Mid-week league softball returns to Birmingham
Tue 19 Jun 2012
A new Birmingham Softball League (BSL) will be launched on Thursday June 21.
The league will be run for six weeks in an intra-club format, with support from BaseballSoftballUK, and the teams will be made up of new and existing members of the Birmingham Bobcats Softball Club. Games will be played at Hallfield School.
The new Birmingham Softball League is a serious attempt to return softball in Birmingham to its former heights.
During the 1990s, there was a thriving softball league (predominantly corporate) in and around the city, known as the West Midlands Softball League, with as many as 22 teams. But the league declined over the years, to the point where only 11 players and one team was left.
At that point, the Birmingham Bobcats Softball Club was established to help revitalise the West Midlands Softball League. After all, how could England's second city not have its own softball league?
A group of committed volunteers, with the support of BSUK's Midlands Development Manager Will Lintern, set about raising the profile of the Bobcats. A committee was formed, a new venue was negotiated, a coaching structure was established and the website was revamped. Word soon spread that the Bobcats were on the rise and the club began attracting new members.
By the end of 2011, the Bobcats were not only familiar faces at national tournaments but they had also co-organised two tournaments (one of which was in the Netherlands!), run a successful Softball for Beginners course with support from Sportivate and the Birmingham Sport and Physical Activity Partnership, maintained a popular blog, held training sessions for local youth groups and won the BSUK video competition.
Through all this, the club grew substantially in terms of both membership and popularity. This run of success in 2011 was recognised by the British Softball Federation, who awarded the Bobcats with the BSF President’s Club Award at the 2012 AGM.
However, entering the 2012 season, the Bobcats were presented with a problem they had not previously encountered – playing time for members. With just over 30 club members, the one-team club could not provide the amount of playing opportunities that everyone wanted or needed and there were several calls from members to play more games and provide more time on the field.
The club responded by entering more tournaments domestically and organising a second “Tourcats” trip to Germany, but it was the decision to relaunch a mid-week league that really got people excited.
Following development discussions with BSUK over the winter, the Bobcats' committee voted in favour of starting a trial six-week development league to gauge the level of interest and test the feasibility of running a mid-week league in Birmingham.
In its first year, the league will be an extension of the Bobcats club, where all club members are put into a single pool of players to be drafted into four intra-club teams. Each team – the Minotaurs, Roosters, Weasels and Hammerheads (with a new logo designed by Jim Kent) – will be captained by two of the more experienced Bobcats players and coaches.
Open league play will take place over the first five weeks from June 21 through July 19, with semi-finals and final on July 26. As the league's focus will be on fun and development rather than being a fully-fledged BSF league, umpiring and scoring will be handled by the captains and this will hopefully encourage other club members to take up roles that might otherwise seem daunting in an official league or tournament competition.
If the current level of Facebook activity is anything to go by, then the new league is creating a lot of excitement among Bobcats' club members. On the evening of Monday, June 18,, the eight captains (two per team) drafted from a pool of 47 players to determine who will be on each of the teams. The results of the draft can be found on the Birmingham Bobcats Facebook page.
Players who missed the draft can still get involved and anyone who is not currently a Birmingham Bobcats club member can join the league for a fee of £30. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the completion of the six-week Birmingham Softball League, the Bobcats plan to run another Softball 4 Beginners course, this time open to both male and female participants (the previous course was open to women only).
And should the league be successful, then a Fall League is already being considered.
BSUK Midlands Development Manager Will Lintern said: “I'm really excited by what is happening in Birmingham. The volunteers at the Birmingham Bobcats Club have really pulled together and made their vision a reality. Twelve months ago, who would have believed there would be a mid-league in Birmingham … but the Bobcats did. Now, following the success of Softball 4 Beginners and great work done by the marketing and promotions team, we are ready to re-launch mid-week softball in the Second City.”