Team photo of Richmond Knights Baseball team

Richmond Baseball Club aim to seize summer of opportunity

Richmond Baseball Club, an ever-growing member of the UK baseball scene, are looking to seize the opportunity of increasing support for the game in this country.

The club has 70 active members, a number which could still grow before the season starts next month, and they are divided between four teams of differing standards.

Contrary to expectations, the team is not largely American ex-pats but rather includes players from every inhabited continent.

Club member Alvin Michael said: “To the casual observer who may have seen baseball through movies they might be aware it’s a big sport in the US but what they probably don’t know is how big a sport it is in other countries.”

IN OR OUT: Richmond Baseball Club number 19 slides to the plate

The highest standard team Richmond offers is the Knights, who have ambitions of being promoted to the country’s top division, the National Baseball League.

One of the club’s focuses is increasing participation, and exposure to the game is an easy way to achieve this.

For Michael, his introduction to baseball was in 1997 when Channel 5 aired a game on one of their opening nights but the transition into playing took a while.

He said: “I watched baseball for years and years without knowing there was a structured and organised league in this country.

“It was just by chance that I googled it and was totally flabbergasted that there was a league I could play.”

Major League Baseball Europe is expanding its influence with the introduction of the London Series, when the Red Sox played the New York Yankees at the London Stadium in 2019, which resulted in the numbers at Richmond growing between 15-17% each year since 2018.

For British baseball, the next few months are an ideal opportunity to be a catalyst for rapid growth in the game as GB are competing in the World Baseball Classic for the first time including a matchup with Team USA, which they lost 6-2 on Saturday, while the London Series returns in June.

Michael added: “We need as a baseball community, led by our national governing body, to capitalise on the opportunity this year if we really want this sport to grow and be successful in this country.”

Establishing baseball in the UK does not come without challenges, which range from facilities and funding to lack of a grassroots structure.

Those in the UK baseball community recognise that ensuring grassroots structures are properly supported is vital for the sport to take off, because those who are inspired to play thanks to exposure to the highest level will be encouraged to pursue it.

BATTER UP: Richmond batter prepares to hit

Richmond still has no youth setup despite the success of a youth summer camp which was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The camp produced a player who initially attended at six years old for his first experience of the sport and has now been rostered for their top team in the upcoming season.

Another success story is Monty Nendick, who joined the club at 13 and was made to wait for his 14th birthday to be old enough to play for the team.

Just 18 months later, Nendick was selected for the under-15 GB baseball squad and represented them in Valencia in last summer’s European qualifiers.

This year marks the start of Richmond’s ‘prospects programme’ as the club recognised the need to develop the talent they have by promoting around five players from each team to gain experience in higher teams as they attempt to get promoted across the board.

Michael, who still plays for the club despite moving away from the area, said: “Whether you have played at college level in the states or you have never even seen a baseball in your life, the club is very friendly and inclusive and that’s the first thing anyone at the club will tell you.

“From my own experience with Richmond baseball, it has been one of the best things in my life.

“There is no sweeter feeling than swinging the bat and making perfect contact with that baseball and seeing it sore into the blue sky and beyond.”

This upcoming season is rapidly approaching and there has never been a better time to step up to the plate and experience it yourself.

All photos courtesy of Richmond Baseball Club.

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