A South African who spent the better part of a decade in the UK, Shaun Findlay was one of the most electrifying players British softball has seen. Tall, thin and extraordinarily fast, Shaun took baserunning to new levels with his blinding speed, and he used that speed and a great throwing arm to make stunning plays in the outfield on a regular basis.
Shaun was a key member of the first three European Champion GB Slowpitch Teams, and his home runs helped GB come back from the brink of defeat to win their third straight title in the Czech Republic in 2002. He was an impact player par excellence in both men's and co-ed slowpitch and he played briefly with the GB Men's Fastpitch Team as well.
Brett Gibbens emerged from a recreational slowpitch team in the late 1990s to become the pre-eminent power hitter in British softball for over a decade. Starting in the 2000 European Slowpitch Championships when he hit 16 over-the-fence home runs and drove in 43 runs in 10 games, Brett's power hitting led GB to six of its eight European titles. In the 2004 Europeans, Brett's batting won a tight final against Ireland almost single-handedly despite a painful arm injury. Brett also represented GB in two ISF World Cups, and in domestic softball, he helped three different A-grade teams to win National Championships.
Brett was among a small group of GB players who instigated the highly-successful GB Coaching Clinics that toured the country in the early 2000s, inspiring recreational players to higher achievements and helping the GB Team to uncover new talent.
Though an emotional player whose game could sometimes come unglued, Brett was also a courageous outfielder with one of the most powerful throwing arms in the sport. And when he was focused at the plate, it was almost impossible to get him out.
Brett Gibbens has been one of the most watchable and controversial players British softball has produced. But as an elite player at the top of the game, expecting the best and more from his teammates, he has been inspirational. The Babe Ruth of British softball has earned his place in the Hall of Fame.
Steph Jardine has been one of the best women slowpitch players in England since the early 1990s, a player who has maximised her skills through hard work and intelligence. But beyond her playing skills, Steph has always been the most vocal and visible of team leaders, an inspiration for her teams. She was at the heart of the Baker Tomkins team that won four national titles in the late 1990s and in the 2000 European Slowpitch Championships, she dominated the tournament, batting .688 (amazing for a female in slowpitch) and making the game-saving catch in the only game GB threatened to lose.
Steph has played for the GB Slowpitch Team in three different decades, one of only two players to do so, and has been equally effective as an outfielder, infielder and catcher. In her late 20s, Steph took up fastpitch, and against all odds became a regular starter and a fine defensive first base player on a steadily improving GB Women's Fastpitch Team until she left the programme in 2006.
Along with his brother Mark, Bruce Saunders started playing friendly games in Hyde Park with a team from The Economist. The following year, the team was invited to join the Ad League and the next year Bruce and Mark formed Leytonstoned Again and joined the GLSML. The team worked its way up from Division 6 to Division 1 and Bruce started to get noticed.
When trials were held for a first GB squad in 1996, Bruce initially tried out as a pitcher. But he decided to give the outfield a go and that's when his career took off as a quick, brave outfielder with a strong arm who could track down almost anything hit to his part of the field, and a slashing high-average line drive hitter with power. Bruce was selected for the first GB Team in 1998, and by 2000 had established himself as the starting right-centre fielder, where he was a key player in the 2000, 2002 and 2004 Europeans and the 2002 ISF World Cup. Having retired as an international player, Bruce became an Assistant Coach for the GB programme from 2005-2010 and coached the GB second team in the 2005 ISF World Cup.
Domestically, Bruce has played with Slammers since 1998 and led them to the National Championship in 2005 as a Player-Manager. He was also a key player for the Leytontestosteroned Again Men's Team, formed in 1999.
Laura was the most promising young player in the early GB youth fastpitch team programmes run by Natalie Fox, and as a 14-year-old held her own against some of the top teams and pitchers in the world at the 2001 ISF Under-16 World Cup in Plant City, Florida. At 17, Laura was selected for the GB Women's Team and has been a starting outfielder for the team ever since. She was the first GB-based player to play in the Dutch League and the first to play college softball in the US, where she won All-Conference honours in her last two years at Division II Eastern New Mexico University. She is probably the best female player that British softball has ever produced.
Certainly, no one in British softball has ever played the game with more grace and joy than Laura, and her ability to charge ground balls in the outfield and make quick and accurate throws, her surprising power at bat and her speed on the bases have always been trademarks. When a high-level London Cup tournament was held in the UK in 2006, Laura completely dominated the competition, hitting over .700 and winning the MVP Award. She led the GB Women in batting and on-base percentage over the World Cup and European Championships in 2011, going five-for-six at the World Cup against the US and Japan and making what was probably the best catch in the competition, a sprawling, diving grab at full stretch against Australia. Laura also played the key role at bat and in the field in GB's 2011 European Championship extra-inning win over Russia that led to World Championship qualification.
