Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The low down on Baseball in Ireland.

Baseball in Ireland, really?
The low down on Baseball in Ireland.


Two or three times a week I get emails from folks, generally in the States but sometimes in Europe, asking, 'Hey, had a look through your site, and I can't believe it, there is actually baseball in Ireland?!' Or words to that effect. Well, yes folks, it's true. There is baseball in Ireland, and there has been since 1995.

The game basically began in Ireland the summer of 1995. Softball had been played in Ireland since the early eighties however a couple of the guys who played that yearned for an extra level of challenge and decided to start baseball training sessions with games afterwards. Mike Kindle, Mick Manning and Sean Mitchell were amongst those who got the ball rolling and they chose Corcaigh Park (English spelling - Corkagh Park) in Clondalkin as the venue for the early sessions.

By the end of that summer there were enough numbers and there was enough enthusiasm to start talking about an organised league and even an Irish National Baseball Team. That's (very) basically how it all started. Here's a little more detail on some of the more important aspects of Irish Baseball.

The Irish Baseball League The clubs and playing fields

The O'Malley Fields at Corcaigh Park in Clondalkin, West Dublin are the main home of Irish Baseball. The fields are named after legendary LA Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, who generously funded their construction in 1998. The majority of league games are held at the fields along with Ireland National Team games and practice sessions. Click here for details on how to get to Corcaigh Park.

The O'Malley funding created two fields, an adult level and youth level field. Bill Beglane is one of the leading lights in the development of the youth game in Ireland. Bill is a former Irish National team pitcher who had his number retired in the summer of 2006 after having been a great servant to the Irish team. He runs youth training sessions on Saturday afternoons at Corcaigh Park. More details and information on contacting Bill here.

The Black Sox play at Shanganagh Park which is yet to be developed into a "Real" baseball field. Click here for the Blacksox website. The Greystones Mariners home field is currently under construction and will be completed by August 2007.

For the 2008 season the following teams are participating at the associated venues:
  • The Dublin Hurricanes (Corcaigh Park)
  • The Dublin Spartans (Corcaigh Park)
  • The Dublin Blacksox (Shanganah Park, Shankill)
  • Indios (Corcaigh Park)
  • The Greystones Mariners (Greystones)
  • The Belfast Northstars (Belfast)
The Irish Baseball League
Irish league history

Previous Irish League Champions 1997 - 2007
  • 2007 - Spartans
  • 2006 - Spartans
  • 2005 - Hurricanes
  • 2004 - Spartans
  • 2003 - Hurricanes
  • 2002 - Spartans
  • 2001 - Panthers
  • 2000 - Spartans
  • 1999 - Spartans
  • 1998 - Panthers
  • 1997 - The Dukes *
(* The Dukes are no longer in existence, they were made defunct in 1998 when the league started from scratch with an 'all-players draft' and total reformat of all teams.)

Irish League individual awards and winners

The individual Irish League awards given out annually have an Irish Flavour in an effort to pay homage to the great Irish players who played in the Major Leagues from years gone by. For example, instead of the traditional Cy Young Award being given to the League's Top Pitcher, recipients are presented with the 'Tommy Bond' Best Pitcher Award. Find out more about some of the great Irish Major League players of the past in this piece.

The 'Andy Leonard ' league MVP award

Andy Leonard from County Cavan, was the only Irish-born member of the "First Boys of Summer": the 1869 World Champion Cincinnati Red Stockings - Baseballs First Professional Team. He also helped create and sustain the original Boston Red Stockings championship dynasty from 1872 through 1876 and again in 1878, competing in six world championships.

Previous winners of The 'Andy Leonard 'League MVP Award include:

2006 - Darran O'Connor (Dublin Spartans)
2005 - Steve Divito (Dublin Hurricanes)
2004 - Darragh Jones (Greystones Mariners)
2003 - Tom Kelley (Dublin Hurricanes)
2002 - Chaime Cuevas (Dublin Spartans)
2001 - None given
2000 - None given
1999 - Tom Kelley (Dublin Hurricanes)
1998 - Ken McCarthy (Dublin Panthers) **
1997 - None given

(** Dublin Panthers is now a defunct franchise. Most of their players left to join either the Dublin Blacksox or retire in 2004. )

The 'Tommy Bond' Best Pitcher Award

Tommy Bond was born in Granard in County Longford in 1856. He became the first triple crown pitcher when he led the National League with 40 wins, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.11 ERA for Boston in 1877.

