Baseball and softball flourishing in the East Midlands

Wed 12 Nov 2014

Baseball and softball are growing in the East Midlands thanks to a new year-round baseball development league in Nottingham, a new baseball club in Derby, record numbers of members joining the baseball and softball club at the University of Loughborough and a new baseball and softball diamond at the University of Nottingham.

New baseball league

The Nottingham Rebels Baseball Club, led by Shannon Henry and the club's Committee, has launched an ambitious programme to grow both adult and youth baseball in the area through a local adult league that could eventually have up to 12 teams.

The Notts All-Star Baseball League (NASBL) has begun play this autumn, using the Rebels' home ground at Bulwell Hall Park in Nottingham as a central venue and with the aim of providing opportunities for more people to play quality baseball in the East Midlands.  The league is open to everyone from beginners to more experienced players.

More teams are expected to enter the league over the coming weeks and months, building the sport back to where it was in the area in the mid-1980s.

BSUK's Midlands Development Manager Tom Mapp said: “The Rebels are doing a great job in trying to get more people either back into the game or giving it a go for the first time.  The new league is a great opportunity for new and emerging clubs to ‘cut their teeth’ in a development league before they decide to make the step into the BBF league system.”

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Meanwhile, the Nottingham Rebels are also breathing life into a new youth development programme, and have started by creating a team of brand new coaches.  Training took place over the summer, with the aim of developing a youth team over the next 12 months that can begin to play competitively against other local youth teams.

New baseball club

Meanwhile, the Long Eaton Storm from Derby have now established themselves as the Midlands' newest baseball club.  The team will be playing in the Nottingham Rebels All-Star Baseball League through the current off-season and next summer, with a view to entering the BBF league structure in 2016.

The new Long Eaton team is the start of baseball establishing itself once again in Derby after years in the wilderness.  The club has secured a venue for a home field, and is just about to start a winter recruitment drive.  There has already been local interest and, working alongside BSUK, the club has planned a number of funding applications and hopes to start work on their own diamond over the winter.

BSUK Midlands Development Manager Tom Mapp said: “This is great news for the sport, the county and the development of baseball in the Midlands.  The club is in a great position to go on and do great things for baseball in Derby.”

Record numbers at Loughborough

The University of Loughborough's Softball and Baseball Club, established in September 2013, has seen membership soar to nearly 50 people in its first year of existence. 

Earlier this year, the University agreed to grant the club Athletic Union status, which opens the door to a great deal of support from one of the best and most revered Higher Education sport offers in the UK.

After taking two teams and over 35 players to BSUK's National University Softball Championships in October, the club is now committed to both the East Midlands Indoor Softball League and the Nottingham Rebels' All-Star Baseball League over the winter.  This will give club members a chance to sample both formats as well as offering them high-quality competitive opportunities.

Softball is now also on the Loughborough University Intra-Mural Sport (IMS) programme.  In its debut as an IMS sport in Spring 2014, over 160 players competed in a highly competitive inter-hall programme over an eight-week period. This has allowed the club to recruit and develop players from the IMS programme, which is producing a steady stream of talented, enthusiastic and committed members.

Dawn Cooper, Active Universities Project Coordinator, said: “The introduction of softball into the Loughborough sport experience has been a positive one.  Starting with fun turn-up-and-play sessions, we were able to test the market and we had a great response, which led to the development of 16 teams from our Halls of Residence playing in a weekly league.  In order to support this activity and develop more competitive opportunities, we worked with BSUK and our Student Union to develop a student-led club and we put a number of students through coaching and officiating qualifications.  We now have 48 members in the club and 160 people playing in the inter-hall programme.”

Tom Mapp, BSUK Development Manager for the Midlands, said: “The key to this programme was getting the right people in the right place.  Higher Education sports needs to be run by students and for students, with the National Governing Body offering help and support throughout the process.  The programme has been led by some fantastic, committed students who just want the game to develop.  With this student-led philosophy, I think we have the programme 100% right as it stands.”

New diamond at Nottingham

Finally, the University of Nottingham has built a brand new baseball/softball diamond at its updated sports facility known as the Riverside Sports Complex.  The diamond will be in use from next season and will go a long way to securing the future of baseball and softball at the university.

Separate baseball and softball clubs have been in existence at the University of Nottingham for about six years, but during the 2013-14 academic year, BSUK worked with the clubs and the university's Athletic Union to combine them under a single structure.

This will enable the two sports to work together and will allow players to experience both formats.

The combined club is hoping to receive a Sportivate grant before the end of 2014 to help with equipment and coaching, which should strengthen the membership base for the coming years.

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