BSF Executive Meeting Report: 15 August 2019

Tue 20 Aug 2019

The BSF Executive held its latest conference call meeting on the evening of Thursday 15 August 2019.  Below is a journalistic report on the main discussions and decisions.


Present:  Jenny Fromer (President), Liz Graham (Competitions Officer), Bob Fromer (Administrator), Alexis Markham-Hill (National Teams Officer), Chris Moon (BASU Representative), Mike Jennings (General Officer).

Apologies:  Laura Burkhardt (Treasurer), Steve Getraer (General Officer).

BSF Finances

BSF Treasurer Laura Burkhardt submitted the latest Budget v Actual update to the Executive in July, and both receipts and expenditure were more or less as predicted, with no major anomalies.  It was noted, however, that even though the BSF had reduced its budget line for Development Grants in 2018-19 and had made a point of publicising the opportunity to apply for grants, this category was still underspent.

The BSF’s financial year will end on 30 September, and Laura will present another update shortly thereafter and then begin the process of finalising the accounts for 2018-19.

National Championships

Schedules for all three Nationals on 31 August-1 September – NSL1 and NSL2 at Farnham Park and NSL3 in Manchester -- have now been issued, and the finals for both the NSL2 and NSL1 Nationals will be webstreamed live on on Sunday 1 September beginning around 3.00 pm.  It’s possible that an earlier NSL1 playoff game may also be broadcast.

A poll of teams asking how the playoff stages at the NSL Nationals should be conducted showed that NSL1 teams favoured a Page Playoff system whereas NSL2 teams favoured semi-finals and a final, and the tournaments have been scheduled accordingly.

With NSL3, the standings after a full round-robin will determine the two teams to be promoted to NSL2 for 2020, but there will also be semi-finals and a final to finish off the tournament.

Competitions Officer Liz Graham noted that whereas there were over 40 requests for dispensations for the League Nationals, there have been only around 10 such requests so far for the NSL1 and NSL2 Nationals.

Liz told the meeting that there will not be catering available at the field for the NSL3 Nationals in Manchester because no caterer will come out for just eight teams, but there are a number of food options within a few minutes’ walk from the fields.

Proposals for NSL play in 2020

Earlier this summer, the BSF received a series of proposals from Pioneers player Gary Hoxby about changes to the rules for NSL play, designed in part to speed up games and get more innings played.

The Executive, after polling NSL1 and NSL2 teams about these changes, decided to adopt a proposal for 2020 that batters who hit over-the-fence home runs can simply touch first base and then return to the dugout.  But the Executive declined to adopt a proposal that at-bats start with a 1:1 count with a “pitch to waste” (third-strike fouls will not result in an out, but any subsequent foul balls will).

Following those decisions, Gary came back to the BSF to renew his request that the 1:1 proposal be adopted and with a new suggestion: a five-home-run limit per team per game for over-the-fence home runs.

The Executive has decided to adopt the home run limit proposal for the 2020 season for NSL1 only but has again declined to start at-bats with a 1:1 count.  However, the Executive will monitor the number of innings played in NSL games year season and will re-consider this proposal for 2021.

Team Registration and Tournament Packs

Liz Graham, who doubles as the BSF’s Membership Officer, reported to the Executive that there was, in general, a small increase in the number of affiliated teams this year compared to 2018 in most categories, but the most striking figure was a rise in the number of Independent Teams (non-league teams) from 19 to 38.

Could this be related to the fact that in the revised Affiliation Fees for 2019, the fee to register an Independent Team dropped from £160 to £100?

Liz reported that two leagues have yet to pay their affiliation fees for 2019, but all other leagues and Independent or other directly-affiliated teams have paid.

The BSF will go back to BaseballSoftballUK to see about implementing an idea that was agreed earlier in the year but never actioned: offering free BSF affiliation to university teams that play in BSUK’s National University Softball Championship but not in BSF leagues.  The idea is for the BSF to be able to communicate more easily with university teams and make them aware of other opportunities, such as weekend tournaments, where they can join the softball mainstream, or clinics and Academy sessions.

Finally, the BSF will create a document with the messages it wants to communicate to teams playing in tournaments about the use of under-18 players and new enforcement policies around the use of alcohol or drugs.  This document will be supplied to tournament organisers for inclusion in Tournament Packs next season.

Development grants

The Executive discussed a BSF Development Grant application from a new club called the Birmingham Badgers, who want to build a club and eventually a league in Birmingham and have adopted the slogan “Let’s Get Birmingham Batting”. 

The club, which has already attracted community interest, will have an inclusive ethos towards LGBT+ participants, and is looking for help with equipment costs so they can run training sessions and games.

The BSF will support the club, but Jenny Fromer will have a discussion with club organisers to get a more specific idea of their aims and needs.  Birmingham is one of the few major cities in the UK where a slowpitch softball league has never really taken root, and the BSF would certainly like to help make that happen.

The Executive also considered an email from Bracknell Baseball and Softball Club, which has various development projects in mind and is seeking advice on which would be the most suitable for a development grant application.

Fastpitch Development Manager appointment

The post of Fastpitch Development Manager, funded and directed jointly by BaseballSoftballUK and the BSF, has been vacant since Jo Malisani stepped down from the role and returned to Canada in December 2018.  Jo was in the post for just over two-and-a-half years.

After a series of interviews, BSUK and the BSF have now appointed Alyson Spinas-Valainas to the job, and the hope is that she can take up the role full-time in October.

Alyson is an American pitcher and pitching coach who has worked outside the US in a number of softball coaching and development roles, most recently in New Zealand, where she designed curriculum for an Academy programme as well as coaching young players and pitchers.  She is currently playing for teams in both the German and Dutch leagues and is based in Germany, so Alyson should be able to spend some time in the UK for induction purposes before beginning the role on a full-time basis.

With regard to BaseballSoftballUK, Alyson’s job will be primarily to get more young girls playing fastpitch softball, develop new competition structures for young players and set up a programme to develop pitchers and catchers as well as playing a playing a pivotal role at the Softball Academy and High Performance Academy.  For the BSF, Alyson will be expected to support GB Softball by upskilling GB coaches and monitoring the effectiveness of national team programmes.

SLA update

BaseballSoftballUK carries out a number of functions for the BSF, primarily to do with media and communications, under an annual Service Level Agreement where the BSF purchases a certain number of hours to be spent by BSUK staff on the BSF’s behalf.  BSUK also provides a certain number of hours for free.

The halfway point in this annual arrangement will be 30 September, and the BSF has already used almost half the available hours, and well over half in relation to website content and general support.  But this is to be expected, as much of this activity relates to the playing season and will drop off during the closed season.  The BSF expects that it will not exceed the hours it has purchased when the financial year ends in April 2020.


BASU representative Chris Moon reported that there has been some confusion this season about whether the final inning of a game after “no new inning” has been called should be played to a conclusion.

BSF policy, which is applied in the NSL and National Championships, and is recommended for Comp games at any tournament, is that the last inning, once started, should be played to its appropriate conclusion rather than be cut off because the time alloted for that game has run out. 

League Heads Forum to continue at BSF AGM

The BSF’s annual League Heads Forum was combined with the BSF AGM for the first time in February 2019, and a survey carried out afterwards by the BSF suggests that most League Heads prefer this as an ongoing arrangement.

While the BSF cannot guarantee that this will happen every year, since it may want to use time outside the formal AGM for other purposes, the League Heads Forum will be combined with the 2020 AGM in Manchester, and in most years going forward.

Next meeting

The next BSF Executive conference call meeting will be held on Thursday 12 September.

Anyone with topics for the meeting should contact BSF Administrator Bob Fromer.

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