BaseballSoftballUK, the development agency for the British Baseball and British Softball Federations, has announced the largest increase in participation to date, putting the number of people playing the sports at an all-time high.
As of 31 March 2016, the number of people playing baseball and softball in the UK had reached 22,274, climbing by a little over 3,300 during the previous 12 months.
Like all other Sport England and Lottery-funded sports organisations, BaseballSoftballUK has targets against which national investment is measured. The organisation is on track to not only exceed their targets for 2015-16, but reach the 2016-17 target early this summer, nine months ahead of schedule.
BSUK would like to see the three sports (baseball, fastpitch softball, and slowpitch softball) growing in line with their size. Baseball is 400 players short of doubling in size since 2008 and fastpitch has gone from virtually no play in 2008 to a healthy, albeit still young league and a number of development pockets around the country. Unsurprisingly, slowpitch has shown the greatest growth, achieving an increase of 118% since 2008.
Here are the basic numbers behind the growth in people playing baseball and softball.
- Since the 2008 season, numbers have increased by 11,887 players and 709 teams.
- Since the start of the current Sport England funding cycle in April 2013, 5,641 new players have started playing in 340 more teams.
- Slowpitch softball represents 80% of this growth, fastpitch softball 4% and baseball 16%.
Participation percentages across the three formats are:
- Slowpitch softball: 80%
- Baseball: 18%
- Fastpitch Softball: 2%
University and college programmes remain a priority focus area for BSUK, due to their role in feeding players into existing adult teams. However, the largest growth in both baseball and softball has come from adults playing the sports. The number of adult club members and people playing in new adult leagues has increased by over 5,600, compared to 4,000 youth and 2,300 in Further (College) and Higher (University) Education since 2008.
BaseballSoftballUK is working on current projects that will add over 1,700 new players and 100 new teams over the next few months, while further project work in the pipeline could means as many as 10,000 more players in just under 600 more teams in the near future.
Currently, Great Britain is ranked No. 33 for men’s baseball and No. 14 for women’s softball in the WBSC World Rankings.