Baseball continues its quest for UK awareness
BaseballSoftballUK development manager Liz Knight believes the off-season in baseball should be used to raise awareness and recruit more players to play baseball in the United Kingdom.
The National Baseball League in the UK, which consists of 37 member clubs from which 59 senior teams are formed, is currently in the off-season.
The British Baseball Federation's role as the national governing body is to oversee the development of the sport, partly through its ownership of BaseballSoftballUK.
However, Knight, whose work for the development agency is specific to London, says that these numbers could be comfortably increased if there was a broader understanding of baseball’s presence in this country.
“One of the challenges is that people don’t know that the sports baseball and softball exist here in the UK,” said Knight.
“There might be a club on their doorstep they aren’t aware of. One of our biggest challenges is getting people playing a sport that they’re not aware they want to play yet.”
The National Baseball League in the UK is currently comprised of seven teams, including London Mets, Herts Falcons and Southampton. The remaining 52 sides are split up into three leagues and subsequent sub-leagues dictated by location.
Yet Knight feels that there are only a handful of facilities in the capital that are conducive to the expansion of teams and clubs.
“Some of our clubs and leagues are playing on grass fields with throw down bases,” she said.
“We do have some great facilities around the place. In London we’re blessed with Farnham Park, which is a new baseball and softball dedicated facility.
“However, certainly there are lots of teams who don’t get to play on those kinds of facilities or that standard of facility week in, week out – not yet anyway.”
The United States of America rugby team recently played New Zealand in Chicago, with Knight acknowledgeing that the assimilation of an English sport in the US could potentially set a precedent for an American sport's growth in the UK.
“People think that it’s [baseball] an American sport and American only, not recognising that it’s played globally. I grew up in Australia and had never heard of it as being referred to as an American sport until I moved here,” she added.
The baseball season will resume in March next year.