Reading through comments on my articles from last week, I noticed one reader asking me to write about Irish baseball.
Having thought that Irish American football was marginally “out there” I was a little surprised to learn that an Irish baseball league even existed and yet it does. Like the American football scene, it’s thriving despite obscurity.
Like American Football baseball is a fairly nascent phenomenon. The Irish Baseball and Softball Association (IBSA) first saw the light of the world in 1989 and besides overseeing the growth of the sport in Ireland has also overseen the development of the sport’s domestic training and refereeing infrastructure.
It wasn’t until 1995, though, that adult baseball really started making serious in-roads into Irish society when a first pioneering batch of coaches from Major League Baseball International (MLBI) provided some badly needed impetus and got the whole thing kick-started. Things, though, took off pretty quick.
By 1996 there was such a thing as the Irish national baseball team who competed in their first international competition in that year. The excitement generated by that competition in England ultimately spawned the creation of a ten team Irish baseball league with seven teams from Dublin, a team from Belfast, and finally one from Greystones, County Wicklow.
While the domestic club scene was still taking off, the international side finally began making some better progress. After their initial voyage to England they competed in a European competition where they finished eighth out of sixteen teams despite being by far the smallest federation to compete in the tournament.
More recently, Ireland competed at international level competition when they played in the 2000 European B-Pool Championships held in Croatia and finished in fourth place at the 2002 European B-Pool Championships held in Stockholm, Sweden, and won a Bronze medal in the European B-Pool Championships held in August, 2004 in Regensburg, Germany and a Silver Medal at the 2006 European B-Pool Championships held in Antwerp, Belgium.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of Irish baseball so far, though, has been the creation of a purpose built facility in Clondalkin, Dublin, the so-called Field of Dreams.
Building on the site began in June of 1997 and site’s two fields were officially opened for play on July 4th, 1998, marking a historic occasion for Irish sport and baseball.
The facility incorporates a regulation sized adult field (Dodger Baseball Field) and an international standard Little League field (O'Malley Little League Field).
The whole history of Irish baseball was encapsulated in “The Emerald Diamond”, a 2006 documentary shot almost entirely on its director’s credit cards. A runaway success, it received the Critic’s Choice at the 2006 Baseball Film Festival and raised further the profile of the sport in Ireland.
The Irish Baseball League, started in 1997, continues to be the mainstay of the year’s competition. It runs annually from April until July; games are played on the weekends.
Although the majority of games are held at the Field of Dreams, (The O'Malley Fields at Corkagh Park in Clondalkin, West Dublin), select games are also occasionally held in other locations such as Shanganagh Park and the Greystones Mariners home field.
The current teams compete in the 2010 league: The Dublin Hurricanes, The Dublin Spartans, The Dublin Blacksox, The Greystones Mariners, The Belfast Northstars and The Munster Warriors.