GB Slowpitch prepares for Florida World Cup

Wed 24 Oct 2018

From 15-18 November, the GB Co-ed Slowpitch Team will be competing in the 2018 WBSC Slowpitch World Cup in Plant City, Florida.  GB has never won the competition since it became an annual event a few years ago, and the team selected this year is keen to set that right.  So an all-day practice session was held at Farnham Park on Sunday 21 October to start getting the team into shape.  Mike MacDowell, who will play for GB in Florida and also report on the tournament for the BSF website, takes up the story….

A 20-strong cohort of GB Slowpitch players descended on a damp and misty Farnham Park for a pre-World Cup training session on the morning of 21 October and was rewarded when the afternoon turned fine and produced a lot of competitive softball.

This outdoor training session was a first for a GB squad travelling on a World Cup tour since the competition was re-established in the Softball calendar, and given the changeable weather it would have been understandable if players had not wanted to commit to travelling for a soggy session. 

However, the majority of the squad attended apart from those unable to do so because of travel expense or distance issues, again highlighting the monetary factor that can limit the careers of all GB players across both fastpitch and slowpitch.

Helping with the session were a number of other players from the GB Slowpitch squad, creating a jovial atmosphere as friends were re-acquainted for the first time since the end of the season.  But there was a strong competitive edge as players looked to push their teammates headed to Plant City in November.


After a warm-up and stretch to get the respective journeys out from everyone’s legs, Assistant Coach David Lee led the group in a variation of the four-corners drill, with players required to move in and out to change the throwing distances at regular intervals.  The rust from the downtime and the dew from the morning grass were both in evidence as players initially lost control of the ball, but with a quick and settling lesson from David Lee, balls were soon consistently cracking into gloves.

The remainder of the morning featured position-specific drills, with Head Coach Stephen Patterson quickly and gleefully into his favourite role of hitting ground balls for infield practice.  Patterson’s enthusiasm for such a simple task is evident as he coaxes and cajoles his players into improving themselves and their performances.  The infielders rolled through their drills with practiced precision.

Outfielding was another matter: with the grass still relatively dewy there were some slips, but also some spectacular catches as the slightly soft ground, and the ability to slide on the moisture, meant players threw caution to the wind in the pursuit of “outs”.  This could potentially be a key point in Florida as the larger fields can put a greater emphasis on the athleticism and range of outfielders.


If the morning’s weather was damp and misty and less than ideal, there was a single word to describe the afternoon: perfect.  With a warm sun in the sky that dried out the grass and dirt during the lunch break, players were running around in T-shirts and shorts and feeling more like they were on their way to the Sunshine State.

Batting practice and live game hitting was the focus for the afternoon, and Coach Patterson emphasised that line-drive hitting was of the utmost importance; with the eight-foot fences 310 feet away at the Plant City complex, what GB can do with the ball inside the park will almost certainly be more important than getting the ball out of it.

The afternoon was soon filled with the crack of bat on ball as all the players present demonstrated their ability to drive the ball hard to all parts of the park.  The batting practice pitchers -- David Lee, part-time pitcher David Grey and outfielder Mike MacDowell -- were the recipients of some lumps as players focused on honing their timing while maintaining power and bat control.

This power and bat control was on further show for the final scrimmage game of the day.  The group was split into two teams, “Home” and “Away”, and as Stephen Patterson would put it later in the day, “All the hitters impressively took the best fielders out of the game and put up a lot of runs against some great defenses.”

Both teams scored plenty, easily surpassing 20 runs in their four “six-out” innings of work.  The “Home” team produced big innings early on and was able to capitalise on the open spaces much better than their “Away” counterparts.  However, “Away” finished the game stronger, batting twice around the order in the top of the last inning and then getting the “Home” team out cheaply in the bottom half.

Everyone agreed that the day had been a worthwhile experiment, given the glorious weather and the very strong standard of play.

“We’re four weeks ahead of schedule,” Patterson said to the squad afterwards.  “Usually, we spend our first session in Florida removing the rust, but we’ve done that and more today.”

With the sun setting and the post-practice beer drunk, the players hit the road for their journeys home, some longer than others, and will put the final touches to their own personal training before the squad flies to Florida on 9 November.

The GB Slowpitch Team management and players would like to thank the Home Plate Bar and Kitchen for opening so the team could get food and refreshments throughout the day.

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