Britain’s Best Baseball & Softball Coaches honoured at 2023 British Baseball & Softball Coaching Awards presented by Net World Sports
28 January 2023
The 2023 British Baseball and Softball Coaching Awards, presented by Net World Sports, were announced during a ceremony as part of Coach Summit 2023 at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Saturday, 28 January 2023.
Each of the nominations came from the baseball and softball community, with a committee from BaseballSoftballUK, British Baseball Federation, British Softball Federation, and the Great Britain National Teams selecting the winners. A new category – Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, was added for this year’s Awards.
“It is always a special occasion when we can highlight the amazing work done by our coaches across the UK, most of whom are volunteers; to be able to do so in person makes this year’s Awards that much more memorable,” said BaseballSoftballUK CEO John Boyd. “Congratulations to all of the nominees, the shortlisted candidates, and this year’s award recipients – our sports would not be the same without your vital contributions!”
Below are this year’s award categories, shortlisted nominees, and winners.
Baseball Adult Coach of the Year
Given to an outstanding contributor to adult baseball coaching in Great Britain in 2022, this year’s shortlisted nominees were Drew Spencer, Head Coach and Lead Programme Manager for GB Baseball, Bob Rowe of Birmingham Baseball Club, and Eduardo Rodrigues from Essex (formerly Arrows) Baseball Club.
The winner of the 2023 Baseball Adult Coach of the Year is Drew Spencer!
Drew Spencer’s success with the Great Britain Baseball Senior Team over the past few years has undoubtedly changed the course for all British baseball. Last September, Spencer’s team won all three of their games in Regensburg, Germany – including a walk-off, extra-innings win in the final contest – to qualify for the World Baseball Classic for the first time in GB Baseball history. With the World Baseball Classic coming up in just over a month’s time, Great Britain will face the best teams in the world on the biggest stage possible.
Spencer’s work with GB Baseball extends far beyond the World Baseball Classic and the senior team; as Lead Programme Manager, Spencer has created a dynamic programme across all age groups, continuing to manage the U-23 team, and developing a world-class coaching staff with talent from across the baseball world. With Great Britain ranked 22nd in the world by the WBSC and experiencing some of the greatest successes in programme history, Spencer’s impact on British baseball will be felt for years.
Softball Adult Coach of the Year
Given to an outstanding contributor to adult softball coaching in Great Britain in 2022, the shortlisted nominees were Ian Tomlin of the Great Britain Fastpitch League Hawks and GB Softball U-18 Men’s Fastpitch, Kellie Whitaker of the GB Slowpitch National Teams, and Jennifer Edis from Oxford Softball and Oxford Brookes University.
The winner is Kellie Whitaker!
Kellie has made many outstanding contributions to GB’s slowpitch softball teams in 2022. She took both the co-ed & men’s slowpitch [JB3] teams to gold this summer, stepping in to cover the absence of head coach Steve Patterson on both occasions. This was in addition to fulfilling her role as Team Operations Manager.
In addition to her work over the summer in international competition, Whitaker coached the GB Slowpitch Development Team at the BSF Softball World Series in September and helped H20 end 17 years of struggle by coaching them to an NSL1 Championship. She is also the captain of the Manchester Thunder in the Manchester Softball League.
Baseball Youth Coach of the Year
Given to an outstanding contributor to coaching young people in baseball in Great Britain in 2022, the shortlisted nominees were Shane Lloyd of the Sheffield Bruins, Sean Briscomb of Essex Baseball (formerly the RedBacks) and Scott Bourgeois of the London Archers and Great Britain Baseball U-15 National Team.
The winner of the 2023 Baseball Youth Coach of the Year is Scott Bourgeois!
Scott has been providing first-class, high-level coaching of all age groups across the London Youth Baseball League for years. In addition to his LYBL work, Bourgeois leads a group of coaches with the London Archers Travel Teams, who across multiple age groups in the highest level of youth competition throughout Europe. This past season saw the Archers play in the in the Pony League World Series in the US, a huge achievement for any British travel team!
In addition to his club duties, Bourgeois coaches the GB U-15 National Baseball Team, bringing an impressive level of professionalism to the programme, reflected in the U-15’s second-place finish in Valencia at the U-15 European Championship Qualifier last year.
Softball Youth Coach of the Year
Given to an outstanding contributor to coaching young people in softball in Great Britain in 2022, this year’s shortlisted candidates were Jodie Rushin of the GB U-13 Cubs programme, Holly Ireland of RBI Wales, and David Morris of the Chichester Falcons.
This year’s Softball Youth Coach of the Year is Jodie Rushin!
Jodie has worked tirelessly to make the GB U-13 Cubs Fastpitch Softball programme grow and has created numerous opportunities for players at the grassroots level to compete in international tournaments across Europe. Her amazing coaching was particularly evident this year, where the team finished 4th at both the Joudrs Cup in Prague and the European Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy (EMRYT) in Collecchio, Italy.
Young Coach of the Year
Given to an outstanding young coach under the age of 25 who has contributed to baseball or softball coaching in Great Britain in 2022, the shortlisted candidates were Amie Hutchison of the Great Britain U-14 Fastpitch League, Jessica Vernon from the GB U-12 Baseball Team and Belles Baseball, and Matthew Moran of the London Legends and the GB U-18 Baseball Team.
The 2023 Young Coach of the Year is Matthew Moran!
