Today was my first visit to Farnham Park (Baseball and Softball Complex in Buckinghamshire) for the Great British Baseball Vs National Baseball League (NBL) All-Star game. It was great to see these young British players going up against some of the best in the NBL. Due to the lack of a scoreboard operator and me not keeping score, I think the All-Stars won a close contest but GB Baseball certainly held their own.
For those that have never been before, Farnham Park is an excellent location for baseball. The complex has multiple pitches of varying sizes for all levels of the game, with fencing, foul poles and markings all ready to go from the most amateur of players to the All-Star game I attended today. They have a bar area with a small food stand to offer spectators and players the opportunity to grab some fuel or refreshments before, during and after the games.
The game was attended by approximately 50 people, if I had to guess I would say 95% of those people were friends and family of the players on the field. There were some bench seating racks on the left field foul line along the banking that were moderately filled, the rest of the spectators were scattered along the left field banking. A collection of fans were directly behind home plate, with their big camping chairs bunched together around cool boxes filled with beverages. All accompanied by gentle Latin beats being pumped out of a speaker. This seemed like a great place to sit, however, seeing as I didn’t know them I settled on the banking on the left field foul line.
I don’t know why I was surprised, but I didn’t realise how much chatter happens on a baseball field. I have played cricket in the recent past and I noticed how similar some of the chat was. The next thing that pricked my ears was the amalgamation of accents being projected from all corners of the field on both teams. Not just regional accents from the UK, but accents from all over the world. Then came the flowing and lively Spanish chatter from the dugout in the direction of the latest batter in the game, number 20 for the All-Stars, Arley Lorenzo.
As GB Head Coach Liam Carroll mentioned on our podcast a few weeks back, the GB team was a young side. The primary focus of today was to showcase the U23’s and give them some experience against some of the “bigs”. The youngsters made some errors in the field and overthrew some balls, but they hustled and fought throughout the whole day. They also generated the only triple of the day towards the end of the game. The thing I loved to see was the attention they paid to their coaches. Liam Carroll and Cam McHarg on third and first base respectively, took the time after each inning to take their players who finished each inning on the bases to talk about their AB or their base running. Guiding, coaching, mentoring and ensuring the youngsters knew what went well, but also where they could improve next time. Bravo to those two guys, showing a huge passion for the game and developing these young men into better ball players.
That isn’t to say the All-Stars coaches weren’t doing the same, they played the game to win and ensured the GB youngsters got a real game out of this day and not just a run out against a constantly changing side.
The game ended with an infield fly from GB Baseball to the All-Star 2B, the players and spectators clapped and cheers, the umpire called “That’s the ballgame” and the heavens opened. I scuttled off to my car to grab a jacket and hopefully grab a few words with Liam and Cam for the podcast, but unfortunately due to prior commitments I had to leave after a short period of time. The day left me wanting more baseball, not just from the All-Star weekend — which Liam Carroll has already stated he wants more next year — but from GB Baseball and the NBL as a whole. I just hope that next year Liam gets his wish and the weekend is packed full of action from all teams in UK baseball. Who knows maybe the schedule will be cleared so we can have a program packed full of All-Star games from Single-A all the way up to the NBL?
Until next year, thank you Farnham Park, GB Baseball and the NBL All-Stars.
Videos & Periscopes of the game can be found on the Bat Flips and Nerds Twitter feed.