Look how far we’ve come!
Will Zucker -- a product of Herts Baseball Club and a graduate of the HPA programme who played for the Great Britain Baseball U18 team in 2014 and 2015 -- led Durham University to its first-ever National University Baseball Championship on the weekend of 8-9 October. The programme at Durham was started with support from BSUK staff just eight months ago.
Let me say that again -- a product of our programmes (club and Talent) started a university baseball club just eight months ago and the university has just won the National University Baseball Championship!
On the drive back from Farnham Park after the weekend, I reflected on having seen both the National University Baseball Championship and tryouts for the HPA and Great Britain Baseball. This led me to consider some of the things we have achieved over the past few years and the impact that BSUK staff and the organisation has made. My conclusion: our impact has been absolutely astounding in so many areas!
Above is a picture from the very first baseball High Performance Academy practice held in January 2014. From left to right (leaving me aside):
Harry O'Brien – Was on the U18 GB European Championship roster.
Jordan Edmonds -- Just finished playing college baseball in Canada, will be playing in Australia this winter and played for Great Britain in both the European Championship and World Baseball Classic team this past September.
Joe Taylor -- Attending Bath University.
Angus Cowell -- Playing club baseball with Brighton.
Alan Dean -- Head Sport Scientist for GB Baseball and now running his own physio and athletic training service.
Callum Vinall -- Played semi-professional baseball in Germany this past summer, was the bullpen catcher for GB Baseball at the European Championship in September and umpired at the National University Baseball Championship.
Miguel Rodriguez -- One of the team captains on the U18 GB European Championship roster this summer and played for UCL at the NUBCs.
Jacob Dean -- Currently attending Loughborough University, where he was awarded international colours for being selected to play for GB Baseball. Played in the European Championship this September and pitched in the final of the NUBCs for Loughborough.
George Blaskett – Attended university in the US and has previously played for both GB Baseball and GB Softball.
Anna Hopcroft -- S&C coach.
Not pictured are Carlos Casal, Dan Parker, Rheese Johnson and Amane Sobue.
Carlos Casal -- Currently at Loughborough University with Jacob Dean and is a product of Herts Baseball Club as well as graduating from the HPA Baseball programme in 2016. Carlos was one of the team captains on the U18 GB European Championship roster this summer.
Dan Parker -- A former Academy Baseball member who is playing professional Rugby League and played for Leeds Carnegie as a Masters student.
Rheese Johnson -- A former Academy Baseball member who started the Leeds Carnegie baseball programme and has now started the Leeds White Sox Baseball Club.
Amane Sobue -- A former Academy Baseball member who was on the Durham University National University Baseball Championship-winning team with Will Zucker.
When looking at softball, the impact of our programming is just as if not even more impressive. GB Softball won its first-ever fastpitch gold medal this summer following an amazing performance by the Great Britain Under-19 Women's Fastpitch Team -- a team that was coached and mentored for many years by Liz Knight and featured six members of the HPA programme:
*Received SportsAid grants in 2016.
It's amazing to see how in just two-and-a-half short years, the HPA programme, which is a small section of our Talent work and an even smaller part of everything we do, has had such a profound impact on our sports. However, what's even more impressive are some of the grass roots programmes that came before it, such as:
Bracknell Baseball Club running taster sessions that introduced Sian and her sister Chloe Wigington to the sports before they transitioned to fastpitch softball.
London Mets and Herts Baseball clubs providing local playing opportunities for Laura Hirai and Marianna Casal.
Great Britain Baseball player Raef Hobbs-Brown making visits to Horsham in 2004 and 2005 where he ran a session where Callum Vinall, Jacob Dean and Jordan Edmonds all had their first taste of baseball.
As I mentioned above, it is astounding to see the progress we have made. It is amazing to be running tryouts at Farnham Park when just five years ago we were still at Upper Heyford. And it is inspiring to think that the boys and girls playing now in our community programmes could be the next Sian, Laura, Chelsie, Jacob, Jordan or Will Zucker. Those young people will be the leaders of tomorrow.
So thank you to everyone involved in making this company and these sports better today than they were yesterday. And I leave you with this question: what action are you taking today that will impact the sports and this organisation in 8-10 years’ time?