BSUK Club Spotlight: The Urmston Rippers

Mon 2 Oct 2017

In the second of BSUK’s Spotlight Series, we take a look at the Urmston Rippers, who are taking the Manchester softball scene by storm in more ways than one…

“We like to be a bit off the wall,” Alan Bruce tells me.  He’s Chair of the Urmston Rippers Softball Club, and over the course of the interview, I discover that he’s not underselling this opening gambit.

Urmston, about six miles southwest of Manchester city centre, has been a town since medieval times.  It’s famous for the actor Matthew Kelly and for once playing host to a Beatles concert where the band had to be smuggled into the venue in the back of a van (a hard day’s night indeed).  Today it forms one of the major urban centres of Greater Manchester and since 2015 has had its very own softball club, the Urmston Rippers.

As with any growing club, having facilities to match your ambition is a must, and the Rippers can boast two diamonds at the local Urmston Sports Club, equipped with changing facilities and batting nets alongside a bar and function room.

However, it wasn’t always this way.  In the beginning, the newly-formed Rippers met on a school playing field once a week as they learned the basics of softball.  Thanks to a lot of support in terms of both equipment and coaching from BSUK’s North West Development Manager Luis Arrevillagas and Coach Linni Mitchell, the Rippers made their debut in the 2015 Winter Indoor Softball League and over-performed, finishing a very creditable fourth.

Having taken part in that initial Indoor League season with just 10 players, the Rippers’ ranks have swelled since, with over 40 rostered players spread across three teams, each with a distinctly ‘Ripper’ feel: the Urmston Strippers, the Tugboat Skippers and the Chicken Dippers.

The inventive monikers continue when the club sends teams to tournaments, with names such as the “Whispering Hobos” and “Dangerous Tractors”, amongst others, having turned up on tournament entry lists in recent years.

Beyond the amusing names is a sense of fun that permeates the entire club.  The annual tournament the Rippers now host, the ‘Lagerball’, has become very popular by offering skills contests, unusual prizes and a BBQ along with the softball.

As is the Rippers’ M.O., teams entering the Lagerball have to name themselves within a theme, this year’s being 80s television presenters and murder weapons.  The results were as off the wall as you’d expect: Anneka Rice’s Explosive Devices, Terry Nutkins and his Acid-Filled Dustbins, Michaela Strachan’s Deadly Passions, Bernard Cribbins’s Knife-Wielding Gibbons – the list goes on.

BSUK has been central to the Rippers’ development, something Bruce openly celebrates. 

“We have a very good relationship with Linni and Luis from BSUK,” Bruce said.  “We have received a lot of support, advice, assistance and coaching and we would probably not be where we are today without their help.  And Linni also runs the Key Stage 2 youth team, the Rippers Nippers.”

While Bruce certainly has a lot on his plate, the club isn’t just a one-man show, and Bruce relies heavily on the club’s committee, especially Dave Warren, the vice-chair, who acts as Treasurer as well as Manager for the Division 5 team.

As thoughts turn to the future, it’s clear that Bruce has his bases covered. 

“Due to our ethos, we keep growing and we have a good retention policy.  We welcome people of every race, faith and ability and we ensure everyone enjoys themselves.  Winning is secondary to the enjoyment of softball and our aim is to bring this enjoyment to more people,” he tells me.

“I can honestly see us with three teams in the Manchester Softball League next season.  We’re the fastest growing club in the MSL and we’re not stopping now!”

Off the wall indeed….

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