Last Sunday would have been the Opening Day of the 2020 British baseball season. For now, the hundreds of baseball players around the country can only stay at home, follow advice about coronavirus and wait for the moment when the government gives the leagues an approval to start the season.
Leagues around the world, from the English Premier League to MLB, suspended their seasons last month and the British Baseball Federation (BBF) was one of them. The suspension came just as the BBF was about to announce the 2020 league lineup and schedules for the four league tiers.
The details are now published on the BBF website and provide fans with a preview of what they can expect when the season begins.
NATIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE
There are no changes in the NBL. The four teams from last year are back to battle it out. Each team will play a regular season of 28 games (14 doubleheaders).
East London Latin Boys
The Triple-A League has expanded from seven to eleven teams. They have been divided into two pools based on their geographic location. The expansion teams are Bournemouth Bears who have been promoted after winning the Double-A League last year. Herts Hawks and London Marauders are two other teams promoted from the Double-A League. Herts Hawks move up a league after switching places with Herts Londoners who move down to Double-A. Oxford Lightning is a newly formed club which we understand will draw most of its players from the Oxford University baseball programme. The last expansion team is The Rebels. They are based in Taunton. There is no confirmation but this appears to be a rebirth of the Taunton Tigers who were disqualified from the league in 2018. If this is the case, this news would appear to suggest that they have now served the penalties which were imposed on them.
Herts Hawks will play 26 regular season games (13 doubleheaders).
Bournemouth Bears (AA)
East London Latin Boys (AA)
Leicester Blue Sox
Long Eaton 2
Long Eaton Storm
Milton Keynes Bucks
South Coast Pirates
The Double-A League appears to have undergone a major revamp. It was previously divided into three pools. In 2020 all 20 teams will instead be competing in one pool. Ordinarily, with such a vast number of teams, the league would take advantage and divide them geographically into several pools. From the games schedule it appears that the BBF has tried to schedule games between teams which are located relatively close to each other so that may address the important issue of minimizing travel to some extent. However, that still leaves the issue of an unbalanced schedule as teams will not be able to face each of their 19 opponents in the league.
Despite two of last year’s teams moving up to the Triple-A, the Double-A League has expanded considerably. Six teams from the Central Division have now merged into this combined league including the two Birmingham teams, Cambridge Monarchs, Leicester, Long Eaton Storm and a second team from Long Eaton which has been formed this year.
Bournemouth Bears and East London Latin Boys have teams in the Triple-A League and they have also unveiled two new teams which have entered the Double-A League.
Another new club on the British baseball map is Bristol Vetra. We have very little information about them but we understand that they are predominantly made up of players originating from Lithuania.
It is good to see that baseball is back in Croydon after the club disappeared from the league several years ago. They are back not with one but two Pirates teams. There was a real concern that the two diamonds in Croydon will be lost with no teams using them so the resurrection of the club is a major cause for celebration for British baseball.
The London Musketeers and South Coast Pirates have been promoted from Single-A to complete the lineup.
Herts Londoners will have a regular season of 23 games (11 doubleheaders and 1 single).
Forest Glade Redbacks
At the time of publishing this article the BBF website displays only one of the two Single-A pools so we will update this article when Pool B is confirmed.
The only change in Pool A is the addition of the London Minotaurs – the latest in the long list of London teams. They take the place of the London Musketeers who have been elevated to the Double-A League this year.
Teams will play a regular season of 28 games (14 doubleheaders), including four games between the Herts Raptors and Herts Eagles. Two of these games are to be played on the last day of the regular season. Could these games determine who qualifies for the Postseason?
View the Single-A schedule – Pool A
The postseason format and schedule has not been announced so it will be interesting to see what the playoffs will look like.
Of course, the regular season and postseason schedules will be affected by coronavirus and the BBF will have the important task of finding the best solution when the planet starts to return to normality after coronavirus.
Until then, there is one very important thing which British baseball players and fans can do to help – Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
Note: This article aims to analyse the changes to the league lineup compared to last year, however last year’s standings and scoreboards are not currently available on the BBF site so the comparison is done using only the information available to us about 2019.