BBF Press Release: GB U23 Coach Spencer Promoted

The following is a press release from the British Baseball Federation. We will have more imminently as the situation develops. 

The British Baseball Federation is excited to announce the appointment of Mr Drew Spencer as the Lead Programme and Seniors Manager of the Great Britain National Baseball Team. Spencer succeeds Mr Liam Carroll who resigned after 16 years with the programme.

Drew joined the Great Britain Baseball coaching staff in 2019, as Manager of the programme’s U23 team, which achieved its highest ever finish (5th) in the 2019 U23 European Championships. The U23 campaign included a 2-1 victory over the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a first in British Baseball history in any age group.

Drew has also managed the London Mets baseball team to consecutive National Championships in the British Baseball Federation’s top division, the National Baseball League (NBL).

Mr Jason Pearce, the National Teams Director at the BBF, said “Over the next few years, GB Baseball has some significant competitive opportunities ahead of us, from European Championships to the World Baseball Classic and even the Olympic Games. We are excited about Drew’s track record of success and his ability to unite and motivate players to reach new heights for British Baseball”.

As a player, Drew was a 4-time All-Ivy League selection at Dartmouth college. At the time of his graduation, he held career records in 11 offensive categories. He also played for two seasons in Orleans in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League

On his appointment, Drew Spencer said, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get started. Being part of the programme so far has been a tremendous source of inspiration and pride for me, and I have the utmost respect for all that have come before me and whose contributions have helped to make the programme what it is today. The chance to take GB Baseball forward and build on the strength of what Liam Carroll has done is one that will require the very best that I have to offer, but I know I won’t be alone. We have an amazing group of players, coaches, staff and an entire community involved. We will raise the bar together, along with a few trophies along the way!”

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BBF Press Release: Liam Carroll Resigns

The following is a press release from the British Baseball Federation. We will have more imminently as the situation develops. 

Mr Liam Carroll, Great Britain Baseball (GB Baseball) Seniors National Team Manager(*), who has been involved in the programme from 2004 has decided the time is right to move on to new challenges. Mr Carroll leaves the programme in great shape to continue to develop.

Representing Great Britain has been the greatest honour. From the first time I was selected to play in 1996 all the way to managing the 2019 European Championship squad and preparing for the what-if 2021 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, I have given the programme my very best. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and how we’ve grown, especially while having had the privilege to be the caretaker of the Senior age group over the last few years.

Most importantly, I am humbled to have had the best seat in the house to witness the incredible efforts made by so many players, coaches and support staff to Inspire, Develop and Perform for Queen and Country.

Great Britain Baseball will always be inside of me, and although I’m ready to explore some exciting opportunities outside of the programme, I am looking forward to supporting the continued growth of the programme in the future,” said Mr Liam Carroll.

Mr Jason Pearce, National Teams Official for the British Baseball Federation, said: “We are so thankful for Liam’s many contributions throughout the years, we know his future is bright”. He went on to say, “On behalf of Great Britain Baseball and the British Baseball Federation, we wish Liam all the success in his future endeavours.”

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Baseball Euros to Expand in 2021, Qualification Changing

After hosting the Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier in September, Italy will next welcome the European Baseball Championship. The 2021 edition will be the first with 16 teams and is the first major baseball tournament scheduled for next year to be confirmed for its original date. The Baseball Euros will take place in the Piedmont region of northern Italy next September, with venues to be announced.

It is noteworth that the senior Baseball Euros will not, as of now, be postponed because of the pandemic. This year’s B-Pool and C-Pool tournaments were postponed to 2021, along with the U23 Qualifiers, U18 Championsip, and U15 Qualifiers. This means that the senior level championship will be played in the same year as the Olympics (likely around six weeks later), plus the above tournaments and, possibly, some other events previously scheduled for 2021.

Six Additional Teams to Join Europe’s Top Level
Qualification has yet to be announced, but given the uncertainty of public health issues even 12 months from now and the fact that the Olympics will be played only six weeks before, it seems unlikely a separate qualification tournament would be held.