Previous winners of The 'Tommy Bond' Best Pitcher Award include:

2006 - Chaime Cuevas (Dublin Spartans)
2005 - Shawn Miskiman (Greystones Mariners)
2004 - Cormac Eklof (Dublin Hurricanes)
2003 - Chaime Cuevas (Dublin Spartans)
2002 - Eoin O'Connor (Dublin Blacksox)
2001 - None given
2000 - None given
1999 - Greg Modaro (Dublin Panthers)
1998 - Noel Mitchell (Dublin Spartans)
1997 - None given

Other awards

Other awards given are the 'Dirty' Jack Doyle Silver Slugger Award and the Patsy Donovan Batting Champion Award. (Other awards are listed on the official Baseball Ireland site).

The Dublin Hurricanes


The Dublin Hurricanes have been playing in the Irish league since its inception. They are the first Irish Club side to have taken part in European Club competitions. They did so in Belgium in 2003, the UK in 2005 and the Czech Republic in 2006 and 2007.

Link: The Dublin Hurricanes in Prague - 2006

For 2007 the Dublin Hurricanes made some key additions. Tommy Hernandez, Alex and Woody 'One pitch' Woodburn come over from the Twins United and there are a couple of other surprise additions from the United States in the pipeline. The core of the Hurricanes is back and ready to play. Steve Divito, Andy Martin, Tom Kelley, Chris Foy and Eric 'Vegas' Valkys will all bring veteran experience to the table for the Hurricanes in '07.

The Hurricanes had often finished second to either the Spartans or Panthers in the Irish League but finally broke their barren spell with a dramatic title win in 2003. They followed this up with another title win in 2005. The Hurricanes trophy cabinet is certainly pretty healthy.
  • 2007 - League Pennant Winners Hurricanes
  • 2005 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2005 - Andy Leonard MVP Award Steve DiVito *
  • 2004 - League Pennant Winners Hurricanes
  • 2004 - League Cy Young Award Cormac Eklof
  • 2004 - Silver Slugger Andy Martin **
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - Champs Hurricanes
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - MVP Steve DeVito
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - Cy Young Award Cormac Eklof
  • 2003 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2003 - League MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2003 - Silver Slugger Tom Kelley
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz MVP Steve DiVito
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz Pitcher Cormac Eklof
  • 2002 - League Batting Champion Gordon Ireland ***
  • 2002 - League Gold Glove Mick Manning
  • 2002 - Autumn Blitz Winners Northern Hurricanes
  • 2002 - Autumn Blitz MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2001 - Spring Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2001 - End of Season Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2001 - End of Season Blitz MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2000 - End of Season Blitz Winners Hurricanes
Notes
* Steve's game winning home run against the Spartans that season was recently voted the 'Hurricanes greatest hit ever' by a jury of slightly inebriated individuals.

** Check out Andy Martin's simply unbelievable statistics from the 2004 season

Name Team PA AB R H RBI 1B 2B 3B HR BB HBP SO SB CS BA SLG OBP
Martin, Andy Hur 64 50 36 26 19 17 8 1 0 12 2 2 17 0 .520 .720 .625

In 64 plate appearances he struck out twice, whilst batting an unbelievable .520 with 36 runs scored and 19 RBIs.

*** Check out the below sets of stats that Hurricanes legend Gordon Ireland put up in 2002.

AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR BB HBP SO SB CS BA SLG OBP
Gordon Ireland - 43 24 23 26 3 2 2 11 3 5 12 1 .535 .837 .649

Gordy had one of the greatest seasons in baseball Ireland history and sadly was not rewarded with the League MVP.

2007 Season

The 2007 Irish Adult Baseball League started with annual spring blitz, which is basically akin to spring training but held over the course of a single day. Click here for a review of the action from the Hurricanes point of view. The season proper began with the Belfast Northstars defeating the Dublin Twins 12-7 and 13-7. The Dublin Black Sox also defeated the Greystones Mariners 16-7.

The Irish Baseball League has two levels for 2007, A and B. The A level consists of the Spartans, the Hurricanes, the Twins, the Greystones Mariners, the Blacksox and the Belfast Northstars.

The B level is for player and club development and consists of B teams from the Spartans, Hurricanes, Blacksox and Greystones Mariners. Click here for a preview of the 2007 Irish League season, written before the season started.

You can find the full 2007 schedule and results on the Baseball Ireland website.

The Irish National Baseball Team

The Irish National Baseball Team - 2001 version

The Irish National Baseball Team has been in existence since 1996 and has taken part in several major baseball tournaments and tours. These have included:
  • 1996 - European Pool B Championships - Hull, United Kingdom
  • 1998 - European Pool B Championships - Vienna and Stockerau, Austria
  • 2000 - European Pool B Championships - Karlovac, Croatia
  • 2001 - Team tour of Rhode Island and other New England areas
  • 2002 - European Pool B Championships - Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2004 - European Pool B Championships - Regensberg, Germany
  • 2005 - Team tour of Orange County area in LA
  • 2006 - European Pool B Championships - Antwerp, Belgium
Ireland finished fourth in the 2002 tournament, won a bronze in the 2004 tournament and managed a silver medal in the 2006 tournament, losing to tournament favorites Croatia.

