Opening up the BSF Hall of Fame

23
Feb

Bob Fromer

The British Softball Federation inducted 14 new members into its Hall of Fame during the BSF AGM on February 18 – and 12 of them are still active in the sport, still doing what they were inducted for.

On the face of it, that seems odd.  Halls of Fame are usually a repository for people who have retired from whatever they were doing, and induction is a celebration of their career.  In Major League Baseball, which runs the archetypal sports Hall of Fame, players and those in other categories can only be proposed for consideration five years after they have stopped playing or managing or broadcasting or whatever it was they did.

Nevertheless, the BSF made a sensible decision when they recently relaxed the criteria for the British Softball Hall of Fame so that the sport could celebrate its present as well as its past.

When the BSF started planning its Hall of Fame in 2006, with the first members inducted in 2007, no one could be considered for inclusion unless they had been “retired” for at least a couple of years from whatever category they were being nominated for.  Early in 2011, the BSF reduced this to one year.  But by that time, organised softball in the UK was already more than 20 years old and there were very few who could remember much about the sport's Pleistocene era.

So many of the 12 people inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, and the nine more who joined them in 2010, were people from the sport's earliest days that the majority of the current softball community had never heard of. 

Meanwhile, many who clearly deserved election to the Hall were barred from consideration because their careers were not yet over, and for that reason, appeals to the community for nominations produced very sparse results.

So late last year, the BSF looked at their criteria again, and decided that people could be considered for the Hall of Fame if they had been retired for at least a year or – and this was the crucial bit – they had been active in the category for which they were being nominated for more than 10 years.  In other words, long enough so their achievements could be judged over time.

This is what led to the relative flood of nominations this year, with people entering the Hall of Fame that the current community knows and can appreciate.

It may seem strange that one of those inducted this year, GB Women's Fastpitch Team outfielder Laura Thompson, is still only 26 years old.  But Laura began to emerge as an exceptional player at the age of 14 at an ISF Junior World Cup event in the United States, and has since gone on to outstanding achievements with GB youth teams, in US college softball and with the GB Women's Team.  A starting player for the GB Women since the age of 17, Laura led the team in both batting average and on-base percentage at the World Cup and European Championships last summer, to go with her outstanding baserunning and defensive play.  This is a player worthy of celebration, even though there is hopefully much more still to come.

Equally, it's good to be able to highlight the achievements of some of the best British slowpitch players of their generation, such as Steph Jardine, Brett Gibbens and Bruce Saunders, while they are still playing and still contributing their skills and knowledge to the game.

The same goes for high-profile, long-serving and successful team managers such as “Mo” Baker, “Rocket” Riley and Doug Clouston, umpires such as Jes Sandhu, who seems to have been standing quietly behind the plate forever, and administrators such as Mike Jennings, Libby Moss, Harry Somers and Bob Fromer, who are still supporting the sport, as well as Geof Ellingham, only a few months retired as BSUK Chair.

The induction of all these people to the Hall of Fame on February 18 has made both the institution and the honour suddenly seem more relevant, more connected to those playing, coaching, umpiring, developing and administering the sport today.

The BSF is to be congratulated on an excellent and far-sighted decision.

tagged under: softball, bsf, awards, hall of fame

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About Bob Fromer

Bob Fromer

Bob was the founding CEO of BSUK and now works for the agency as a Communications Consultant. In a volunteer capacity, he was General Manager of the GB Fastpitch National Teams programme for many years, a former Team Manager for the GB Women and GB Under-19 Women and still serves on the GB Softball Management Committee. Bob has been involved with slowpitch and fastpitch softball in Britain since the sport’s earliest days, and travels abroad with many GB Softball Teams to report on their achievements for the BSF website.

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