Instead, it would make sense if all 12 teams returned from the 2019 Baseball Euros (above figure). Adding Lithuania, which lost a qualifier to Israel, would make 13 teams. Given the time frame, it is likely that at least the runners-up of the B-Pools (Ukraine and Russia) would join (below left), though perhaps the three highest-rated teams in Europe might be automatically added.

Interestingly, despite the record number of teams (the Euros have included 12 teams since 1997), only one, Lithuania, would make its debut in this scenario. All but two returning teams have appeared at least six times. The exceptions are Israel, which debuted in 2019, and Austria (two appearances). For those curious, Ukraine has appeared six times, most recently in 2010, and were it to play at Europe’s top level, it would cap a remarkable rise from the C-Pool in 2018. Russia has appeared in 12 of the last 14 editions, including nine in-a-row between 1991 (months before officially becoming the Russian Federation) and 2007.

There are, however, two other solutions to qualification for the European title. Should the Confederation of European Baseball wish to retain only the 10 non-relegated 2019 teams, one of two things could happen: 1) A qualification tournament of other teams or 2) Fill the final spots based on WBSC rankings. Each has its issues.

Of the two options, the former would create a situation in which six teams would need to qualify. That would surely a necessitate an event with, at least, eight teams, if not another full set of B-Pool qualifiers with the top three sides advancing. The composition would have to include the two relegated teams (Croatia and Sweden), the losers of the qualification round (Lithuania), and some of the other 13 nations that competed in the B-Pools.

In the second scenario, which could also be used in the situation described above, which cancels relegation, WBSC rankings would determine who automatically advanced from the B-Pool. According to the latest poll (shown to the left with world rankings numbered), the six highest non-qualified teams are Russia (No. 9), Ukraine (No. 12), Lithuania (No. 13), Slovakia (No. 14), Poland (No. 15), and Greece (No. 16). This would, of course, be further bad news for relegated Croatia (No. 17) and Sweden (No. 20). It would mark the first appearance at the continent’s top level for Lithuania and Poland.

Federation sources indicate that the two paths most likely to be followed are the initial setup in which no teams are relegated and four teams added, unless competition next summer is possible, then a regular B-Pool Championship would be played in June or July.

Possible 2021 B-Pool Contestants
Assuming a best-case scenario with the pandemic no longer a threat by early next summer, we can theorise what a B-Pool tournament might look like. As stated above, somewhere between three and six teams will need to qualify.

The difference of three in those figures depend on whether Croatia, Lithuania, and Sweden are given automatic births to the A-Pool. Let us assume they will not and a minimum of six teams will earn promotion. Given that number, maintaining the two pools of six as in recent years would make sense.

That would leave us with the inclusion of 11 of 13 countries from the last B-Pool, depicted above, meaning two would not make the cut (Romania and either Bulgaria or Finland). In all likelihood, two federations will simply not enter teams because of a lack of funds or, perhaps, each pool would have seven competitors.

Additional Effects of Expansion
There will, however, be significant effects of expanding the European Championship. In recent years, there have been three tiers of baseball in Europe (which includes Israel, Turkey, and the Caucasus), with the bottom two teams from the top level trading places with the top two from the B-Pool. The top two teams from the C-Pool move up the B-Pool. There is no formal relegation from B-Pool as not all countries send teams each time their current level of qualification is contested, mainly due to extremely tight budgets. As many as five teams have been promoted from C-Pool in a single year (2018).

The B-Pool has consisted of multiple groups in different locations since 1984, with anywhere from two to five groups. Since 2013, it has held steady at two groups, usually with six teams in each group (with last year’s eight in Slovakia the exception). The C-Pool was instituted in 2014, with eight teams competing in a single location. In 2016 and 2018, the lowest tier was split into two groups of five in different locations.

In total, the most recent editions of each tier featured a total of 30 countries, including 12 in the A-Pool, eight countries that competed only in B-Pool (leaving out Israel, which moved up a tier, and five countries that also played in C-Pool), and 10 in C-Pool. With four more teams in the highest level tournament it leaves only 14 nations from the last qualification cycle below the top tier. This could result in the two qualification levels being combined into one after 2021, almost certainly at two locations.

