Nine inductees announced for BSF Hall of Fame

Mon 26 Feb 2018


New members are inducted into the British Softball Federation Hall of Fame every two years, and nine new members will be inducted on Saturday 24 February in a ceremony at the BSF AGM in Manchester.

The group will consist of four players, one coach, one player/coach, one coach/manager and two administrators.

Nominations for the Hall of Fame, which began in 2007, are made by members of the softball community and voted on by the BSF Executive.

This year’s inductees bring the total number of Hall of Fame members across the different categories to 47.  The 2018 inductees are:


PLAYERS
 

Jenny Ball​

Jenny began playing softball as a teenager in Nottingham, along with her twin sister Helen, and was selected to the GB Women’s Fastpitch Team in 2006 at the age of 19.  Her fastpitch career was largely derailed after that because of a series of major injuries, though she played for the Women’s Team again at the 2013 European Championship.  But Jenny’s biggest impact, despite those injuries, has come as a slowpitch player, playing for the GB Slowpitch Team and some of the top A-grade teams in England over the course of the last decade.

Many observers would say that Jenny and BSF Hall of Famer Laura Thompson are the two best female players ever to come through the British system.  Jenny has always been a tremendously athletic, elegant, fearless and very smart slowpitch player, displaying great hands and a great throwing arm while playing a number of infield and outfield positions and occasionally catcher.  And she has always been a high-average line-drive hitter with very good speed, and an aggressive and intelligent baserunner.  There is almost nothing Jenny can’t do on a softball field, and do better than almost everyone else.

 

Leah English

Leah was the starting catcher for the GB Women’s Team from 2006 through 2012, an unusually long span for an overseas-based player. 

She was always a strong, agile and high-quality catcher, and she evolved as a hitter over her time with GB as she got used to international pitching, often hitting for power in clutch situations, and batting .333 at her last World Championship tournament in 2012. 

Over time, Leah became the team’s main leader – the backbone of GB Women’s Teams in which Hall of Famer Stacie Townsend was the inspiration – and Leah was named Team Captain by Head Coaches Craig Montvidas and Hayley Scott.  Leah was smart, grounded, honest and unafraid to speak out – a great combination of qualities for a team captain.

 

Pat Hoey

Pat started his softball career in the London Advertising League in the late 1980s with top teams Harvey Wallbangers and Boom, and joined the Raindancers at the start of the 1990s. 

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that he joined the Chromies, and that was the start of the Chromies’ dominance in A-grade slowpitch softball.

Pat became the team captain, a fearless presence in the middle of the diamond who epitomised the Chromies’ never-say-die attitude.  His consistency as a pitcher was remarkable, and as a fielder he had few weaknesses, grabbing hard-hit balls that would have handcuffed most others.

Pat led the team during its most successful period when countless tournaments and National Championships were won, and he was the first British captain to hold aloft the European Slowpitch Cup trophy when the competition began in Paris in 2007.

Chromies’ Hall of Fame Manager Doug Clouston said, “Pat is a true legend of slowpitch softball and is greatly missed, on and off the field.”

 

Kirstie Leach

Kirstie has been a phenomenal servant to British softball over a large number of years, in a career that shows no signs of stopping.  Rarely does a player seem to get better and better over time, but Kirstie has excelled in most areas of the game, which has made her a key figure for both club and country.

Coming from a tennis background, like fellow Hall of Famer Ruth Macintosh, Kirstie’s hand-eye co-ordination is apparent and her ability to place the ball almost wherever she wants has made her one of the most consistent hitters British softball has ever seen.

Kirstie got her start around 2000 with various teams in the Bristol Softball Association, including the A-grade Bristol Blue Sox, who made it to a national final.  She still plays Indoor in Bristol and her team has won the Bristol Indoor League for the past nine years.

Her first GB outing was at the European Slowpitch Championship in 2004 in Austria and she has been virtually ever-present on GB teams ever since.

Kirstie joined H2O when they were founded in 2006 and has been a fixture for more than a decade, competing in 63 tournaments and helping H2O to more than 20 wins as a key player on the team.  Roger Grooms said: “As an organiser, it is such a pleasure to play with someone so reliable, honest and trouble-free.  Kirstie is truly a player you can count on.”

