Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Birmingham Softball League - a big success

On the 21st June the Birmingham Bobcats Softball Club launched the first mid-week softball league in the city since the 1990s.  The league ran for six weeks and was viewed as a pilot development programme to establish whether a league would be viable in Birmingham in 2013.  Needless to say the event was a huge success and preparations are currently being made for next season.   

The league consisted of four teams - the Harborne Hammerheads, the Minotaurs (inspired by the iconic Bull Ring statue), the Roosters and the Weasels.  The teams were originally only formed of members from the Bobcats Softball club, which in June included just over 40 members.  This was initially quite risky as the club had an unequal ratio of male and female members and the teams were based on everyone turning up each week.  However the league turned out to be the best recruitment campaign the Bobcats have ever undertaken. 

From the word go the League attracted both new and former players.  It also appealed to those in the Baseball community and to softballers from other leagues – such as Manchester and the East Midlands.  There was even an article about the BSL in the Manchester Softball League’s Bases Loaded.  The enthusiasm, excitement and support provided by everyone involved was immense and it is clear that the creation of the BSL will be beneficial not only to those in Birmingham and the West Midlands region, but also to the wider softball community. 

Although the league did suffer some teething problems, (predominantly associated with a lack of female players and the horrendous weather) but there was nothing that could not be address before next season.  More importantly the league reached out to those who were either not interested in tournaments or were unable to participate at weekends, it developed strong team bonds, encouraged more people to become involved in the administrative side of the league (i.e. promotion, recruitment etc), and inspired more coaches and umpires. 

The league was won by the Minotaurs, who played extremely well all season.  They were lead by Quentin Young, former head coach of the Birmingham Bobcats, as his last hurrah before moving to Uzbekistan.   

The league would not have been possible without the support of Will Lintern, Midlands Development Manager for BSUK, the Birmingham Bobcats Softball Club and Committee and all those who participated from other leagues.  However, a special thank you should go to Jim Kent whose excitement and graphic design propelled the BSL and made it such a success and to Kate Page-Smith for managing and organising the event.

If anyone is interested in participating in the BSL in 2013 please contact the Birmingham Bobcats Softball Club who are very keen to hear from you.

Manchester Main Tournament 2012

On the 4th and 5th August the Birmingham Bobcats entered the Manchester Main Tournament.  Unlike earlier in the year the Bobcats chose to play in the REC grade rather than the Comp.  This was partially due to the Manchester League having some of the best teams in the country, but also it was an opportunity for the Bobcats to get some new kitties involved in tournaments and it was felt that their first experience should not be against first division players.

A new member of the team (but not new to softball) was Dan Langlands.  Dan heard about the Bobcats through ex-baseball colleagues and very quickly signed up with the Minotaurs for the BSL.  He has since become a dedicated Bobcat and he is not only attending every practice and tournament but he is also contributing to the administration of the club by producing articles and creating posters.  The Bobcats are incredibly thankful to him for all his efforts so far and we hope he remains an integral part of the club. 

Here is Dan’s account of the Manchester Tournament:

As one of the newest members to the Bobcat family I felt honoured to be picked to play in the Manchester Tournament. Although I’m not new to the sport I still felt nervous and wanted to bring my ‘A’ game for the team.

However when I got to the tournament I received a warm welcome from the team as if I had been there for years. That only helped my confidence and got me prepared for a tough tournament ahead.
Although the Bobcats didn’t win the tournament we still came 6th out of 20 teams, even with some players that have never played in a competitive softball tournament before.

I put this down to a bunch of great people who came together to work as a team; helped by some great leadership from Kate Page-Smith, and makes me proud to be a member of the Bobcats Softball Team.

Dan Langlands
Here are some photos from the Tournament:




Thursday, 2 August 2012

Bristol Main Tournament 2012

For the first time the Bobcats entered the Bristol Main Tournament.  The tournament was reputed to be a highly competitive and serious tournament and after the comp at Manchester FirstBall the Bobcats were just a little nervous. 

The team consisted of Kate Page-Smith as Captain, Quentin Young, Cara Rose, Sapin Patel, Alhieza Dela Paz, Jeff Nash, Maria Francis, Tad Ukai, Vicky Bodman, Chad Farmer, Meg Gallahan, Pete Burgess, Steph Bicker, Trent Nash and Dylan Crosby.

Due to the severe weather, the tournament was re-located on to astro-turf.  The tournament organisers really outdid themselves and despite the weather they arranged a splendid, efficient event.  