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UPDATE: Active Minor Leaguers in International Leagues

Andretta 01In recent articles, we have looked at the historic circumstances that have permitted active minor leaguers to sign with European baseball clubs. At one point, eight such players were listed on rosters in the Italian leagues (one has since been released by his MLB organisation). Several more are anticipated in the Netherlands’ top circuit or, indeed, have already joined. We also broke the story on July 25 that Curaçao had become the third league with MiLB players. We look here at the full list of 18 such players, along with players rostered by American universities in these leagues, to conclude our discussion of these historical circumstances.

The Pandemic Contract Exception
MLB scouts have confirmed that these signings are due to what we have labelled the “Pandemic Contract Exception”, in which players have asked for a “loan” to a European club, which is permitted in the standard minor league contract [link]. The “loan” (to use the terminology of said document) is unusual only for the fact that players will suit up in Europe during the normal minor league season, which is unprecedented for minor league players that already have game experience [as discussed at this link].

As we discussed yesterday, signing a contract and remaining in, for example, Italy or the Netherlands to finish high school, is fairly standard practice, but players MiLB ball, returning for Serie A or Hoofdklasse competition and then, theoretically, returning to the minors the following season (in this case, 2021), is possible only through this exception.

A Surfeit of European Talent in Italy
As a result of the “Pandemic Contract Exception”, European baseball fans will have the chance to watch several bonafide—if raw—prospects in Hendrik Clementina (right) and Marc Civit. Twin Spanish prospects Omar Hernández and Frank Hernández and Italian minor leaguers Cesare Astorri and Ettore Giulianelli are also joining the league. Astorri has been scorching hot since the season started, dropping four bombs in 28 at bats.

There are some solid veterans as well, like Markus Solbach, who has pitched on three continents and was likely on the long list to pitch for the Dodgers had a full season occurred. Although he was under contract with Los Angeles when he signed his contract with San Marino, the German national teamer and Adelaide Bite (now Giants) record-holder has since been released. San Marino is surely grateful to have him, as he has struck out 18 with two hits and a single walk in 7.1 innings over two starts.

Nettuno boasts long-time Italian national teamer Alberto Mineo, released in May. We previously reported on the signing of Ray-Patrick Didder by Bologna. Meanwhile, Solbach will be joined in the rotation in San Marino by Alex Maestri, a similarly international journeyman.

The changes brought by coronavirus worked both ways, however. Several foreign players that had signed contracts for the year were told they could not play, including Marc-André Habeck, a returning player with Parma, and Great Britain’s Paul Kirkpatrick (right), who had a stellar 2019 in the Hoofdklasse and European Championships.

However, numerous Italians at American universities have joined FIBS teams. Maurizio Andretta (header picture), a Europeans in University All-Star in 2017-18, is playing for Montefiascone after losing his sophomore campaign for Odessa Junior College. His university teammate, Giulio Monello, is catching Solbach and Maestri in San Marino, which will make for incredible experience. Daniel Monti is rostered by Bollate after his first year at Odessa was wiped out, as with Andretta and Monello.

Frontier College’s Tommaso Giarola is under contract with Parma, a big assignment for a first-year university player with no spring season. U.S. teammate Matteo Oldano will play for Senago. A third Frontier player, Samuel DeSimone, is suiting up for Macerata.

Clarendon Junior College’s, Oscar Tucci who was meant to play his first season this spring, is on the roster for Macerata, where he will be joined by a third JuCo athlete, New Mexico JC’s Lorenzo Morresi. Morresi is teammates in the U.S. with promising Great Britain outfielder Ollie Thompson.

Three other known Italians at American universities could potentially join this list.

The Netherlands Poised for Prospect Additions
With the Hoofdklasse beginning play on July 23, a source tells us that Sem Robberse and Darryl Collins will return to the Netherlands to play, though they are not yet listed on rosters. Tom de Blok (right), Donny Breek, and Jiorgeny Casimiri are also confirmed.

