BSUK Club Spotlight: The Northants Centurions

Mon 25 Sep 2017

In the first of a new series called BSUK CLUB SPOTLIGHT, we look at how the NORTHANTS CENTURIONS have gone from strength to strength in a remarkably short amount of time…

Tucked into a corner of Northampton called St Crispins, on a field surrounded by a Greek Church, the local Social Club and a VetSavers, is the home of the Northants Centurions, who are basking in the afterglow that comes from their first Midlands Single-A Division Baseball league title in their history.

Baseball is often a sport of delayed gratification and this story is no different.  Founded in 2013 by Paul Rance, the club played its first competitive fixtures in 2014 in what would become a trilogy of seasons building towards competitiveness on the field and security off it.

Now, in 2017, the Centurions have a club development record that is the envy of many.  And with the growth in the club, Nick Russell, Stefan Meyern and Martin Maloney have become more involved and have helped develop a more collective leadership.

So how did the club develop the vision that Paul Rance had set down for baseball in Northampton?

Softball Expansion

First, the club reached out to BSUK’s Midlands Development Manager Leah Holmes, and to local softball teams the MK Diamonds and Towcester Tigers, to enable the Centurions to branch out into softball.  With this additional help from ‘our friends and neighbours’, as Martin Maloney puts it, the Centurions were able to found and develop a softball section which grew rapidly, culminating in a new team that competed successfully in the Milton Keynes Indoor League in 2016.

This year, the softball side of the club has developed still further and its impact on the rest of the club is tangible.  Maloney said, “Since Aaron Maine took over running the softball side, we’ve rebranded the softball team the Northants Praetorians, fitting with the Roman theme that we’ve adopted elsewhere in the club.  Many of us at the club are passionate about building our sport and bringing more people into it, and softball has really helped.”

Youth section

The second prong of the Centurions’ strategy was to encourage local children to take up baseball and join the club.  The club’s youth section, the Mini-Centurions, began life in 2015 and has at times featured as many as 20 youngsters at training sessions, overseen by coaches with up-to-date DBS checks provided by BSUK. Such was the popularity of the training sessions that the club felt justified in entering their burgeoning young talent into the Futures Tournaments run by Herts Baseball Club in both 2016 and 2017. 

A milestone for any successful youth programme is when a graduate breaks into the first team, and this year Jacob Howard did just that, even starting the club’s playoff quarter-final against Birmingham ahead of older and more established players.

Home ground

The final item on the club’s development shopping list was quite possibly the toughest to deliver: a home ground.  With help from BSUK behind the scenes, discussions with the local council progressed, and with time ticking away towards the new season, the club received the good news on Good Friday in 2017 that their new home would be at St Crispins. 

“After a couple of weeks and what I estimated to be 260 man-hours of work by players, supporters and friends, we had a diamond,” Martin Maloney said.  “All of the work behind the scenes by the likes of Paul and Nick had finally come to fruition.”

Again and again throughout the Centurions’ brief history we see how outreach, to both BSUK and the wider softball and baseball community, has been coupled with vision and determination from the club’s volunteers to achieve spectacular results.  It’s no surprise then that with such an outward focus, the club is also extremely active on social media and keenly aware of how to market their club to those inside baseball and softball and those yet to be bitten by the bug.

And what of the future?  The Centurions already have their eye on new challenges.  Martin Maloney said, “I think that we’ll continue to grow steadily.  If we can get the numbers for more baseball and softball players, a second side for both sports is within reach, and playing competitive games every Sunday while being able to give everyone game time has been fantastic.”

If you would like your club to become a BSUK SPOTLIGHT CLUB, email: luke.stott@bsuk.com.

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