Stourbridge Titans crowned 2012 Midlands Minor League Champions
Tue 2 Oct 2012
The Stourbridge Titans, in their inaugural year, became the 2012 Midlands Minor League (MML) Champions on Sunday, 29 September by winning the first-ever MML Tournament at Western Park in Leicester. Stourbridge defeated the Milton Keynes Bucks' second team 9-1 in the tournament final after besting the Nottingham Rebels' second team in the semi-final.
Stourbridge Head Coach Shaun Healy said: “It was fitting that we started and finished our season at Western Park, and it was clear today that we have made some significant improvements since our first outing in the Leicester Spring League back in March. This victory is a reward for all the hard work our rookies have put in this year.”
The MML started out as a development concept put forward by BSUK's Midlands Development Manager Will Lintern, with MML games organised on the same day as BBF Midlands AA Games so that coaches and more experienced players could support, mentor and coach the developing talent.
“The idea was to provide a competitive environment where clubs could develop new players or train experienced players at new positions,” Will said, “without the pressures and financial commitments of running a fully-fledged BBF-affiliated league. Hopefully, the MML format would allow a club like Stourbridge the opportunity to play ball at their competitive level, while also helping established organisations like Nottingham and Milton Keynes to grow second teams.”
However, it was the Midlands clubs who took the idea one step further and proposed an end-of-season tournament to determine the MML Champions.
Tournament and clinic
With support from BSUK, Giovanni Ciotti of the Leicester Blue Sox coordinated the end-of-season event. As with the MML season, the purpose of the day was development, and some adjustments were made to the format of the games to ensure quick play and and as many at-bats and pitching opportunities for all teams as possible.
Games were limited to three innings, with a maximum of 10 runs scored per inning (except the last inning, which was open) and all batters started with a 1-1 count (except in the final where batters started with a 0-0 count). This led to some very well-paced baseball and an experience enjoyed by all.
And the day was not all about playing. In partnership with BSUK, BBF Officials Commissioner Rob Rance had arranged for Darrin Mueller and Petter Nordwall to travel to Leicester to not only umpire the tournament but also run umpire clinics for the Midlands teams. Darrin and Petter, who are typically found behind the plate at NBL games, were a welcome addition to the tournament as their experience and expertise brought a level of authority and authenticity to the games.
Between umpiring the main events, Darrin and Petter ran clinics on a make-shift diamond as well as mentoring aspiring umpires on the field of play.
Plans for 2013
2012 has been an incredibly successful year for Midlands Baseball, with National Championships being won by Nottingham and Leicester (AA and A respectively) and a total of four new adult teams competing in the MML, plus the rebirth of youth baseball with the Leicester Youth Baseball Festival. [http://www.britishbaseball.org/news_article/show/175836?referrer_id=271910]
And while the final out at the MML tournament meant the end of the baseball season in the Midlands for many players, coaches and fans, plans are already under way for 2013.
The Leicester Blue Sox are already making plans for an expanded Spring League. Midlands team managers are planning to restart winter meetings, with talks about expanding the Midlands League and the future of the MML.
Tournament organiser and BBF Midlands Representative Giovanni Ciotti said: “The Midlands Minor League Championships not only celebrated a season of real progress for baseball in the Midlands region, but also consolidated that progress and set the table for continued growth in 2013. With newer players of all ages taking part in a competitive baseball tournament alongside a high-quality umpiring clinic, the MML tournament was a very positive experience – educational, worthwhile, and good fun!”