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British baseball on the outside looking in

LONDON – Ladies don’t sit on the beaten, old wooden bench at the Finsbury Park baseball field.

That’s because, like in America, women aren’t generally seen in the dugouts of baseball teams. Aside from this and a few other similarities, baseball in Britain is a mere shadow of its immensely popular older brother in America.

This doesn’t deter members of the 23-and-under national Great Britain team, along with coaches, friends and colleagues at BaseballSoftballUK, from gathering a few times a week to practice.

Across the country, there are 50 adult baseball clubs that play at fields such as Finsbury’s.

Matt Cartwright says he and other players are lucky just to have a field at Finsbury. They have to supply their bases, fences and extra seats.

“It really is a prime location,” he said. “It’s a great place to play.”

While ideal in his eyes, the field wouldn’t even compare to the worst of high school fields in the U.S. In reality, many of the players feel it resembles more of an American Little League facility.

Liam Carroll, the head of development at BaseballSoftballUK, said the differences between America’s pastime and Britain’s little secret boil down to resources.

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“Any funding we get is going to be what they [the British baseball teams] find themselves because there’s not a lot of spectators nor any baseball on television,” he said.

Baseball teams in Britain are completely made of volunteers. In America, organizations run deep with countless people behind the scenes earning large paychecks and making the team flow.

In Britain, the head coach, general manager, media relations director and sponsorship director are one in the same. Passion is the true currency of British baseball.

“With the resources being so much less, British baseball teams are exclusively volunteers,” Carroll said. Carroll himself is also the head coach of the 23-and-under national team.

When it comes down to the mechanics of the game, American and British baseball are the same. Players use wooden bats and keep up with the latest styles, trends and technologies of the sport.

However, the cliché gray summers of Britain limit playing time. Cartwright says the seasons last from April to June.

“It’s not like in America, where you can play all year round, with all those leagues,” he said.

Given all the circumstances, Carroll thinks the best thing for British players to do is go to America to play.

“We’ve come a long way with the opportunities here, but certainly you can only get to a certain standard with the competition and coaching opportunities that are available,” he said. “For the players that are committed enough and talented enough, the obvious place to go is the U.S.”

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Jannah Din/Cronkite News Service

Players at London’s Fairfield Park.