Matt organised two trips for Great Britain Baseball as Team Operations Manager and coached first base for 12 games with the Great Britain U-18 Team over the summer. He and the rest of the coaching staff lead the team to their first U-18 European Baseball Championship Qualifier Win since 2004 – 18 years ago.
Following qualification, Moran and the coaching staff helped the Great Britain U-18s achieve the best result in program history, a seventh-place finish at the U-18 European Baseball Championship in the Czech Republic in August.
Domestically, Moran manages the BBF National Baseball League’s London Legends, leading the club to a record season for wins and a playoff appearance. Moran was also integral in the Legend’s new partnership with Herts Baseball Club, helping strengthen the NBL and British baseball overall.
Volunteer of the Year
This award is for a volunteer in a non-coaching role who has given up a substantial amount of time to support their local club, team or league and who has made a significant impact on the development of our sports. This year’s shortlisted nominees were Abi Battisto of the Leicester Diamonds, Aspi Dimitrov of Herts Baseball Club, and Alan Le Marquand of Maidenhead Softball Club, the Windsor & Maidenhead Softball League, GB Softball and the BSUK Academy.
The 2023 Volunteer of the Year is Abi Battisto!
Abi has been the key person in making the Leicester Diamonds what they are today. Abi is always looking for new opportunities to grow the club and dedicates so much time in going the extra mile.
Last year, Abi successfully secured over £5,000 in funding and sponsorship, put towards supporting the team and making the player experience the best it can be. In addition, they created and launched the ‘Dinky Diamonds’ programme, expanding the team’s reach to youth players and giving members the opportunity to develop in other aspects of the game.
Abi was nominated for the inaugural Hustle Award, named for former Rockford Peaches player Shirley “Hustle” Burkovich, by the International Women’s Baseball Centre, to be presented in February 2023.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
This new award will be presented for the first time at the 2023 British Baseball and Softball Coaching Awards, and recognises a contribution made by a coach towards tackling inequality and removing barriers to participants from an underrepresented group, which include Women & Girls, disabilities, socio-economic status, ethnic diversity & LGBTQ+. The inaugural shortlisted nominees were Kat Mccann of Raiders Softball, John Eaton of UK Blind Baseball, and Jay Smith from the Leicester Diamonds.
The first winner of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award is John Eaton!
John has spearheaded the coaching and development of blind baseball in the UK over the last three years. Through the UK Blind Baseball Association, John has worked up and down the country, creating opportunities and removing barriers so that blind baseball can be included at clubs, visually impaired societies, and charities. John has overseen more than 20 ‘have-a-go’ days in partnership with British Blind Sport, as well as working with various other establishments including visually impaired schools and colleges to grow the game.
John has also been head coach of the UK National Blind Baseball team since 2019. The team has played in three international competitions over the past four years, and finished with a silver medal at the inaugural WBSC International Cup in August.
John’s drive and passion for baseball has brought so much to the visually impaired and blind community, bringing them closer to the baseball community by utilising core skills used in other VI/blind sports. Over 500 Vi/blind sports people have now tried baseball with many moving on to play within clubs and even represent their country.
Services to Coaching
This award is for the individual who best personifies what it means to be a baseball or softball coach over a long period of time: someone who understands their sport and can use the lessons learned on the pitch to motivate and engage others. Without their services to coaching, clubs, leagues or perhaps even national teams in the UK wouldn’t be the same. This year’s nominees are John Eaton of UK Blind Baseball, Michael Harrold of the Long Eaton Storm and Great Britain Baseball, and Kim Comer from London Softball League.
This year’s honoree for Services to Coaching is Michael Harrold!
Michael Harrold was the Great Britain Men’s Baseball National Team's longest-tenured manager, leading the Senior squad to a European title in 1988, and the juniors to a championship title in 1993. His exceptional career also included stints as a distinguished player at both the national and domestic levels, as well as success as a manager in domestic league play.
A talented catcher and pitcher, Harrold was named to Great Britain squads for the 1971 and 1984 European Championships as well as European qualifying games in 1974 and 1975. From 1988 to 1995, Harrold skippered the Great Britain Senior National Team. He also led the junior national team to the top of the B-Pool at the 1993 championships. In addition to his work on the field, Harrold was a long-time administrator. Among his many roles, he served as British Baseball Federation President and was a member of the British Olympic committee.
In recent years, Michael has been heavily involved in coaching at the Long Eaton Storm Baseball Club. Supporting since the club’s formation in 2014, Long Eaton won the Single-A division title in 2015 and 2018 and were crowned BBF Single-A National Champions in 2018 and 2019.
Baseball Adult Coach of the Year Drew Spencer remarked “It’s tough to put into words [what this means] – I think all my success is off the back of a really strong team. There’s a bunch of people who put time and effort in and share their knowledge selflessly and their time generously. It’s almost a little unfair for me to win in some respects; this success was shared with a bunch of people.”
Kellie Whitaker, named Softball Adult Coach of the Year, said, “It’s an honour and privilege to be nominated. Getting to look after and coach GB Slowpitch is an absolute privilege, and I’m lucky I get to do it alongside Steve [Paterson] and [David Lee] – I will share this with them both!”
Coach Summit 2023 wraps up on Sunday, 29 January 2023 with a day of practical sessions and a fireside chat with 16-Year MLB Veteran and MLB Europe Ambassador Chase Utley at Bisham Abbey.
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