Irish National Team Links:

Baseball Ireland - how you can get involved!
Players, coaches, sponsors and general well wishers!


Since I started this blog last year I have had a few people ask how to get involved in Baseball Ireland, on various levels, so here's the lowdown.

First of all, your initial stop should be the Irish Baseball Official website. That should fill in many of your information gaps!

Playing baseball in Ireland.

If you are interested in getting involved at youth level, your contact is Mr Will Beglane, who looks after the current development of Youth Baseball in Ireland. This includes players and coaches too.

At adult level, if you want to play, umpire or coach in the Irish Adult League, a few quick pointers.

  1. The League is entirely volunteer and amateur, players are not paid (sadly!)
  2. The League caters to all levels of players
  3. The League runs from April to September
  4. There are currently teams in Belfast, Greystones, Shankill and Dublin
  5. You should live in or near those areas to join a current team
  6. Baseball Ireland can not at this time help accommodate you or get you a job or indeed a visa I am afraid. Again, the league is entirely volunteer and amateur.

With all that in mind, if you wish to play in the league mail Mike Kindle with the subject field 'Playing baseball in Ireland'. Keep an eye on the website for information regarding the league campaign and other information for example winter training sessions.

If you wish to play on the Irish National Team you should be aware of the following;
  1. You need a current valid Irish Passport to be considered for the Irish Team.
  2. The Irish Team currently has no sponsor - players are expected to fund their own trips.
  3. The Irish team trains in Dublin, Ireland. You would need to be there for at least a few weeks before major tournaments to be considered for the team.
With that in mind, if you still feel like you would be suitable material for the Irish National Baseball Team, send an email here with 'Playing for Team Ireland' in the subject field.

Sponsorship

Baseball is a minority sport in Ireland. For example, the National Team players had to fully fund their own trip to Belgium in '06. That is truly playing for the love of the game! In a country where GAA, Soccer and Rugby are king, to all other sports detriments, Baseball Ireland has to live on a shoe string, as Government funding is basically invisible. The GAA is given 80 million of the tax payers money towards refurbishing a stadium they could pay for themselves 20 times over with the money they make on jersey sales alone, while we get the grand sum of $0. That's €0 for those of you in Europe.

The development of baseball in Ireland is almost completely dependent on sponsorship.

For those living in the States or otherwise outside Ireland the best way to support/sponsor Baseball Ireland is through EMERALD DIAMOND USA. This is a nonprofit organization founded by filmmaker John Fitzgerald. The organization is dedicated to raising funds in America to further the development of baseball in Ireland. Baseball has been played in Ireland since the early 1990s, as seen in the documentary film "The Emerald Diamond." For more information about "The Emerald Diamond" and the history of baseball in Ireland, visit IRISHBASEBALLMOVIE.COM.

If you are a gazillionaire looking to use up some of your cash in a helpful manner, you can directly sponsor Baseball Ireland. You don't even have to be a gazillionaire, any amount would help. It should be noted that much of the money raised for Irish baseball goes directly to youth programs. Kids in Ireland are more likely to try a new sport like baseball when the high costs of buying equipment and uniforms are eliminated.

If you live in Ireland and would like to sponsor/support Baseball Ireland, be it on a personal or business level, contact Chris Foy and put 'Baseball Ireland sponsorship' in the subject field of your email.

For any further questions related to Baseball Ireland feel free to drop me a line

The Emerald Diamond

For those of you new to 'I didn't know there was baseball in Ireland!?', the Emerald Diamond is a 90-minute documentary about the Irish National Baseball Team. The film's budget of $70,000 was financed on credit cards by first-time filmmaker John Fitzgerald.

The film debuted to a sold out crowd in New York on February 25, 2006 and has been seen in over 20 theaters across the country since then. It has been featured by The New York Times, New York Post, FoxNews, National Public Radio and has also been covered extensively by the Irish media. Reuters came to Corcaigh Park, home of Irish Baseball, and reported the story as such.

Frank McNally of the Irish Times wrote this brilliant article after he had seen the Emerald Diamond at the Sugar Club in Dublin.

On November 12, 2006, "The Emerald Diamond" won the Critic's Choice Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival in Cooperstown, NY. The award was selected and presented by film critic Jeffrey Lyons.

Emerald Diamond links

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