Robberse had an electrifying debut at age 17 with the GCL Blue Jays in 2019 (0.87 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 10.1 IP), while Collins was similarly promising in a 48-game stint for the AZL Royals (.320/.401/.436).


Phoenix College’s Tijmen Takke—a 2019 MLB Elite selection—hit fifth for HCAW on Opening Night, which Arizona Western’s Luuk ter Beek started. The Matadors of Arizona Western were meant to have five Dutch players on the roster this spring, and it seems likely all will play at home instead. Nolan Beugeling started at shortstop for Hoofddorp and Delano Selassa occupied the same position for Amsterdam on the first day of the Hoofdklasse. Angelo Wicklert came on to close for Hoofddorp and took the loss, while the final Matador, Jeandro Tromp, came in late for HCAW.

Indian Hills CC’s Dave Janssen started for the Twins on Thursday, giving the Hoofdklasse seven players on the rosters of American community colleges.

Given the talent being produced in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes Curaçao and Aruba, we could potentially see a few more players of Robberse and Collins’ calibre agreeing to terms with Hoofdklasse clubs, assuming they can travel to the Netherlands. Names for which to look out are Denzel Bryson and Arij Fransen, plus seven other known university players who could make appearances as well.

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The Pandemic Contract Exception for International Leagues

Clementina 05Since we were first to the scene in announcing the historic loan of active minor leaguers Marc Civit, Hendrik Clementina (above), and Matteo Bocchi to Italy’s Serie A [link], we have also broken the news of multiple more signings by the league, along with two other national circuits. In our previous piece, we discussed the standard minor league contract and its policy on loans, positing a “Pandemic Contract Exception”. Since then, we have spoken to several scouts to clarify this exception, with some interesting conclusions emerging.

The Pandemic Contract Exception
We posited a “Pandemic Contract Exception” to the standard minor league contract—detailed in our previous piece on the topic—in which a player may be loaned to another league, exceptionally, in this case, during the regular MiLB season. As discussed in the link above, these contracts include a proviso on “loans”, but vague language suggests that these loans are to either winter leagues or minor league teams in other organisations (relatively common until the mid-1990s). The language suggests either would happen at the club’s directive, not the player’s.

In speaking with scouts, two things become clear. First, that nothing in the contract suggests a player’s national league is option for the player. Second is that a player loan (to use the standard language of a minor league contract) to a team in Italy, the Netherlands, or elsewhere is something each player negotiates with his club.

Additionally, we can confirm that European signings do not contain additional clauses allowing that player to continue playing in his native country or return to its league outside of the minor league season. What makes this decision unusual, in part, is the unprecedented case of players with game experience in the minor leagues returning to European leagues to play.

According to a scout for a MLB club, “You need to ask [your club] for permission and if it is granted, then you can play. That is literally it.”

This confirms the statement from RFEBS, Spain’s national federation, on behalf of Civit, who does not have any special language in his contract. Instead, it would appear, any player can make a request to his MLB club to play in a domestic and it is up to the organisation to confirm or reject the proposal. This fairly sizeable loophole not only allows a pandemic contract exception, but could result in any number of “loans” to international leagues.

The sum total of active MiLB players in the Italian league is now seven, one fewer than Thursday, when Markus Solbach was released by the Dodgers. The Hoofdklasse, the top league in the Netherlands, boasts four current minor leaguers and, as we broke yesterday, Curaçao’s Liga Aqualectra will become the third league to feature professional players during the normal MiLB season. In total, there are 18 players under active minor league contract with MiLB experience playing in non-U.S. leagues.

Other Contract Exceptions
Although the signings of Solbach, Clementina, and the Spanish prospects in Italy is highly unusual, Italians regularly continue playing in their home country after signing their first contract. For example, Alberto Mineo (pictured below) signed two years before going to the US and continued to play in Serie A. This is also the case in Spain and the Netherlands.

“It was common to sign and then stay at home to finish high school while playing for your own club,” we were told by an employee of an AL club. “Also, if at the end of the minor league season there was still ball in Italy, they joined in. It’s more common than it seems.”