Laura will be by far the youngest member in the BSF Hall of Fame and her playing career isn't over, but her achievements to date unquestionably merit her inclusion.
GB Women's Team Head Coach Hayley Scott wrote: “I have had the privilege of knowing Laura Thompson for several years and she epitomises the characteristics of a GB athlete. She has always worked extremely hard, pushed herself beyond her limits and put her team's needs first. Laura is an amazingly talented player, she's speedy and knows and reads the game exceptionally well. Laura started as one the the youngest athletes in the GB Women's Team after playing in GB youth teams. It has been an honour to work with Laura and, as her coach, I am very proud of all she has accomplished and congratulate her on her addition to the Hall of Fame, a worthy achievement.”
Jes got involved in softball some 21 years ago at a works recreational day and enjoyed it immensely. He then found out there was a local league in Windsor and put in a team. As part of the entry requirements, the team was required to send someone for umpire training, and because Jes was running the team he volunteered to go on the course. And the rest is history.
The same year, Jes was asked to join the Windsor Committee as their representative on a new umpire association being put together by the London leagues.
From this, BASU was born. A few years after this, Jes became BASU Umpire-in-Chief, a position he has held ever since and to great effect. Or, as Jes says,” No one else has been stupid enough to volunteer!”
Jes has qualified at ESF level in both fastpitch and slowpitch and at ISF level in slowpitch, and has been ever-present as an umpire both in the UK and in Europe, where he travels in support of our fastpitch teams every year.
Jes Sandhu has remained committed over the years to the improvement of umpiring standards in the UK and has been a key component in the development of BASU as a professional organisation serving the softball community.
MAURICE "MO" BAKER
Mo Baker founded the Baker Tomkins Softball Team in the early 1990s and managed the team for almost 20 years until they disbanded after the 2012 National Championships. During the late 1990s and into the 2000s, BT was the pre-eminent A-grade team in British softball, winning four straight National Championships from 1998-2001, and competing in numerous other Nationa finals and semi-finals. Unlike many A-grade teams at the time and since, BT took the game seriously enough to practice and their dedication showed on the field, as a tight-knit group of players demonstrated superior teamwork and resilience.
Under Mo's leadership, BT was also one of the first A-grade teams to expand to a club structure, which at various times encompassed two A-grade co-ed teams, a rookie midweek team, men's and women's slowpitch teams and a women's and two junior fastpitch teams. The club's fastpitch teams, playing as the Monkeys, were instrumental in the development of many young players who went on to play for GB youth fastpitch teams and the GB Women's Team.
Mo also managed beyond his own club. He organised the England team that won the first Softball World Series and managed the GB Slowpitch Team to its first two European Championship gold medals.
Mo Baker has never shied away from expressing his opinions and getting involved in softball politics. But Baker Tomkins teams have always embodied the best traditions of British softball, playing the game the right way, nurturing new talent, and having fun.
PAUL RILEY AND DOUG CLOUSTON
Paul “Rocket” Riley formed Superchrome around 1988 or 1989 as a works softball team in the now-defunct London Design League. Doug Clouston joined the team shortly afterwards. The team's first-ever trophy was the Leukaemia Tournament Plate Trophy around 1990, but Paul and Doug, who took on the role of joint managers, were gradually building a team that could play at a higher level. The Chromies, as they soon came to be called, were frequent winners at Triple Crown tournaments that began in 1993. The team won the London Ad League title in 1994 and first played in the Ad League World Series in San Jose, California that same year.
Chromies won their first BSF National Championship in 1997 and has been at or near the top of A-grade softball ever since as an independent tournament team, playing in six of the last seven A-grade or Premier Nationals finals and winning five more national titles. They also won the NSL title in the tournament's first season and won the Diamond Series in 2010 and 2011.
When the European Slowpitch Cup began in 2007 in Paris, Chromies were the UK's first representative and won the tournament easily, adding further European Cups in 2010 in Slovenia and 2011 in Bulgaria, and finishing as the losing finalist in Pardubice in 2012.
Paul Riley has become a well respected global ambassador for the game. Many know him only as “Rocket”, the guy who is generally always seen with a beer and scorebook, bouncing off objects and people with his shoe laces undone! But Rocket is tremendously dedicated and has picked up Hall of Fame and Character of the Game awards while managing the London Mad Cows for over 11 years at the Advertising Softball World Series in America. As one Chromies player said, “Rocket is a guy with a massive heart, insight, knowledge and dedication to the sport. His passion for the game is unbelievable, his personality is infectious and he makes teammates listen and perform when they need to most.”
Complementing Rocket, Doug Clouston has never been afraid to make unpopular decisions to get the best from the team. He leads by force of personality, is fiercely competitive when the team is playing, but is unfailingly loyal and protective of his team.
