The Southern Nationals are the newest baseball team in Britain, and after formally presenting their club's long term plans to the BBF board have been accepted to play in the National Baseball League.
The NBL is set to expand to ten teams in 2011, up from eight teams in 2010 and just five the year before that. Both of the selected expansion clubs are elite startup squads. The Southern Nationals and the Lakenheath Diamondbacks are made up of both new recruits and returning NBL-calibre players, and their addition should make 2011 another unpredictable season of domestic baseball.
The Nationals roster is a mixed bag. Some of the players are coming from other NBL teams, some are new to British baseball, and some are coming out of retirement to pick up a bat again. The four founding members of the club - Brendan Cunliffe, Jason Greenberg, Will Lintern and Marty Cullen - formerly played with the Bracknell Blazers, Herts Falcons and London Mets.
Club President Brendan Cunliffe said it was the Nationals' goal "to fashion a new team that brings out the best" in the game. "The four of us are deeply invested in British baseball," Brendan continued, "and while we enjoy our Sunday hobby, we also want to leave a legacy for the future."
The Nationals hope their club will win top-level games in the short term, but prosper and grow as a premier BBF franchise in the mid- to long-term, much like the Bracknell, London and Herts organisations have done in recent years.
While most of the Nationals roster is already set, there are still some key positions being actively recruited -- corner outfielders in particular. All players interested in joining the team are invited to make contact with the staff via the club website at http://www.southernnationals.org.
First up for the Nationals will be the Herts Spring League starting on 27 March. The Nationals will compete in the Majors Division against the GB Juniors, the Mildenhall Bulldogs and the Diamondbacks.
SOUTHERN STARS PONY
Also joining the BBF in 2011 is the Southern Stars Pony team. The squad of 13-16 years olds will be based in Harlow, like the Nationals, and will travel each Saturday to face the top youth teams in the UK.
Players interested in playing Pony ball for the Southern Stars should complete the short contact form at http://www.southernnationals.org.
The Stars will get their spring training underway in April, and should see their first league action in May.
NORTHBROOKS FIELD IN HARLOW
The Southern Nationals Baseball Club will be based at Northbrooks Field in Harlow, Essex. Construction of the diamond was completed in May 2008 following a £93,000 investment by Barclays Bank. The facility is the brainchild of volunteers from Harlow Neighbourhood Watch, who have been running baseball and cheerleading activities for youngsters in the community since 2005. The field sports a robust backstop fence, dugouts, a real-clay diamond and pitcher’s mound, and adjoining changing rooms. The Nationals will help the Harlow Council and Neighbourhood Watch to further improve the diamond throughout 2011.
The field will also play host to the Harlow Greensox, a local youth league being reestablished this summer with support from BaseballSoftballUK.