brought many new players to fastpitch in the UK, run fastpitch-specific training sessions, and assisted the GB Men's programme by taking players to gain experience in European competition.
The Stags have won the GBFL Men’s Division in back-to-back years, despite 2021 being just their second real season due to the pandemic, and they have won with a domestic team built around a young and energetic core of players who are trying to push men's fastpitch forward.
The Stags competed in the European Men’s Super Cup for the first time in 2022 and performed very well, with some in European fastpitch expressing surprise at their high standard of play. The Stags are providing a route for up-and-coming GB players to play more frequently in Europe, and after becoming the first British team other than the Meteors to qualify for the Men’s Super Cup, they finished higher than any other British team in the last decade.
Umpire of the Year Award
The Umpire of the Year Award was given to Stephen Coyle.
Stephen Coyle started playing softball in the Glasgow League in 2003 and attended his first BASU course in 2006. In 2008, he helped form the Glasgow League team The Rocks and has played with them for the past 15 years. He became Glasgow Umpire-in-Chief in 2010 and remains in that position.
Stephen has been umpiring at the Edinburgh Festiball for many years and has been plate umpire for the Main Final on several occasions. He has also umpired at the NSL Nationals for the last few years.
Stephen completed the European Online Course in 2021 and was assessed in late 2021. He went to his first European Competition in 2022, the European Men’s Slowpitch Championship in Colorno, Italy, completed a long and distinguished progression as an umpire.
Tournament of the Year Award
The Tournament of the Year Award was won by the Solent Lastball Tournament.
For many years, the Solent League Committee had talked about trying to repeat the successful ‘Lastball’ tournaments that were previously held at the University of Southampton’s Wide Lane Sports Facility in Eastleigh, the pinnacle of which came in 2015 when 46 teams competed over two days across 13 diamonds. Unfortunately, the unpredictable availability of this busy venue, along with its soaring hire costs and a seemingly ever-changing management structure, left the League frustrated at not being able to get a foot back in the door.
But in 2022, thanks to the determination of League Chairman Matt Tebb, with help from Solent Umpire-in-Chief Simon Tymms and Fixtures Officer Charlotte Brown, a chain of communication was re-established with the venue and an available weekend in September was eventually found and booked -- albeit scaled down, for the time being, to 15 teams competing across five diamonds.
Nevertheless, as one player put it, “there was a lovely spirit about the tournament”, and Matt and his team are now looking to build and improve on the welcome return of a two-day Solent tournament in 2022 and are already in talks with Wide Lane regarding availability for 2023. We hope they can succeed in re-establishing this excellent event.
Young Fastpitch Player of the Year Award
The Young Fastpitch Player of the Year Award was given to Tia Warsop from the Great Britain Senior Women’s Team.
Tia Warsop joined the GB Senior Women’s Team in 2022 as a 17-year-old and turned out to be the sparkplug for a powerful GB offense, batting .371 from the leadoff spot at the European Women’s Championship, with six stolen bases and 10 RBIs as well as displaying speed and a powerful throwing arm in the outfield.
After she finishes high school this year, Tia has committed play college softball at Oklahoma State, one of the top softball schools in the United States, and will hopefully continue to contribute to the GB Women’s Team for many years to come as they pursue their goal of Olympic qualification.
Young Slowpitch Player of the Year Award
The Young Slowpitch Player of the Year Award was given to Rebekah Kay from the Bristol Tigers and GB Slowpitch Team.
Rebekah started playing softball in 2016 at the University of Nottingham, where she quickly established herself as a starter in her first year with her speed, hitting power and excellent glove work.
After being named season MVP, she went on to give back to the sport and trained as a Welfare Officer and First Aider, becoming an important member of the club on and off the pitch.
It didn’t take long before Rebekah became a two-time National University Champion as a key player in Nottingham’s run to glory, and she didn’t stop there. Rebekah went on to become the club’s captain and was responsible for coaching, organising club competitions and league play.
Under her captaincy the club grew three-fold, to the point where the university could enter two teams in the East Midlands League and in weekend non-university competitions (a feat rarely achieved by university teams).
After graduating, Rebekah joined the NSL team,Tigers in 2021. GB Slowpitch Assistant Coach David Lee said, “The first things I noticed were that she was eager, brave and determined, she learned quickly and had a great ability to track a ball in flight, making her able to catch many awkward fly balls others would misread or mistime. She became a utility player for Tigers, playing in all positions and shining best in the outfield. She then had the opportunity to trial for GB and she grabbed that chance with both hands, impressing GB coaches with speed, consistent hitting and great awareness in the outfield. That earned her a spot on the senior team to play in the European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship in Slovenia in 2022, where she was always consistent, focused and determined. Rebekah is still far from the finished article but gets better every time she plays and has the chance to be a future GB stalwart.”
Betsy Holden Award
The Betsy Holden Award for outstanding achievement by a young person in developing or promoting the sport was given to Kai Owens from the GB Under-23 Men’s Fastpitch Team.
Kai Owens only turned 19 in December 2022, but he worked hard to raise money to help keep costs down for everyone who played alongside him in the European Under-23 Men’s Championship last summer. He has also recruited many new players to fastpitch, both through his own contacts but more importantly by approaching young players at slowpitch tournaments and putting them in touch with men’s fastpitch coaches and managers. Many of these players have since been folded into the GB Men's Fastpitch development programme.
Kai has gained a reputation over the last 12 months for being hard-working, passionate, and a great ambassador for Junior Men’s Fastpitch.