The situation is similar in the Netherlands, where Dutch players could finish high school in their home country and play in the country’s strong national league. The situation is different in Germany, however.

“In the German League, actually, [continuing to play is] not allowed,” explained our source. “Solbach, for example, can pitch in Italy but not in Germany, what an irony!”

The decision to prohibit professional players is up to the league, not MLB organisations. As several scouts told us, “You just need permission.” The limits for the Bundesliga, however, make sense. Serie A and the Hoofdklasse are at a different professional level than leagues in other countries, even the Czech Republic and Germany. Solbach would instantly become the most experienced player in the Bundesliga, for instance, likely leading to the league’s exclusion.

A scout with a different organisation dampened any idea that this could become a more common situation in future years, however, remarking that the signings are solely due to the pandemic. Given the intention of MLB to reduce the minor league system by 40 teams, however, we could see a return to this approach after the next collective bargaining agreement.

It is worth noting, as well, that the ban on in-person scouting is still in effect, so teams and fans will be the only ones benefitting from the unexpected influx of talent. Only “video and remote work”, as one scout put it, is permitted by MLB until announced otherwise.

Tomorrow we will have a look at what windfalls of talent this “exception” has brought the top two levels of Italian baseball as well as the Netherlands’ Hoofdklasse. We also round up the full list of European players at American universities, already at 13, who have returned to play in the two systems. Finally, we look at the effects it could have on other leagues.

Photos copyright Extra Innings.

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BREAKING: Bologna Signs Three Active Minor Leaguers for 2020 Italian Season

The Cubs’ Matteo Bocchi, the Blue Jays’ Marc Civit, and the Reds’ Hendrik Clementina have been given permission to sign with UnipolSai Bologna for the 2020 season. They mark the first known signings of MiLB players with another league during the pandemic. We looked at minor league contracts and spoke to multiple European federations, which allows us to confirm that these signings are highly exceptional.

Fortitudo Bologna announced on Saturday that Civit (pictured above) would suit up for the Italian club in 2020, though no details on his contract were mentioned in the article [link]. This morning, July 9, the club put out a press release to state that Clementina would be added for IBL play [link]. No release was forthcoming for Bocchi, but the right-hander pitched yesterday on Opening Day.

Bocchi chose a more unusual route to the minors, transferring from Odessa College after two years and turning in two excellent years at the University of Texas. The soon-to-be 24-year old then signed with Chicago as an undrafted free agent and turned in a 2.97 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings across three minor league levels.

Civit signed with Toronto in 2018, two weeks after his 16th birthday, and had a stellar debut in 2019. Despite starting the Dominican Summer League season at age 17, the Spanish southpaw had a 3.13 ERA and .250 batting average against in 31.2 innings. Civit averaged more than two innings per appearance.

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WBSC Opens Permanent, Sustainable HQ in Switzerland

PULLY, Switz.  The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has officially opened its new and permanent global headquarters in Pully, Switzerland, directly adjacent to the Olympic capital city of Lausanne. The new headquarters have been named “Home Plate” and is owned and operated by the WBSC.

The new WBSC headquarters meets many of the world governing body’s sustainability goals with 90% of the building’s electricity coming from roof top solar panels.

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari on Monday (6 July) welcomed senior members of the Olympic Family, including International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and representatives from the Pully Municipality and Canton of Vaud for the official opening of the new WBSC headquarters.

“With the opening of Baseball and Softball’s new and permanent global headquarters in Pully, our sport will be and always remain at the heart of the Olympic Movement,” WBSC President Fraccari said. “Our sport’s top priority at the world level is to be featured permanently at the Olympic Games and grow with the Olympic Family, and now we will be more focused than ever at achieving this, while our immediate target is to contribute to the great success of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

“Following many years in the Olympic programme and since our exclusion after Beijing 2008, we have worked tirelessly to rebuild our events and operations. Today, we are a unified, global sport with a worldwide fan and player base and a powerful commercial engine driving our continued growth. We count 211 national federations and millions of players – male and female – covering baseball and softball and international competitions for all age categories starting at U-12.”

