|Baseball Ireland - we do it wetter.|
It's hard to believe, to some extent, how far Baseball Ireland has come since the first practice sessions way back in 1995. It has been played for 20 years straight here in Ireland now, and Irish baseball has exported itself literally around the globe, making so many friends along the way.
It all started with a few practice sessions among a small group of guys who were just really into the game of baseball, wanted to toss the rock around on weekends, swing a few bats and run the bases, even if they were used, shoddy, throw-down bases borrowed from softball teams.
What came of it all? What came of those first sessions?
Those first fun, shabby, ramshackle and enthusiastic sessions gave birth to the Irish National Baseball team, which went to Hull in 1996 to participate in the European Baseball Pool B Championships. That team grew up to travel to (deep breath) London, Austria, Croatia, The USA, Sweden, Germany, The States (again!) and Belgium. After the Antwerp championships in '06 the national team started to transition into its current, youthful incarnation and they have continued to play in European competition right up to the here and now. The National team is actually a little bit older than the league. We like to do things differently here.
|The Irish National Baseball Team - Croatia 2000|
Those first few sessions, played out often in early weekend mornings as the damp foggy haze struggled to clear around the park in Newlands Cross, gave birth to the Irish Baseball League, which first started playing proper, organised games in 1997, and has since grown to a two tier league with teams from all over Ireland, North and South. The league has had many wonderful, competitive and fun seasons, and has given the chance to hundreds to play baseball in Ireland.
|The Dublin Hurricanes of the Irish Baseball League|
The first few sessions were played in the back field at Corcaigh Park, which is now a lake for recreational fishing. It was sloped and imperfect but contextually perfect for what we were doing. And, it gave birth to the O'Malley Baseball Fields, where we play baseball in Ireland now. Without those first few sessions there would be no O'Malley Field.
The first sessions gave birth to thousands of experiences and hundreds of friendships being born in the framework of baseball in Ireland. Hundreds of people have met, played ball and built enduring friendships through baseball in Ireland. The Baseball Ireland family has grown around the World too, including a great friendship with the Slocum baseball club of Rhode Island.
We're only touching the highlights above, there are of course so many elements that would never have happened without those early sessions. I think that's amazing. Imagine, without a handful of practice sessions played out in a previously obscure part of West Dublin, so much good that came from baseball in Ireland, and is still happening now, today, would never have happened.
|Irish team players at Fenway park for a game against Slocum in 2001|