READ: They Might Be Giants

14
Oct
2020

Chris Knoblock

The Telford Giants, one of the newest teams in the UK, made their debut this season in the West Midlands Baseball League (WMBL) - and only went and won the whole thing! BaseballSoftballUK's Chris Knoblock spoke with Club Chair Tom Rochester about the team's history, development and what comes next in Giant country.

CK: Talk about how the club got started, and how things were going until COVID?

TR: The club was started by Liam Sneade and Dale Carter, players living in Telford who were travelling to play at Wolverhampton. Liam put a call out to see who was up for a catch in Telford back in September 2019, and a handful of us turned up. Just three of us had played before. It was small but the catalyst we needed.

We slowly pieced together a plan, recruiting primarily through Facebook and got a great response – more than fifty people got in touch, way more than we expected for training in January! We scheduled our first indoor training session and worked towards that day, continually developing, recruiting, collecting equipment where we could and planning the future of the team. We turned up to session one and there were 27 people there, ranging from fresh faced first-timers to lapsed players returning. We trained successfully for 9 weeks and sensed we had a competitive team. Then, a few weeks before the season started, the rug was pulled out from under everyone’s feet and lockdown began.

CK: How did COVID impact your season?

TR: It totally derailed our season and training, of course, as I’m sure it affected everyone badly. I had to make the call to stop training before we were told to, as it didn’t feel right to continue and we were unaware of all the details about the virus, which made it scarier. I remember sitting at home in a house stacked with brand new uniforms with the world on fire and had that dreaded feeling of failure; wondering if we would get back on track, if these jerseys would ever leave their packets. It seems crazy looking back, I should have had more faith. We hung on for the BSUK ‘Return to Play’ guidelines to be released and moved on them immediately. Everyone returned, all the same faces. It was such a relief to finally get out on to the grass and we suddenly felt like a real team. We returned to play on the 9th August which gave us just enough time for six regular season games with two games of playoffs. The West Midland Baseball League season was anyone’s to win!

CK: The Giants went from not existing to winning the WMBL in their inaugural year – can you describe the season and this journey?

TR: We were extremely lucky with the talent found in Telford. We created a good, stable environment for people to stick around in, but many were good players when they arrived. We still didn’t know exactly how competitive we were, until our first game and even then, we had a very shaky start. When the bats started up though, we hit our way out of trouble. We could hit and hit with power - it was great. We thought it was awesome we had the only female catcher in the league, who did a great job out there. It also quickly became obvious we were the loudest and most supported club out there! As the season went on, that family backbone to the club, of everyone’s partners and kids being there and joining in, I think it helped us. It relaxed us and took away the pressure. It [the score] didn’t matter because we were having really good days out with friends. It fed our confidence and as it happened, the wins kept coming for us.

A great highlight was our shortstop Gilberto hitting a grand slam in a game mid-season. It was one of those baseball moments that makes you love the game. The emotion shown then galvanized our club. We trusted each other to do our best and know that’s all we expected from one another. Never any pressure or blame, just ‘go’ be a Giant, no apologies. My eyes got bigger as the season went on and we eventually had won five of six games on the season. The games had been very competitive, but it felt like on a good day we could beat anyone. So, we just hoped for a good day and in the end we got one.

CK: How has BSUK helped your team this year?

TR: The obvious thing for everyone, was the ‘Return to Play guidelines’ - without it we were adrift and wouldn’t have played this season. Perhaps our little club wouldn’t have survived that false start. There has also been some coaching development and much more to come there. The field building resources and specifications have proved useful and we have recently received equipment funding through our County Sports Partnership where we hadn’t before thanks to BSUK. It’s a pretty comprehensive program of support and we’re very grateful it’s there.

CK: What’s next for the Giants?

TR: We hope, more quality baseball and good days out! Our main goal within the club is the development of our home diamond on a recently secured site in beautiful Ironbridge. We will continue to develop our rookie players as well as strengthening our club structure, administrative and coaching staff.

2021 sees our league double in size from 4 to 8 teams and the incoming clubs are established, fierce competitors. We’re looking forward to some great battles. The league is hoping to put out a women’s team for the new women’s league starting next year and we will do some youth sessions in the spring and see what we can come up with there. There is a lot of scope for growth and development and so many good people behind each club, it’s exciting to see what we can achieve.

You can follow the Telford Giants on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.


tagged under: baseball, development, team, clubs, teams, bbl, wmbl

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About Chris Knoblock

Chris Knoblock

Chris Knoblock joined BSUK in March 2019 on a contract basis, before moving to the UK and becoming a full-time member of staff in 2020. A graduate of the University of Maine and a native of Belmont, Massachusetts, Knoblock previously worked for several professional sports teams in North America, including the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. An avid baseball fan, Knoblock’s role with BSUK spans social media, broadcasting, commercial partnerships and outreach.

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