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.”

Newcastle Joins Hull in Northeast’s Baseball Rebirth

Davison Field is the latest in a series of baseball facilities built in the last four years in England. Farnham Park, a large complex to the west of London, has seen significant development in the last three years, with Field 1 opening in 2017 and MLB completely revamping Field 2 (pictured above) as part of the legacy events of last year’s London Series. Sources within the organisation told us off the record that MLB spent well over six figures on the site, which played host to Britain’s first MLB Elite Tournament.

“Gosforth Sports Association have always been supportive of hosting us at their venue from day one, but where I think the London Series has helped is that it got more people researching baseball. A lot of our members (and some of our dedicated fans, too) who had previously followed MLB teams didn’t know we existed until after London. They looked at whether baseball was played here and we’d show up in the results.”

Development of the sport since last June’s heavily southeast-focussed London Series has not been limited to the counties around London, as Davison pointed out. Indeed, northeast England was once considered the heart of baseball in the country. In the past half-decade, Hull has taken the lead in fostering baseball in the north, fitting as the original hotbed for English baseball.

“There’s been a real sense of commitment and motivation up here over the last few years,” explained British Baseball League (BBL) Commissioner Kevin Macadam, also the driving force behind Hull Scorpions Baseball. “It’s all credit to the teams and the volunteers who have made it happen and it’s great to see.” 

The Scorpions began redevelopment at Alderman Kneeshaw Park in 2016 and has thriving university and youth baseball programmes. Faithful readers of our site will recognise that year as the same one that Durham University Baseball was founded and later won the National University Baseball Championship.

Baseball has been played in Newcastle since the 1890s, with the Wallsend-on-Tyne club winning the National Baseball Association Cup in 1896. It was the second champion from the northeast in five seasons (Middlesborough, 1892), with the runners-up in 1893 and 1894 also hailing from the area. In fact, Tyneside was, at the time, home to a number of clubs in the Northumberland and North Durham Baseball Association, including the Wallsend team, the “City of Newcastle”, and several others.

Long a city with a strong spirit, Newcastle had a club in an upstart International Professional Baseball League of England in the 1930s.

A club was operating as recently as the 1988 season, but a map of British baseball teams from 1992 shows the sport had died out by then (click thumbnail for larger version).

The sport remained dormant until 2017, when Adam Davison set himself the ambitious task of resurrecting baseball in Tyneside. From a slow start—”just four people throwing a ball”—the club quickly blossomed and, after joining the BBL in 2019, won its Single-A Championship as a first-year club.

It’s a bizarre feeling. I was never the sporting type growing up, my nose was always stuck in a book, so to see what was essentially a pipe dream, starting with 4 people playing catch, leading to 11 people in a park, to now having a playoff winning co-ed squad of 30 across varying genders, ages, ethnicities, religions, members on the autistic spectrum……it’s hard to place just one emotion on how it feels.

Nighthawks Poised to Host Further Development
Effects from the development of Davison Field could be significant. Long separated by distance from English clubs, Baseball Scotland now has a destination within easy reach for its Edinburgh and Glasgow clubs. Previously, teams would have to travel to Hull, Liverpool, County Durham, or Cumbria for exhibitions, with Belfast perhaps an easier option despite air travel.

“It’s a massive step forward for North East baseball,” Davison observed. “Once completed we’ll be perfectly placed to help not only bridge the gap between English and Scottish baseball, but to also establish a long lasting home for future generations to get involved in the sport.”

The Nighthawks were the second new member of the BBL in as many season and further expansion was planned for this year. Another hub in the northeast—alongside Hull and Liverpool, with Sheffield perhaps emerging—would further balance the sport in England.

“I feel lucky more than anything,” concluded Davison. “Lucky and humbled. Lucky to have landed the amazing baseball family I have in the Nighthawks, lucky to have the support of our venue at Gosforth Sports Association, lucky to have the local community behind us.”

A home field in Newcastle could be just what BSUK Universities [link] need to fully establish baseball in the northeast and Scotland. In the significant stretch of country from North Yorkshire to Scotland, only Durham and Hull regular field universities sides. With the sheer distance to all but Durham, Scottish universities have struggled to play full seasons. Tyne-and-Wear, meanwhile, boasts three universities: Newcastle, Sunderland, and Northumbria, along with several colleges. Davison Field, therefore, could become the focal point for signficant future expansion.

“I hope that the new facilities up in Durham and Newcastle might be the start of a localised league up there,” confirmed the BBL’s Macadam. “[It could become] a centre of excellence.”

“There’s a tag line we use when we talk about the club  and how we work, how we train, how we play, how we win, and how we lose: #FlyTogether.”

It is safe to say that, despite the current pandemic, these Nighthawks are flying high. Donate to the club’s future youth development efforts [link], like them on Facebook [link], and following them on Twitter @NCLNighthawks.

Historical materials ©Project Cobb [link]. Photos of the Nighthawks and official blueprints ©Newcastle Nighthawks, with the exception of the final photo, copyright Fergus Chan (Newcastle and Durham University player). Farnham Park ©Extra Innings UK. 

About Gabriel Fidler

Extra Innings UK covers baseball around the world, focussing on the sport at the national team level, with features on prominent players, scouting reports, and occasional breaking news. We are fully credentialled by MLB and have covered the World Baseball Classic, continental championships, and the U.S. minor leagues.
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