Baseball Ireland - A BRIEF HISTORY OF BASEBALL & SOFTBALL IN IRELAND
The Irish Baseball & Softball Federation (IBSF) was founded in 1989 with the primary purpose of furthering the growth and development of Baseball and Softball at all age and skill levels throughout Ireland. The IBSF was also responsible for the development of umpiring (refereeing) for the sports and runs clinics for fully qualified international umpires as well as novices. BASEBALL IRELAND is the recognised National Governing Body of Baseball in Ireland and is responsible for the development and promotion of baseball on the island of Ireland.
Adult level Baseball in Ireland began to formally take shape in 1995. Visiting coaches from Major League Baseball International (MLBI) provided the much needed instruction to adult players, most of who had only played recreational softball but wished a greater competitive and athletic challenge.
In 1996, with the assistance of MLBI coaches, Ireland played in its first international competition, the European Championships held in Hull, England. This international experience generated a great deal of interest in Baseball and has ultimately resulted in a ten team Adult League being formed with seven teams in Dublin, two in Belfast and one in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.
On the international scene in 1998, the Irish National Baseball Team made the quarterfinal stage in the 1998 European Championships held in Austria and finished eighth in the sixteen team tournament. The significance of this accomplishment is only fully appreciated when one considers that Ireland was the smallest of all the competing nations with many of the other federations claiming thousands of members.
Irelandís National team hosted the Connie Mack League state champions, the Slocum Baseball Club, from Rhode Island in the United States in 1999. The four game series was a great success for all involved and has now developed into a bi-annual event in which Ireland travelled to America in August of 2001. For more details on how the Irish team fared, click here. And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the diamond, the boys from Slocum came back to Dublin in July, 2003 for a week of serious baseball and craic.
Ireland also 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.
Most recently, the Irish National Team 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.
Youth Baseball (Little League)
Youth Baseball was given a tremendous boost by The Philadelphia Greensox when they traveled to Ireland in 1992. They played the Irish Baseball and Softball all-star team in two baseball games, the first in Galway and the second in Dublin. They ran clinics for the youth program which was, until their arrival, quite underdeveloped. They also delivered equipment to field 8 youth teams.
Youth Baseball in Ireland experienced its first international competition in 1993. A selected team of 11-13 year olds travelled to the United States and played against similarly aged teams from New Jersey.
The following summer of 1993, they raised money and sent four coaches to Ireland for the summer to work with the youth program. With their help, Ireland received a Little League Baseball charter. Our coach, Haverford College athletic director Greg Kannerstein has hosted a dozen or so players from Greystones as they travelled through the states.
A more structured approach was adopted by the IBSF that season through which more teams have been created and a greater emphasis on expert coaching has been initiated. In the summer of 1994, Major League Baseball International (MLBI) provided professional coaches from the United States to Irish Baseball. MLBI has continued its support of Irish Baseball and provides professional coaches to help both Irish players and coaches every summer.
In 1996, Ireland participated in a Home Nations Tournament in Leeds, England which featured teams from Scotland, England and American children living on US military bases in the United Kingdom.
In August 1997 a team of 11-13 year olds participated in the European Championships in Parma, Italy. In July of 2001, an Irish Youth All-Star Team travelled to the United States and accompanied the Irish National Team in the 2001 Development Tour.
National Baseball Facility (The Field of Dreams)
Much of the interest generated in Baseball over the past few years can be attributed to the dream of a generous sponsor and the development of a purpose-built Baseball facility in Clondalkin, West Dublin.
Irish-American Peter O'Malley, owner and President of the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball organisation, first met with the Irish Baseball & Softball Association in 1994. Having already developed baseball fields in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and China, O'Malley pledged $140,000 to the building of an Irish Baseball facility.
Building on the site began in June of 1997 and both fields were officially opened for play on July 4th, 1998. The facility incorporates a regulation sized adult field (Dodger Baseball Field) and an international standard Little League field (O'Malley Little League Field).
The fields are to be used as the centrepiece of Baseball activity in Ireland and will play host to regular season league games for adult and youth teams as well as international fixtures.
With the addition of this purpose built national Baseball facility the total number of youth and adult baseball teams and the profile of the sport has grown significantly over the past number of years.