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Start Dates for 2020 National and Independent Leagues

Last update 21 August. 

Given the flurry of announcements of national leagues opening around the world, we thought we should collate the various start dates. There are currently 29 active leagues, with one more scheduled for late August. The first country to restart play was the Czech Republic, while the first professional league was Taiwan’s CPBL. Europe features 23 of the 29 active leagues, with Spain soon to join. This list will be updated as more leagues begin play.

Austria: July 3
Belarus: August 15
Belgium: July 3 (suspended July 29), resumed August 28
Bulgaria: June 14
Croatia: June 14
Curaçao: July 18
Czech Republic (Extraliga): May 22
Denmark: June 14
Estonia: May 21
Finland: June 12
France: August 8 (“French Summer League”)/September 6 (“Challenge Suzanne Bricand)
Germany: August 8
Great Britain: Tournament instead of season
Ireland: July 20
Italy: July 8
Lithuania: June 13
Japan (NPB): June 19
Mexico: Cancelled
Netherlands: July 23
Nicaragua (Germán Pomares 2nd Half): April 17 (suspended on May 21), resumed June 26
Norway: June 21
Poland: July 5
Russia: August 8
Serbia: June 7
Slovakia: Before June 12
South Korea (KBO): May 5
Spain: August 30
Sweden: July 1
Switzerland: June 13
Taiwan (CPBL): April 12 (Scheduled for April 11)
Ukraine: July 4
USA: July 1/September 1 (Pecos League), July 2 (Pacific League), July 3 (American Association, United Shore League), July 10 (Constellation Energy League), September (Empire League)
Vietnam (Hanoi, not national): June 7

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BREAKING: Newcastle to Build Diamond; Link English, Scottish Baseball

A new baseball field is to be built in England this summer, the first new diamond in the country since a fourth field opened in 2017 at Farnham Park, the national baseball and softball facility. According to a press release from the Newcastle Nighthawks Baseball Club today, construction on Davison Field in north Newcastle will begin this month and conclude in August. Moreover, field development became possible thanks to donations via the club’s GoFundMe page and increase in interest following London Series 19.

According to the Nighthawks’ statement, the complex will have a “permanent backstop and high-spec groundworks” (See the club’s official proposal below). The organisation intends for Davison Field to become “a facility befitting of the national league standard”. It set a goal of £1,500 on GoFundMe [link], instead raising £1,900 and counting. The list of donations reads like a who’s who of British baseball: GB Baseball staff, the country’s top umpires, hosts of fan websites and podcasts, and players from all levels.

“To have both matched and then exceeded our GoFundMe target the way we did, in such a short time, speaks volumes for the support the club has from both the local and the wider baseball community,” club founder Adam Davison told us. “The success wasn’t just possible from my efforts, though, but the efforts of every single member of the Nighthawks past and present, who got us to where we are.

“Not least of all, Stu Taylor and Allan Binns have had a huge impact on how we’ve shaped the club into what it is today.”

Additional funds will be plugged back into the community, with the club stating that “we are also hoping to buy a junior starter kit so younger members of the community can come enjoy the benefits of the sport too”. The Nighthawks have put this into action previously, working with local charities Change Grow Live and Gateshead Evolve.

“What I think helped convince the Council to give the go ahead is our ethos and outlook,” noted Davison. “We’re keen to get a youth team and schools programme started. We know that we exist in large part because of the community via their support and donations, so we want to actively support the community in return.”

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DAILY TIMES: King’s Academy Graduate Making Mark as International Baseball Coach

Danube Cup BaseballOur Managing Editor, Gabriel Fidler, was featured in an American newspaper over the weekend. The Daily Times spoke with him about the start to his career at The King’s Acadmey and Lee University, through to the creation of this website in 2013, his foundation with Will Zucker of Durham University Baseball in 2016, and his recent move into international coaching with the Hungarian Baseball Federation. Enjoy hearing about his 16-year hitless streak, learning to cheer in Hungarian, and his favourite moments in baseball [Link].

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