What does it mean to play for Great Britain?

15
Jun

Jonathon Cramman

In the past, this blog column has been used primarily for BaseballSoftballUK staff members to express personal views on their work or on baseball and softball topics.  But we are now expanding the column to include blog pieces by members of the baseball and softball communities.

 

I’ve always believed that being chosen to represent your country, for any reason and at any level, is the biggest honour someone can be given.  Every time I have been fortunate enough to pull on the jersey I have been extremely aware of how many people I’m representing -- even if only a tiny fraction of them know I’m doing it.

My first involvement in our national team set-up came in 2002.  I had been playing for three years and was brought along to a training session at the old Upper Heyford facility in Oxfordshire.  I practised with the team all winter but when selection time for the squad came round I had been cut.  Being 11 years old and watching all your buddies going off to Prague together to compete against Europe’s best was very tough to take, but it gave me motivation which I still carry to this day to make sure it never happened again.  Being a member of the national team, even as a player who was not picked, taught me life lessons as a young man that I will one day teach my children.


Luck or merit?

There are two things I hear over and over again from people when they find out that you play for GB, the first being: “you’re so lucky”.  But this is not the case.  We as a group are fortunate to be given opportunities to travel the world and compete, but individually we are there on merit.  No coach gives away places on a national team; it takes a lot of work, over a lot of years, to get selected.

The second thing I hear is: “you must make a lot of sacrifices”.  But I can honestly say, after 13 years and my mother spending the value of a university degree on my national team endeavours, that I have never had to make what I would construe as a sacrifice.  I have chosen to not go to the parties, to not have the holidays, to use my free time at the field instead of doing what most 24-year-old men do in a city like London.  The pride that I feel, the emotion, when the national anthem plays before a game is unlike anything else in the world for me.  There is no party, holiday, late night or lazy afternoon that can compare to that 30 seconds of God Save the Queen before a game.

I was born in the Homerton Hospital in Hackney in 1991.  I was a perfectly happy and healthy baby apart from the fact that I had severe clubfoot in my right foot.  The foot was at a 90-degree angle to the other one, completely bent in.  After nine months of massage therapy, surgery and a pretty impressive 12-inch scar on my inner foot and Achilles tendon, I was able to walk correctly.  The consultant who performed the surgery was extremely pleased, but informed my mum that it was highly unlikely that I would be able to run or compete in sport.

As I grew up, my mum made as little fuss about it as possible and let me play like a normal child.  I found baseball at eight years old and after an hour of my first practice I remember thinking: “My foot doesn’t hurt when I do this!”  That condition makes being a member of Team GB even sweeter for me.  It makes the pride more intense, the commitment stronger.

Three debuts

In my head I have made my debut for Britain three times. 

The first was as a 12-year-old playing for Andy Simmons, who sadly passed away in 2008, in the Juvenile European Championships against Lithuania in Moscow, Russia.  I remember it like it was this morning.  I came up with runners on second and third and one out.  We were down by two.  I was so nervous that after the first pitch I called time and walked over to the third base coach to calm down.  He asked if I was ok and when I stuck my hand out it was shaking furiously.  I managed to keep my breakfast down and hit a sac fly to centre field which made it a one-run game.  We lost in the end, it was devastating, but it taught me a great lesson.  It made me realise that you must enjoy the moment, be in the moment, because the moment will be gone a lot quicker than we think it will.

My second “debut” was the first time I played for the Senior National team at the European B Pool Qualifier in Zürich, Switzerland in 2013.  I started the fourth game of our tournament against Slovenia.  I reached base three times and got a hit, and I felt incredible.  We went on to win the tournament unbeaten.  It was a fairy-tale week for me.

That brings me to the third “debut”.  That was last September at the European A Pool Championships that were held in Germany and the Czech Republic.  I went into that tournament hoping for pinch-hit appearances, to pinch run, be a defensive replacement, do whatever I could do to grab scraps of playing time.  Our first game was against Sweden and my name was on the line-up card.  Jonathon Cramman, batting eighth, playing first base.  It was surreal; I stood transfixed for what seemed like hours staring at it.  After all of the years, and all the coaches who had taught me their tidbits of wisdom, after the incredible effort and energy shown by my mum and godfather, after all the missed parties, lack of holidays, missed opportunities, I could finally say for the rest of my life that I represented my country in a European Championship.  We won 7-1, I had an RBI and reached base three times.  It was the best feeling I have ever experienced.

When BSUK asked me if I wanted to write a blog for their website, I jumped at the chance.  The only thing I love more than playing ball is talking about it.  I feel like the gap between the national teams and the majority of people playing baseball and softball in this country is too big.  We are here, we work really hard and would love to have everyone bought in and cheering us on.  We are going to do everything in our power to win.

That’s what it means to me to play for Great Britain.

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About Jonathon Cramman

Jonathon Cramman is a 24-year-old Londoner who has been a part of the London Mets organisation since 1999 and the British National Team programme since 2002.  He is a four-time British national champion and has represented Great Britain at senior level in two tournaments.  He remains a member of the London Mets NBL team and hopes to be selected to play in the European Championships in Holland in 2016.

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