The Bobcats were placed in a group with the Grandslammers, Desperados, Friendly Fire and the Comets.  The Bobcats were still a rather unknown team and therefore were seen as the underdogs.  However, by the end of the day they had made their mark as they had won all their games apart from one against the Comets.  There were so many highlights, but a shout out should go to Kate for her first home run and to David Dean from Manchester who supported and base-coached the Bobcats through-out the tournament. 

After an evening at Frankie and Bennys and the disco in the club house, the Bobcats were fired up for the second day.  Their first game was a tense draw against the Monkeys, but it was the second game against the Pimlico Pirates that got everyone excited.  After three innings the Pirates were up 8-2.  However, the Bobcats soon caught up and won 12-9.  Amazing! 

They soon made it to the semi-final, where once again they faced the Comets and lost.  However, as the Comets had not lost any of their games and were in poll position.  This meant the Bobcats were still ineligible for the final – if they had scored more runs than the Monkeys – they had!

So once again the Bobcats faced the Comets, who at this point were rather self-assured.  By the second inning they were ahead, but the Bobcats are not a team to lose faith easily.  In the four inning the Bobcats scored 8 runs and had taken the lead.  They kept it, winning the game and the C Group tournament.

It was such a marvellous weekend; the team were fantastic – they worked and played so well together and it was a joy to lead, watch and celebrate with them.  Well done Bobcats!!

Women's Softball for Beginners 2012

In mid May the Birmingham Bobcats, supported and funded by BSUK and Sportivate run its first Women’s Softball for Beginners. 

The course which took place over six weeks was designed to attract and introduce female participants to Softball and therefore enable the Birmingham Bobcats to expand from one team of lots of guys and a few ladies into several teams.  With more teams in the city Birmingham would be able to develop a league. 

The course was a great success – attracting 18 members, all of whom have since either joined the team or have already signed up for the next course.  The class was run by Meg Gallahan, with assistance from Sapin Patel and supported by Will Lintern of BSUK.  Meg and Sapin did a fantastic job teaching first the basic and then advanced skills in a fun and engaging way.  The ladies were noticeably improving each week and by the end of the course most participants were eager to join the upcoming league which was then possible due to the sudden increase in female participants. 
Here are a few photos of the first week:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Draft

Monday 18th June was the evening of ‘the Draft’.  The captains of the Birmingham Softball League, who were appropriately dressed in suits, gathered to equally divide the members of the Bobcats to create the Harborne Hammerheads, the Minotaurs, the Weasels and the Roosters. 

After weeks of scouting and preparation the captains were primed and the draft began.  In a serpentine fashion each team chose their members, with only a few disputes. However, at the end of the meeting everyone was happy with their team and looking forward to the first game on Thursday.
The results of the draft are:

Captains: Sapin Patel and Chad Famer
Alhieza  Dela Paz
Brian Dela Paz        
Chris Williams
Daniel Paine
Habib ul Haq           
Jack Crosby
Jhune Ordona         
Kiri Coxon
Maria Francis
Natalie Barton
Sadie Buls    

Captains: Kate Page-Smith and Quentin Young
Amy Maddocks
Dan Clarke
Emily Mitchell
Hayley Shaddick
Laura Holmes         
Luke Millar              
Matt Grigg
Mike Rodger
Neal Robinson
Reinout Mildner
Ursula Hammond
Will Lintern
Captains: Jim Kent and Meg Gallahan
Becky Hughes
Dan Smith
Debbie Evetts          
Dylan Crosby           
Ellen Welsh
Gillian Broodhead
Jayne Welsh
Jeff Nash
Jonathan Stonehill
Jonathan Wilkes
Ross Woodhouse
Trent Nash

Captains: Pete Burgess and Tad Ukai
Alex Levine
Cara Rose
Davide Rubino
Drew Swainston     
Ed Jones
Justin Evans            
Kate Miller   
Laura Nicklin
Nicole Chalmers
Richard Dumbill     
Sarah-Louise Collins         
Victoria Bodman

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Birmingham Softball League

On the 21st June the Birmingham Bobcats will host the first Birmingham Softball League (BSL).  The ‘league’ is a development programme intended to provide game experience to an increasing membership, add an exciting competitive element to training and as a pilot for a potential official league based in Birmingham.  