During the Slowpitch World Cup in 2016, Kirstie batted close to .750, a phenomenal achievement, but similar to the sort of performance she has continued to put in on every tournament weekend.  Her passion and commitment to the sport, coupled with a great ability to enjoy herself, are unrivalled.  She has won MVP awards at all levels and in all competitions, as well as internal GB MVP awards.

 

PLAYER/COACH
 

Mark Saunders

Mark first played softball at school in Chichester, and gravitated to The Economist’s team in the London Advertising League in the late 1980s.

 

In 1990, he formed Leytonstoned Again in Division 6 of the GLSML with brother and fellow Hall of Famer Bruce, but his defining moment came when he entered the team in the Meteors Tournament in Finsbury Park in 1991, where a new world of competitive softball opened up.  Mark captained Leytonstoned Again to promotion in consecutive years until the mid-week team finally disbanded in 2014.

Mark joined the Dragons in the late 1990s as their pitcher, and the team went on to win various tournaments over the years, peaking in 2008 when they finally won the National Championship.  Mark also formed Leytontestosteroned Again, a competitive and successful men’s tournament side drawn from the top players of the day, and he was a key part of the inaugural Africa team that won the Softball World Series four out of five years from 2000 through 2004.

Mark trialled for GB as a pitcher in 2000 and made the squad for the European Slowpitch Championship in Ireland, where GB simply blew everyone away.  Having tasted international competition, albeit largely as a bench player, he was determined to get a second bite.  After an angst-ridden round-robin series of under-performances at the next European Championship in the Czech Republic in 2002, Mark broke into the starting line-up at the knockout stage and delivered a controlled display in the circle that led to GB coming back to win the final. 

At the time, Mark would often go down to a softball field by himself and hit up to 150 balls off a tee, using video to self-analyse.  Through sheer hard work and discipline, he became the go-to GB lead-off hitter for the next four years.  As a pitcher, he would also practice relentlessly, and the key difference between Mark and other pitchers is that he would work extra sessions on defense, learning and executing every back-up position.

Mark retired as a GB player in 2006, and took over as the first home-grown GB Slowpitch Head Coach soon after, winning the next two European Championships.  His research and ideas while GB Head Coach were a key factor in the development of homegrown players -- many of them still leading lights in the game – who would take those ideas and techniques back to their local clubs.

Having retired as a GB player and coach, Mark moved to Bristol, where he managed and coached local teams.  Most recently, he's dedicated his efforts to building a large and successful softball programme Archway School in Stroud, and entered a team from the school in the Bristol Softball League last year.  It was no surprise that they won their division.

 

COACH
 

Hayley Scott

Hayley is a dual South African/British national with a family softball background who came to the UK in 2001, became an Assistant Coach with the GB Women’s Team under Craig Montvidas in 2005 and then served as Head Coach from 2008-15, the longest-tenured Head Coach the team has had.  Hayley was also Head Coach for the GB Juniors at the 2008 European Championship and helped that programme revive after the team had failed to enter European Championship in 2006.

The GB Women’s Team had most of its best years under Hayley, finishing second and third over the course of four European Championships under her leadership and never lower than fifth, qualifying for two World Championships (where the team finished 11th) and playing in three.

During part of her time in charge of the GB Women’s Team, Hayley also worked as a Development Manager for BSUK, was the Academy Softball Director and a coach tutor and assessor for Sport Structures.

Since returning to South Africa in 2012, and while still GB Women’s Team Head Coach, Hayley has worked as a Project Manager for Major League Baseball in South Africa, received a designation from South Africa’s NOC as a National Coach Developer, supported development projects in townships to try to get young girls to play softball and begun her own Coach Development Program, Hi Five Coaching, that trains young coaches to coach in schools.

Since stepping down from the GB Women’s Team, Hayley has become Head Coach of the South African Junior National Team and an Assistant Coach with their Senior Team.

 

COACH/MANAGER
 

Ross Smith

Although it would be true to say Ross has been around the British softball scene for a very long time – since the late 1980s -- it would perhaps be more accurate to say that he has embodied the spirit of the game in the UK, having played and coached both fastpitch and slowpitch along with organising and managing teams in both disciplines.

