"When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around."
The unprecedented nature of developing and organising a baseball experience that would be safe and enjoyable in a shortened season required everyone involved in the BBF co-operation and support under a new normal. Across the world of sport several other sports were not only cancelling their season, but warning of financial distress. The BBF considered several risk assessments and concluded it was in a good financial situation, before it decided to roll out the BBF Open Baseball Tournament.
The BBF baseball community rose to the occasion to take part in the BBF Open Baseball Tournament (tournament). The BBF designed the tournament for any team (affiliated or unaffiliated with the Federation) to participate in the event, however, under several safety frameworks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For example, teams were grouped in geographic regions to minimise travel consistent with government guidelines. At times participants were inconvenienced; however, everyone understood the importance that safety came first overplay.
The BBF Open Baseball Tournament began in August and ran through September 2020. Levels of play were divided into four divisions, e.g., NBL, Triple-A, Double-A, and Single-A. The BBF required safety protocols to be observed and provided several communications to give the tournament participants relevant updates and leadership.
All teams were required to register their participants and teams were limited to 25 players per roster. However, teams were required to have less players on the field/dugout at one time for COVID-19 safety guidelines. No players were allowed to cross over and play in another division or team; regardless if they belonged to a club with more than one team in a division.
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain." VE
The BBF continually through the tournament evaluated the schedule and risks, which fed into their decision to make changes accordingly to mitigate risks. Over eight weeks of play leading up to qualification to get into the playoffs we returned our sport to a community dedicated to play baseball in a safe environment. Games were competitive and new rivalries established. Leading up to the playoffs, each division played doubleheaders which were limited in innings and in time. The teams triumphed to play ball, with their participation amid the stress of the pandemic.
Over 150 games took place, and there were no reports of anyone contracting COVID-19 during the tournament. The playoffs brought us some great competition and individual player performances. Another positive surprise was the BBF decided to play the playoffs in a number of venues opposed to one venue as years past. The above meant that clubs (Essex Arrows, Bristol and the Mets) were able to showcase their venues and community. The local press of some organisations like the Bristol Baseball Club brought the tournament and our sport some well-deserved notoriety.
Also, the teams' feedback was in favour of continuing the practice of playing the playoffs in different venues if it meant the reduction of membership fees.
During a time of crisis, it measures our sport and participants resolve. In the future generations will look back and notice the BBF Open Baseball Tournament as a place marker during this crisis of how the British baseball community delivered a baseball experience by putting the sport and safety first, over any divide.
BBF OPEN BASEBALL TOURNAMENT INSIGHTS
WAS LARGEST AND ONLY NATIONAL BASEBALL TOURNAMENT IN THE UK
OPEN TO ANY TEAM FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY
OVER 40 TEAMS REGISTERED
ALL GAMES PLAYED UNDER BBF SAFETY COVID-19 GUIDELINES. NO CASES OF COVID-19 REPORTED FROM THE TOURNAMENT.
NO ENTRY FEE
HOLLY IRELAND BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO UMPIRE A NATIONAL BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
OVER 800 INNINGS OF BASEBALL
OVER 150 GAMES
The BBF organised donations from teams taking place in the tournament. All (100%) donations raised went to the NHS Charities Together.
"NHS Charities Together would like to thank all those involved in the British Baseball National Tournament for their support. Donations will allow NHS Charities across the UK to go over and above for their staff, patients, and volunteers." Sian Averill, Fundraising Manager.”