The 2009 National Baseball Championships take place on August 29-30 at Roundshaw Playing Fields in Croydon. Teams from the National Baseball League, Double-A and Single-A leagues will compete over the two days to decide the national champion at each level.
In previous seasons the showpiece event of the British Baseball calendar was referred to as the Final 4. This year the event has been renamed to the National Baseball Championships (or NBC) and given a brand new logo as above.
You can find a list of the qualifiers and the schedule for the weekend in the NBC document in the Downloads section.
Spectators are welcome and entry and car parking is free. Food and drinks will be available.
Click for directions to Roundshaw Fields.
NATIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
Bracknell Blazers (14-10)
Built over recent years with a mixture of young British talent, including Michael and Ryan Trask and Matt Maitland, and experienced heads like former Great Britain player Josh Chetwynd, the Blazers made a vast improvement on last season and enter the NBC in good form with five straight wins.
Of this year's participants Bracknell have the most appearances in the championship weekender (four) but are yet to win an honour in the NBL.
Bracknell Baseball Club was formed at the end of 1992 as a single adult team, the Blazers, and they played for the first time in 1993's BBF Southern Conference Division Three East. The club instigated youth development work in local schools starting in 1994 and began a youth section, which has won either the Bronco or Pony titles in the last six years, the same year. The Blazers moved up the BBF league structure steadily and were admitted to the Premier Division in 1998 and have played in the country's top division, currently the National League, ever since. Blazers 14-10 record this season is their best regular season record since 2003. The club ran multiple teams for a few years in the late 90s and established a second adult team, Blazers II, in 2006; their 12-0 record this season is the first unbeaten regular season in the club's history.
The club believes that young players should be given the chance to prove they can compete against the best players in the country. The club has healthy links with Great Britain programmes.
Players to watch:
Ryan Trask first played for the Bracknell Mens team at the age of 14 and his younger brother Michael Trask is hot on his heels as one of the strongest players with the British National League. Ryan led the National Baseball League with 28 RBI in the regular season.
Bracknell slugger Tom Bray compiled a .412 batting average in 2009 with a league best .644 OBA. He arguably has one of the best ‘eyes’ in the NBL, with 18 walks and 15 RBI.
Pitcher and GB World Cup hopeful Matt Maitland has tied Richmond’s Michael Osborn for most NBL regular season strikeouts. While he has only two wins this season, he boasts a 3.31 ERA and a WHIP of of 1.65.
Herts Falcons (12-12)
Last year's Triple-A Champions made a smart debut in the NBL, winning three of their first four games including a comeback victory against the 2008 National Champion Mets. However, they faded at the end, losing six in a row. Despite this, a .500 record over the season has proved the Falcons deserve to play at this level – a feat made yet more commendable given that only two years ago the Falcons were a Double-A team prior to back-to-back promotions. Manager Jason Greenberg will be looking for his side to rally for a final effort this weekend.
Based in Hemel Hempstead, the Herts Falcons joined the BBF Leagues in 1997, achieving their ﬁrst winning season a year later with an 11-3 record. In 1999 they were invited to step up a division to the old BBF Southern Conference First Division. In 2004 they won the Division 1 South title and secured promotion to the Premier League where they played for two seasons only to suffer a heart-breaking playoff loss in 2006 sending the team back down to Division 1. Since that setback, the team has taken British Baseball by storm winning back-to-back promotions, ﬁrst from AA to AAA in 2007 and from AAA to the NBL in 2008.
This is the team’s ﬁrst season in British Baseball’s top-tier and has proven many doubters wrong with an impressive .500 regular season record in 2009. Over the years Herts has grown and is now the biggest adult programme in British Baseball with 4 adult teams playing in all 4 British Leagues. In 2007 the club also started its youth programme and in its second year of existence has already managed to qualify for the 2009 BBF Youth National baseball Championship.
Players to watch:
‘The Colonel’, as he’s known to his Herts teammates, is a force to be reckoned with at the plate and on the mound. Ward has pitched more innings (74.2) in the NBL than anyone else in 2009 and amassed six wins in 12 decisions. He had a .413 regular season batting average with seven doubles.
This Taiwanese infielder has a natural power swing with incredibly quick bat speed. His .342 batting average was second best on the Falcons (behind Ward), with eight doubles, 18 runs scored and 15 RBI.
The youngest Falcon at age 15, Goncalves is universally considered one of the top prospects in the NBL. His range, glove and arm at shortstop is well-respected by rival clubs. While his average was merely .191 in 2009, he worked 13 walks and was 10/10 in stolen bases.
London Mets (17-7)
Defending Champions, the Mets lost a number of players from the all-conquering class of '08 which went 23-1 in the regular season. Despite this, the new-look squad led the league for much of this summer including a run of 13 wins in a row between May and August. But London comes into the NBC hoping it didn't peak too soon as it has lost three in a row including a final day sweep by Richmond which ousted it from first place.