LNZ is currently the longest running slowpitch club team in the UK, and Ross has been a player, coach and manager for the team for virtually the whole of its existence.

In fastpitch, Ross has represented the Great Britain Men’s Team as a player, coached and managed Fastpitch League men’s teams as well as played for them, was a founder and coach for the Meteors Men’s Fastpitch Team and also served as a Head Coach for the London Angels and an Assistant Coach for the GB Women's Fastpitch Team.

In other words, Ross has spent many years volunteering his time to help softball grow and develop in the UK.

But that is only part of what defines Ross as a Hall of Famer, because he has achieved all that while being one of the nicest, kindest, warmest personalities in the game.  He is competitive, but the consummate model of good sportsmanship.  His managerial style is inclusive and fair and yet he still manages to win.  He has a way with people that avoids conflict.  He can put a winning team on the field and still manage the bench well.  And that is why he has been so successful as a coach and manager for so long – it’s fun to play for him and he still fosters a winning mentality.

Ross, more than anyone, knows that softball is a game.  He has always tried to pass on as much experience and knowledge as he can, and he has been deeply involved in shaping the sport in the UK.  Ross is one of the great figures of British softball, and very deserving of the honour of being a member of the BSF Hall of Fame.

 

ADMINISTRATORS
 

Pearl Bramhall

Pearl’s involvement in British softball goes back to the 1980s and started with the London Advertising League, where she was part of the team that went to the first TPT (The Players’ Tournament) in California in 1989 – a tournament she played in and helped send teams to all the way up to 2015.

Pearl joined the Ad League Committee in 1996 and took over as League Head in 1997, serving through 2004 when she stepped down to manage the GB Slowpitch Team.  But Pearl kept her involvement with the Ad League, playing for many years until she moved out of London, and she still does the master game schedule for the league, with all its teams and divisions.

Pearl has played for and managed different women’s slowpitch teams, played in the GLSML as well as the Ad League, managed at an international level, umpired for BASU, produced schedules for leagues and tournaments and served on the BSF Executive.

Kim Comer said: “Pearl has been a great inspiration to me, as someone who has done it all -- she plays, umpires and has run teams.  She has dedicated her time and organising skills to help GB Slowpitch Softball and the London Advertising and Windsor Leagues for many years.  There is nothing that she can't do or advise on with her vast knowledge of the game. She's a worthy recipient of induction to the Hall of Fame and I couldn’t be happier for her.”

 

Liz Graham

Liz has been involved as a scorer, organiser and administrator in British baseball and softball for over 30 years, and has already been honoured by the BSF as a joint winner of the Glover Cup in 2007 along with Lesley Morisetti.

Liz’s early career was in Scottish baseball, where she was a scorer for various Scottish club teams and eventually for the Scotland National Team, receiving her CEB scorer’s qualification in 1996 and the BBF Scorers Award in 1997. She also served for seven years on the Board of the Scottish Baseball Federation.

At the same time, however, Liz was also heavily involved in Scottish softball as a founder member and organiser of the Picts Softball Club and as an umpire and coach in the new Edinburgh Surveyors Softball League that began in 1991.  She also organised the original Edinburgh Festiball Softball Tournament in 1994 and 1995, and returned to the tournament in 2000, where she has been a co-organiser to the present day.

In 1998 Liz formed a new team in Scotland – the Bandits – that won both the Edinburgh League and the BSF “C” Nationals and formed the basis of a travelling team, The Clan, that won the World Slowpitch Cup in 2005.

In 1999, Liz took over as the Co-ordinator for the Edinburgh Softball League – now an open league rather than a Surveyors League – and held the post until 2016.

Her involvement with the BSF Executive began in 2004, with responsibility for running National Championships, which she continues to do to this day.  In 2012, the role of National Softball League organiser was added to her portfolio, and in 2017 she oversaw the birth of a fully-functioning NSL2.

To all of these roles, Liz has brought tremendous dedication, organisational precision and a firm sense of fairness, which has made her one of the most efficient and effective administrators that British and Scottish softball and baseball have ever had.

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