Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“One of the things we are doing this year is really setting our sights on Europe” — London Mets manager Drew Spencer on how their season can impact British baseball

Posted on 23 March 2019 by Rachael Mathewson

California-born manager of the London Mets, Drew Spencer, is aiming for much more than another national title when they take on the Dublin Hurricanes on April 6th.

This London-based baseball club is only one of many in the British Baseball Federation (BBF). However, the London Mets previously set a record of being the only club in Britain with five national titles. After winning their second consecutive National Baseball League Championship, the Mets are focusing on wanting to start where they left off.

Spencer said: “One of the things we are doing this year is really setting our sights on Europe.

“We need to show up in championship form and come back and lift this federation up. It’s going to be a big thing for British baseball to be in the federations cup and play some better competition.”

For players like Rich Minford — captain of the London Mets — being able to travel to Moscow means getting the chance to experience baseball in a unique way.

“I’m really excited to go to Moscow and see how another culture approaches the game,” Rich explained. “When growing up in a rural part of southern America you don’t get to see this level of diversity on the diamond. It’s a way of using baseball to experience new cultures.”

It’s obvious that like any sport, baseball can bring people together to create a close community. Brian Lainoff — London Mets Director of Communications — is one of the Mets’ players that realises just how small that community is in the English capital.

Brian said: “That’s the thing about baseball, no matter where you are playing there is either a community or a fan base where you are a family — its that kind of experience, especially when you go outside the United States because it is a smaller community.”

According to Google Data, the interest in baseball has been consistent within the last five years across the UK. The pattern made by web searches for ‘baseball’ illustrates how the sport compares to other terms searched at any given time. As seen in the graph below, there is a rise at the beginning of baseball season and it drops off after the World Series, but continues to stay around the 50th percentile of searches in the offseason.

Even though the interest is slowly growing, the Mets think there is still room to improve those numbers.

Rich said: “From what I’ve seen, a lot of people care a lot about the sport. It’s obviously not as ubiquitous as it is in the US, but where you can find those pockets, you really do see that passion coming out.”

While the baseball community is small on this side of the Atlantic, Drew Spencer and the Mets are hoping that a famous MLB rivalry coming to town this summer will add attention to the local baseball clubs.

Drew said: “Baseball in the UK has it tough. One of the biggest challenges that we face is that there is already an existing very popular stick and ball sport. What we are hoping for with baseball is that by having a series as exciting as Yankees and Red Sox happen in London, it will put a few more eyeballs on the game of baseball.”

Between their season aspirations of making it to Russia and the MLB London Series, the Mets are hopeful that those ‘pockets’ of baseball will grow across the country.

Featured photograph/Drew Spencer