UK’s First Baseball and Softball complex opened in Farnham Park

Fri 26 Jul 2013

On Saturday 20 July, Farnham Park Sport Grounds hosted the Opening Ceremony of the UK's first baseball and softball complex.  The event was a celebration for keen enthusiasts of the sport and local residents alike, who were treated to a spectacle. The GB Lions took on the National Baseball League All-Stars, the GB Fastpitch teams were in action and the Japanese club Godzillas took on the Guernsey Men's Slowpitch national team.

To a crowd of over 500 people, TV / Radio personality Colin Murray declared the facility open with the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game to gathering of enthusiastic players, domestic and international VIPs and local residents (a video of which is below). He introduced the Chairman of South Bucks District Council, Santokh Chhokar, who welcomed baseball and softball to the area, with his colleague and friend, the Mayor of Slough, Balvinder Bains. “By working closely in partnership with BaseballSoftballUK we shall endeavour to continue to build strong links with the local community and local schools and encourage everyone to take part in this exciting family sport.”, said the Chairman. 

In his opening address, BSUK's Chair, John Walmsley, looked forward to a bright future for the sports here. “This is a sporting landmark; our very own ‘field of dreams’ in England’s green and pleasant land. Farnham Park will serve this local community in South Bucks for many years to come, allowing children to grow into adults on these fields, and mature from rookies in to seasoned players, into coaches and managers. We will invite the rest of Europe and the rest of the world to play baseball and softball here.”

Following the speeches, Sport England's Rosie Benson was invited to lay the ceremonial first base on the field and, after the teams were announced, ceremonial first pitches were thrown out by the European Baseball Federation's (CEB) René Laforce and Wickes Homestores's Stuart Bentley.

The facility was built by BaseballSoftballUK in partnership with Sport England, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and South Bucks District Council.  Wickes Homestores, who partner with BaseballSoftballUK to run one of the UK's largest softball leagues for it's staff, donated materials to the site. “We are extremely grateful to all of our partners for buying into our vision for this facility. Without you, this would not have come about.”, said Walmsley. 

Baseball and softball, with wrestling and squash, are on the short list of sports for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games, having been removed from the London Games just days after London was announced as host city. The day referenced what could have been for the sports – a lost opportunity for the sports to be showcased here – and looked forward to the Play Ball 2020 campaign to be a part once again of the Olympic Games. “We hope to see the sports back on the Olympic programme from 2020, and look forward to seeing the selection of the 2020 host city later this year. The lack of inclusion in London 2012 does not exclude us from the broader sporting legacy and we can and we must capitalise upon that.”, said Walmsley. “And we will do this by ensuring that this facility is the catalyst for new and exciting opportunities for people who have not yet played our sports across South Bucks and the local area."
 

Feedback

Earl Dix, BBF President and BSUK Board Member
Yesterday was absolutely brilliant - thanks to John Boyd, Jenny Fromer and all BSUK/BBF/BSF workers and volunteers who made the day possible. I'm humbled to be in their presence. Everyone I spoke to yesterday, from all over the baseball/softball world, had nothing but the highest praise for the facilities. I am sure that Farnham Park will be a catalyst for ensuring that both our sports will become an established part of the British sporting landscape.

Alma Neville, former BSF President
To those who have worked towards this (decades for some) I salute and applaud you. Very sorry I can't attend. Have a wonderful day.

Rob Rance, BBF Board Member
Lost count the number of times I stood looking at the field having to remind myself I was actually in the UK! Opening day just the start, lets keep building from here!

Vicky Hall, BSF Board Member
Brilliant Opening Day at Farnham Park!  Lovely atmosphere and a special day to remember.  Thank you to you and all at BSUK for all your hard work to put on the event!

Tanya Cramman, mother of one of the GB Lions and volunteer
What a great day today at Farnham Park! Everyone involved, concerned or indeed attending should feel very proud of the milestone that was achieved today and the legacy for the future.  An amazing day that I know some of us thought would never happen!

Marty Cullen, BBF Board Member
When I drove up to the complex for the first time on Friday... I literally couldn't believe my eyes.  It is without doubt, the best thing to happen to British Baseball in a very long time. Farnham Park is, in a word....phenomenal. It was an absolute honour to be a part of the opening ceremony. Thank you for considering me.  The guys I brought were like kids stepping onto a diamond for the first time. Thanks again for everything.
 

Videos

For those of you who didn't make it or even for those who did and who'd like to be reminded, here are some videos taken from the stands, courtesy of softballer and work day volunteer, Mike Pass.

Ceremonial laying of the first base

First Pitch and 'Let's Play Ball' announcement

Announcing the Teams

Some footage from the GB Lions v NBL All-Stars
 

Further Information

Farnham Park is the culmination of three years hard work by BaseballSoftballUK with funding and support from Sport England and Major League Baseball’s ‘Baseball Tomorrow Fund’. The facility has a full size international standard baseball field and three softball/youth baseball fields and will play host to domestic league and tournament play, community use and, eventually, international events.

Formed in 2000, BaseballSoftballUK Ltd is the development agency for the British Baseball and British Softball Federations. Its vision is for the sports to be Played in Every Park and it will achieve this through an increase in participation in the sports. BaseballSoftballUK is primarily funded by Sport England, Lottery and Exchequer funds.

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