Number of baseball and softball players in Britain reaches all-time high

Wed 18 May 2016

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.

BSUK Joint CEO and Head of Development John Boyd said, “These results are very encouraging.  They reflect what we already knew – that 2015/16 would be our best year yet for growth.  At the start of this year, we launched Hit the Pitch, our new participation programme, and this gave us a real boost, allowing us to reach more people more easily.  We are a small staff trying to achieve a great deal, and we found that Hit the Pitch made our work easier and quicker – essentially, it has made us even more effective.”

MLB Softball Tournament

Targets

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 our targets for 2015-16, but reach our 2016-17 target early this summer, nine months ahead of schedule.

John Boyd said: “We are just 1,250 off our four-year Sport England target of 23,565.  This is very encouraging, particularly when we have such strong projects in the pipeline for the coming season.”

Recently, Sport England has switched to a payment-by-results approach that seeks to address underperformance by National Governing Bodies through reducing grants.  Performance results for baseball and softball were considered at a formal review meeting with Sport England in January 2016 and BSUK was given the all-clear for being on track.

According to John Boyd: “Having an unblemished record of delivery against our targets is really important, now more than ever.  This year, organisations will be applying to Sport England for the next four years of funding and it is clear that grant awards will be based on capability and track record.”

Growth in numbers

Baseball and Softball Player Numbers Increase ChartHere 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%
  Base 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Increase in Teams - 58 110 174 27 61 90 189*
Total Teams 568 626 736 910 937 998 1,088 1,277
Increase in Players* - 1,015 1,676 3,110 445 1,031 1,303 3,307
Total Players* 10,387 11,402 13,078 16,188 16,633 17,664 18,967 22,274

* Players who play for teams active on six occasions and with a team name and a captain.
Years run from 1 April to 31 March.  2015 figures are to 31 March 2016.

Great Britain Fastpitch League

Growth by sport

BaseballSoftballUK is tasked with growing all three formats of our sports – baseball, slowpitch softball and fastpitch softball.

John Boyd said: “It’s our belief that our best chance of growing participation is to grow all three formats of the sports together.  Baseball has a powerful international significance, reaching from the heights of Major League Baseball and professional leagues in Asia down to local Little Leagues.  Fastpitch softball is one of the strongest emerging women’s sports. Both baseball and fastpitch softball have realistic Olympic aspirations for Tokyo 2020.  Slowpitch softball is one of the strongest team sports, played here almost exclusively as a mixed game.  It is fun, social, easy to pick up and yet difficult enough to make it an achievement to master.  It’s what many modern sports are trying to create when designing participation-friendly formats.”

BSUK would like to see the three sports 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.

John Boyd added: “It’s vital to us that baseball and fastpitch have grown, and slowpitch growth is really important for our efforts to meet our targets.  The advantages of growing one community of baseballers and softballers are abundant, with clear benefits for each sport and format.  Most, if not all of what BaseballSoftballUK has been able to achieve is directly related to our efforts to present baseball and softball as one sport to funders and to the nation as a whole.”

  Baseline As of March 2013 As of March 2016 Increase since Baseline
  Teams Players Teams Players Teams Players Teams Players
Baseball 138 2,216 191 3,101 248 4,014 110 1,798
Fastpitch 1 19 13 207 30 497 29 471
Slowpitch 429 8,152 733 13,325 999 17,770 570 9,618
Total 568 10,387 937 16,633 1,277 22,274 709 11,887

Age group growth

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.

However, university and college programmes remain a priority focus area for BSUK, due to their role in feeding players into existing adult teams. 

John Boyd said: “What’s different about the university and college teams is that players flow through them before going on to play in community or workplace teams later in life.  This makes higher and further education a really powerful tool for increasing participation.”

The future seems bright for continued growth in our sports.
 

Hit the Pitch

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.

One of the main vehicles used by BSUK to grow participation is its Hit the Pitch national development programme, launched in April 2015.  Hit the Pitch aims to introduce new players to baseball and softball in a meaningful, engaging and fun way.  It  is offered in three distinct though interrelated packages -- Day, Team and League -- and can be tailored to suit individual needs.

Hit the Pitch is aimed at a range of sectors, including schools, universities, colleges, community groups and companies, as well as enabling existing clubs and leagues to grow their numbers. 

For more information or to get involved in a Hit the Pitch programme, visit www.hitthepitch.com or email: hitthepitch@bsuk.com

Loughborough UEA University Baseball Teams

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