By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Editor’s note: The Ulster Buccaneers traveled to the MSBL World Series all the way from Northern Ireland and Northern England. They unfortunately finished 0-6 in their 35+ Cactus division but took note of what needs to be done to get back here and be more competitive. We caught up with Ulster assistant manager John Baxendale to discuss baseball in the United Kingdom. Manager Jon Carter was warming up in the bullpen.
John Baxendale of the Ulster (Ireland) Buccaneers is the assistant coach, alongside manager Jon Carter. This isn’t news that is particularly noteworthy except that John lives in Northwestern England near Manchester and Jon Carter, also now living in England, was a catalyst in promoting baseball in Northern Ireland. Their Buccaneers just got done competing in the 30thanniversary division of this year’s MSBL World Series in the 35-over division.
“I have known Jon Carter for about twenty years,” said Baxendale. “He started up a baseball team in Ulster and then came back to England, where he lives now, and we just continued playing baseball. Jon played at the MSBL World Series a couple of years ago and came back and said ‘we have to take a team down there.’ So we’ve been recruiting around England and Northern Ireland for a couple of years and here we are. We also added a few players from the US to round things out.”
This is their first year attending and they ended up with 17 players. “There are seven or eight players from England, two from Ireland and the rest are from the United States. We’re going to need more players, especially pitchers, when we return in two years. We will definitely be on the recruiting trail.”
I asked John what his impressions were of the warm Arizona sun and some heavy duty, non-stop baseball. “Our guys are pretty beaten up because it is a lot of games in a short period but we never see temperatures like this in England or Ireland so it took its toll on us. We came out flying and soon realized that if you don’t pace yourself you are in for trouble.”
John mentioned to me that the Buccaneers are more than happy to speak with anyone who wants to play with them next time around. They will be sure to be more prepared, now that they know what to expect, and will definitely have more pitching. Want to play with the lads from the Emerald Isle? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll hook you up with Jon.
I asked John what are some of the challenges of playing baseball in the UK? “First of all, there are only about 60 teams in the whole of the UK, which includes England, Ireland and Scotland. That requires a lot of travel to play. Not everyone wants to do that. The good thing about the London area and some parts of England is that there are a lot of American students and young workers who know the game and want to play it there, too. They are known as mixed patriots.”
Baxendale continued, “In the UK players aren’t introduced to baseball until they are adults because the children don’t learn the game over there. So they are just learning the game while players in the US have been playing since they were very young. That makes it hard to field a competitive adult team to play in tournaments like this.”
John plays first base and his manager/buddy Jon pitches. When asked if any of his players have stood out this week he answered that everyone has played extremely well and raised there game to another level. “We didn’t know what to expect and loved playing on fields that we can only dream about in England and Ireland. But we all contributed and had a lot of fun and we will definitely be back. The other teams were so nice in welcoming us and we’ll never forget it. I’m sorry we didn’t do better but we learned what we need to do for next time. We just plain got pooped.”