The BSL consists of four teams created from the Bobcats; The Roosters, The Minotaurs, The Weasels and the Harborne Hammerheads.  Each team is captained by two coaches who will offer individual training and coaching throughout. The enthusiasm for the league really took off after Jim Kent, media guru for the Bobcats, designed logos for each team and made the league a reality.  

The league will take place over six weeks with two timed games every Thursday, finishing with a semi-final and final in the fifth and six week.

The league has already attracted new members to the club and is appealing to new audiences.  With the help of BSUK, the Bobcats hope this year’s development venture will pave the way for an official league in Birmingham next year.  It is certainly an ambition worth striving for. 

TourCats Cologne 2012

Following the success of the last year’s tour to the Netherlands, the TourCats embarked upon another incredible journey, this time to Germany.  

The TourCats were established in 2011 as a touring arm of the Birmingham Bobcats, with the intention of visiting a different country each year to introduce slow-pitch softball to other nations.  This year the TourCats included three members of the Leeds Terriers an as a result it established a new precedent for future TourCat tours to include any BSF registered player within its membership.  

Contact was first made with the Cologne Cardinals/FunCards in October 2011 - with the help of Google translation.  A tournament was soon devised by Simon Thull (Cologne FunCards) and Kate Page-Smith (GB TourCats) for 26th May at Circlewood Stadium in Cologne.  In addition to the TourCats and the Cologne FunCards there were two other German co-ed fastpitch softball teams - the Mulheim Mavericks and the Aachen Aixplosives.  Prior to the tournament none of the German teams had played slow-pitch softball, but were very keen to try it.  

In addition to introducing slow-pitch softball to Europe, the TourCats also aim to strengthen team bonds, enhance player’s skills and confidence and to give all members the opportunity to play for their country – an opportunity which is not often available to those who are not extraordinary, experienced athletes.  This is probably the most influential factor in the Tour.  Regardless of a players skill this responsibility increases their ability and the TourCats success, both on and off the field, are living proof that success is not just about athletic prowess.  

To enhance the team experience the TourCats set off from Birmingham on Thursday 24th May in two cars for an extraordinary evening in Ghent involving pirates, barges, gnomes, castles and fruit gins.  Three members of the team decided to try wondering off - they won't be doing that again!  

 Unsurprisingly it was a rather slow start the next day, but after some sightseeing the TourCats resumed their journey to Cologne.  Once checked in, the team headed to a fantastic mineral spring water spa in the centre of the city in preparation for the big day. 

The day had finally arrived and kitted out in their new GB uniforms the TourCats headed to Circlewood Stadium to meet their opponents.  As none of the German teams had played slow-pitch before, the TourCats’ pitcher Dylan Crosby gave each team an introduction into slow-pitch pitching, while Elli Lane and Steph Bicker provided some useful tips on batting and catching.  This was a wonderful moment in the progression of slow-pitch softball into Europe and the willingness and amicability of all the teams to learn and teach this variant of the game was a highlight of the Tour.  

Although half of the TourCats had never played together before, it did not affect their performance. In temperatures averaging 36°C their first game against the Mulheim Mavericks ended victoriously at 21-2.  The first to score a home run in the Tournament was Jim Kent.  

To provide a ‘level playing field’ it was decided that the next game against the Cologne FunCards would consist half fast-pitch and half slow-pitch.  This was certainly a game-changer and the end result was 9-6 to the FunCards.  Reverting back to slow-pitch the final game of the day was against the Aachen Aixplosives who played some astonishing slow-pitch softball, especially as it was their first attempt.  After a tense, exhilarating game the TourCats won by 10-6.

In honour of the TourCats the FunCards held a party that evening, providing the perfect end to a fabulous day.  The atmosphere throughout the entire tournament was one of friendship, mutual respect, willingness to learn and good humour.  The openness between the teams was inspiring and at the end of the day there were no divisions between teams or nationalities; it was just a group of likeminded, enthusiastic softball players. 

 A bond has been made between these four teams and plans are in the making for repeat tournaments in Birmingham this autumn and Cologne next spring. However, the world is literally the TourCats oyster and in a few months the destination for TourCats 2013 will be announced.   A big thank you must go out to the organisers of the tournament principally Simon Thull, Monica .. and Michael Paffrath. Finally the tour would not have been a success without the TourCats, Jim Kent, Chris Williams, Elli Lane, Pete Burgess, Steph Bicker, Dan Smith, Dylan Crosby, Joe Cybaniak, Ed Jones and Kate Page-Smith.  They truly were great ambassadors for the sport and for the country.