One of the stories of the weekend looks to be the chance for some of London's Triple-A players to show their worth at the highest level as they've been promoted to replace a significant number of first-teamers who are unavailable.
In 2007, the thriving London Mets Youth Baseball Club decided to launch an adult team aimed at young players who had outgrown the BBF youth leagues. The adult Mets were permitted to enter the BBF National League in their first season and finished as National Champions. The London Mets continued to grow their senior programme in 2008, launching a AAA team (London Metros) who took the Wild Card spot in that year's Final 4. The London Mets NBL team were 2008 Southern League Champions and went on to be crowned National Baseball League Champions for the second year running, with a team that independent observers described as the best British team for a generation. The lure of European competition and the forthcoming Baseball World Cup saw the London Mets lose ten members of the Championship-winning team, so that the 2009 season has been a rebuilding year for the club. Fortunately the strength in depth of the London Mets organisation has meant that the NBL line-up has been filled with quality players looking to secure the National Championship for the third successive year.
Players to watch:
This British National Team catcher – soon to depart as a member of the GB World Cup roster – will undoubtedly keep rival baserunners at bay through the weekend. While he spent most of the season playing abroad in Germany, Lintern has brought his bat and leadership prowess back behind just in time to aid a depleted London squad.
Rob Antony and Carl Randall
These London sluggers took League honours for best batting average (Antony, .500) and runs scored (Randall, 33). Antony also had 18 stolen bases and a 90% fielding mark at shortstop. The boast three triples between them.
The AAA London Metros
With a significant number of first-string Mets unavailable for the Championships – including manager Alex Pike and starters Jason Roberts and Reid Wilson – it’s anybody’s guess who will step up and perform this weekend. Perhaps one of the four AAA players offered BBF dispensation to join the top-tier NBC…
Richmond Flames (17-7)
The first-placed Flames earned their first division title since joining the NBL in 2004 but are experienced in the postseason having won the National Championship in 2006 and lost in the final last year. Manager Grant Delzoppo sites the depth of pitching staff as one of his side's strengths and it certainly will be a key factor at the NBC with at least three games to play to win the Championship. The rotation includes three pitchers who rank highly in the pitching statistics: Cody Cain, named the league's Most Valuable Pitcher for 2009, Michael Osborn and Ryan Bird. These guys aren't shy with the bat either and Ryan Bird was named Most Valuable Batter in '09.
That multi-talented nature across the team has been another of Richmond's strengths in recent years although Delzoppo has minor concerns about his small squad being tested by the number of games this weekend. However, the Flames are fuelled by an eight-game winning streak – including a sweep of the defending champion Mets – and will be tipped as favourites.
Richmond is one of the largest and most successful clubs in the UK, with three adult baseball teams in the BBF leagues, as well as an under 13 youth programme and women's and girls fastpitch softball with the Angels. Formed in 1992, the club won the London Tournament in both 2007 and 2008. Since 1992, the Richmond organization has worked hard both on and off the ﬁeld to bring exciting baseball for all kinds of levels of players.
The Richmond Flames have played in the National Baseball League since 2004, and were the 2006 National Champions and defeated ﬁnalists in 2008. They ﬁnished the 2009 season 1st with a 17-7 record. The Richmond Dragons were established in 2003, and play in the A division and have ﬁnished with a 7-5 record.
Players to watch:
Named as the Most Valuable Batter for 2009, Ryan hit 0.449, (2nd in League), with 6 Home Runs (1st) and 27 RBIs (2nd). This is the second year in a row that Ryan has received this award and Ryan has played with Richmond since 2006 after relocating from South Africa. The hard throwing Ryan has also pitched strongly with a 4-1 record in 2009, an ERA of 1.85 and 14.4 K/9 Innings. Ryan will be one of the key players for the Flames in the playoffs.
One of the most experienced pitchers in the National Baseball League, Cody was named as the Most Valuable Pitcher for 2009, with a league leading ERA of 1.67, and 3-1 record. A native of the USA, he played for Lewis and Clark College (Division 1), and the highlight was his team making it to the College Baseball World Series. With 495 Career Strikeouts to date, Cody only needs 5 Strikeouts in the post season to be the ﬁrst player to reach 500 Career Strikeouts in the National Baseball League.
Starting baseball at the late age of 21, Mike is a veteran of more than 11 years at the National Baseball League. He originally played for the London Warriors, before moving over Richmond in 2006. A starting pitcher, this year Mike has a 6-3 record, with a league leading strike outs of 57. Mike has also contributed with the bat, hitting 0.346, and On Base of 0.455.