An Open Letter to the British Baseball Federation and Baseball Softball UK

Please note: This was written Monday, 9 April… after I wrote it, I decided to give it a few days to decide if i should share it. I have decided it needs to be shared.

Dear BBF and BSUK,

As I write this letter, the potential implications of my comments is not lost on me. I have tended to try to ‘stay above the fray’ when it comes to the many political issues that plague the sport in the UK, however after the experience I’ve had in the past week I can no longer hold back.

Many years ago, I made a decision to try to be a positive contributor to the ongoing development of Baseball & Softball in this country and it is in this spirit that I would like to share my views. I do this with the interest of the sport I love and the many people whose lives have been touched by it, in my heart. You are letting them down and it is time for something to be done about it.

Yesterday, the most important day of the year for any UK Baseball player or fan took place. It was Opening Day. If the significance of Opening Day is lost on you, then you are not a Baseball person and you should probably stop reading now.

As a Chairman of a Baseball Club, first-year Manager of the reigning National Baseball League (NBL) Champions, youth baseball coach (18U, 16U and Minors), player (most recently in AAA) and parent of two young Baseball players, Opening Day is the most important day of the year for me. This letter is about my deep disappointment over the experience I have had in the past week, as we prepared to kick off the 2018 season.

In 38 years of being involved in this game, I have never seen anything worse than what I saw in the last week.

If you are someone involved in the administration of Baseball in this country, it will come as no surprise to say that there are differences and disputes going on between the BBF and BSUK. There are a number of factors which have contributed to what can only be described as a total breakdown of a professional relationship. I do not intend to take sides, nor do I wish to comment on who is responsible for what. I side with the players, parents, volunteers and fans. From this outside perspective, it is clear that your relationship is completely dysfunctional and that it is bringing the entire sport down. All of us are left shaking our heads in disbelief as you battle each other for control over the governance and ongoing development of our game, going tit for tat as you try to score points over the other guy in a ridiculous and petty manner.

If the past few weeks, let alone months, is any indication of what is to come of all of this. It’s hard not to feel that Baseball in the UK is in a dire situation. And at this stage, I would have absolutely no confidence or trust in either organisation when it comes to the leadership and stewardship of the sport.

And here is (just the most recent example of) why. Opening Day 2018.

In the days leading up to the first pitch being thrown on Sunday, none of the following was in place, which is nothing short of an absolute disgrace:

  • There was no schedule of games posted on the website
  • There was no ability for teams to register their players
  • There was no way to submit a roster, nor any communication about what to do
  • about it (despite there being a rule in place that severely penalises a team for not having properly submitted its roster)
  • The fields at Farnham Park were poorly prepared
  • There was broken glass all over at least 2 of the 4 dugouts (a known and well-documented issue) where players commonly change their shoes as they prepare to play a game
  • There was nearly 4 inches of standing water in one of the dugouts
  • The L-Screens, necessary for pre-game batting practice were locked away
  • We were given 4 baseballs for a 9-inning game in the rain
  • Proper arrangements for the use of the grounds crew were not in place, resulting in a dispute over the cost of working on the field when we needed people to be working on it so we could finish our game

It was the most uninspiring Opening Day I’ve ever been a part of.

In my capacity as a board member at my club, I have had numerous conversations with members of both BSUK and the BBF, at the highest level. I hear constantly how passionate each organisation is about the game of Baseball. After this weekend, I need no further evidence about how empty those words are.

Both organisations are failing us. And both organisations should be ashamed of themselves. Especially given how many individuals there are involved with both organisations who say that they want to see things get better.

Where is the leadership? Where is the focus? Where is the so-called passion for the game? The rest of us are tired of the results of your finger-pointing and your lackluster performances. We are tired of hearing it is the other guy’s fault. We are tired of the excuses.

You all need to do better.

Instead of finger-pointing or hiding behind service-level agreements and corporate-speak, why didn’t someone just be the bigger person and post the league schedule instead of claiming it was the other side’s fault? Why is there always broken glass in the dugouts? Why were the L-screens locked away – causing us to have to start batting practice late in the game? How come the person in charge of the National Baseball League wasn’t there to oversee, or just to see Opening Day? Why was nobody from BSUK there to make sure that Opening Day at your facility was a success?

These are rhetorical questions, so please do not bother to respond with the same blame game and political posturing that has been the norm for the past several years. And please spare us all the excuse that its just ‘British Baseball’ is therefore the best we can do. It’s not good enough. Not anymore.

When will you rise above your differences and see that the players of this game in this country, young and old, deserve better? When more clubs leave you behind and set up their own leagues and infrastructure? When people stop volunteering because it’s impossible to get anything done at a local level, when the people who run the game at a National level exist at a constant impasse? When families begin choosing other sports because of the poor experience that Baseball offers them?

Your lack of vision and stewardship over the game has shone brightly for the last few years, but for me never more than it did this past weekend. It became clear to me on Opening Day that British Baseball players can no longer rely on either of your organisations to provide the sort of environment that all Baseball players deserve.

We are becoming deaf to any accusations that it is the other party who is at fault. We see you as one group of people who seem intent on proving to be more or less ineffective at even the most basic elements of your jobs (volunteer or salaried) – which is to make this game better for today’s players and for the generations to come.

It is time for you both to take a look in the mirror and ask yourselves if you are truly acting in the best interest of the game and the people who play it, because from the perspective of someone who is deeply entrenched in it and who has spent the last decade trying to make a difference, it seems very clear to me that you are not.

Sincerely,
Drew Spencer

 

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