Paul Riley and Doug Clouston have guided the Chromies through their highs and lows for more than 20 years, building formidable squads of players, generating great team loyalty and keeping the team focused on success. Along with Mo Baker of BT, also joining the Hall of Fame this year, they have been the most long-lived, long-suffering and most successful team managers in British softball history.
Geof has been heavily involved in both baseball and softball at a national and local level for over 15 years, including two years as BSF President and seven years as a member of BSUK's Board. He has also served as youth officer with the BSF, the LSF (London Softball Federation) and BSUK.
Geof founded the London Meteorites Youth Baseball/Softball Club in 1994, and was club director until 2005. During that time, the club ran a successful PlayBall! programme as well as youth baseball and softball teams in all age brackets. He was a founder member of the Rainbow Raiders Softball Club, and was the Manager for the GB Under-16 Girls' Fastpitch Team for its first overseas trip to Florida in 2001 for the ISF Junior World Cup.
Throughout his adult life, Geof has been actively involved in voluntary sector roles for various organisations and is currently a director of the Moneywise Credit Union and a welfare rights charity, both in Newcastle.
In his roles as BSF President, BSUK Board Member and BSUK Chair, Geof showed himself to be an exemplary and far-sighted administrator, and he has had a lasting impact on both baseball and softball in the UK. Geof was the driving force behind BSUK moving from an unincorporated association to a company limited by guarantee and during this process, he developed a functional BSUK Board with a sound committee structure.
Until he stepped down as BSUK Chair in November 2011, Geof's focus was on building BSUK into a sustainable concern with financial stability as the development and change agent working on behalf of the two NGBs. Over the past five years, he fully achieved this. The fact that BSUK's governance is held in such high regard by Sport England and others is a testament to Geof's work as BSUK Chair. And BSUK's achievements in meeting difficult funding targets has been a reflection of Geof's leadership and strategic skills.
Mike has been one of the most hard-working and capable administrators in British softball for almost as long as the sport has been organised in the UK. He was instrumental in the development of BASU into the capable and well-run organisation it has become and he has served BASU in the key roles of Umpire-in-Chief and Training Officer. Mike has also been a key figure on the BSF Executive for many years, currently as Treasurer, and he has always been a voice of reason and sanity. Along with Bob Fromer, Mike organised and ran the first European Slowpitch Championship at Brunel University in 1998. He was ESF President for six years and was one of the first people from Britain to achieve a major role on the ESF, where he brought a welcome stability to the organisation. Mike was also an ISF Vice-President during that time and he has been an umpire, TC and U-I-C at ESF tournaments for many years, and in 2013 was appointed as the ESF's Technical Director.
Mike has been a major figure among those who have fought for more democratic and transparent governance at the ISF (and has suffered at Don Porter's hands as a result). Mike's analysis of ISF finances presented at the ISF Congress in 2011 may actually now force the organisation to live within its means, which would be a major achievement.
Libby Moss has been a strong proponent of softball scoring in Great Britain for many years. A qualified scorer since her early days in Australia, Libby produced, single-handed, the statistics for the first (GB-hosted) European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship at Brunel University in 1998, before the use of computerised systems here. Over the years, she could be found behind many fastpitch backstops in Britain and around Europe, providing this essential support service.
After Women's Fastpitch Softball became an Olympic sport and the BSF decided to start its first serious national team programme, Libby was the Team Manager who worked with Head Coach Russ Snow to recruit and prepare the team that shocked the softball world by coming third in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Sydney. This team laid the foundations for the successful GB Women's Teams that have followed.
Libby was the first British softball administrator to join the European Softball Federation Executive (she served as Tournaments Officer) and after she relinquished this role she continued with her involvement in ESF Technical Commission work.
As well as retaining overall responsibility for issuing ESF Athlete Licenses, she still runs one or two ESF fastpitch events each season, with a particular involvement in men’s competitions.
Harry has been an active volunteer throughout the entire 20-year history of the Manchester Softball League (MSL). He has had a significant impact in several volunteer roles, and has been League Head since 2009, during which time the league was awarded the League Glover Cup by the British Softball Federation for progressive development. Harry has been a popular leader of the rapidly growing league.
In addition to his role as League Head, Harry collates statistics from every game and makes them available online within hours, a service hugely appreciated by players within the league. Another of Harry's contributions is the weekly production of the MSL publication "Bases Loaded", formerly known as the MSL Review. This high-quality publication is used in a variety of ways to celebrate league success, improve players' game knowledge and most importantly to promote a community feeling within the MSL.
Harry also played a key role in securing funding and overseeing the construction of the first purpose-built softball diamond in the North of England at Parrs Wood School and Sports Centre in Didsbury. The diamond, which has a dirt infield and permanent outfield fence, has played a key role in attracting new players to the MSL, and the GB Slowpitch Team is planning to hold training sessions on the field. Few volunteers in British softball have worked as hard or done as much over such a long period of time as Harry Somers, and his recent selection as an Olympic Torch Bearer is a well-earned reward.