Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The View From Over The Pond (@AstrosFansUK)

Baseball Eve 2018

“Twas the night before baseball, when thro' the clubhouse, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; 
The bats were hung by the dugout with care, In hopes that St. Luhnow soon would be there...”

...or something. In other words, here we are: Astros baseball is oh so nearly back! As we say a final goodbye to that glorious 2017 we enter 2018 with our aim a simple one - to win it ALL. Again. Amazing how less daunting that task sounds now that we have a world title under our belt (even 5 months later that still sounds ultra-cool to say). 

After a highly profitable Spring Training it is now time for the real business to get underway and what better way to announce our intentions in 2018 than to knock the Rangers around in their own backyard? Here’s hoping. I can’t see Hinch and Verlander allowing the season to start on a bum note with any complacency and I fully expect a positive result on Opening Day, though probably in a reasonably tight ballgame as I imagine Hamels will turn up reasonably well for them.

Just briefly touching upon ST, to echo what everyone not under a rock has been saying: Kyle Tucker - WOW. Surely only a matter of time this year (I’ll stick my neck out and say August) before he gets his chance with the big club and how fascinating it will be to see how he gets on. I will miss Preston as an Astro even if it didn’t quite work out in the end, hopefully Kyle can do what Bam-Bam couldn’t quite.

Congratulations to J.D. Davis on making the club for the new season, I hope he can hit the ground running. A little disappointed for Tony Kemp but I’m pretty sure he’ll get some chances to chip in at various points during the season. Will it ever be more than that for him? Not so sure.

Bearing in mind some of the other injuries sustained by players across ST for other clubs I think we can count ourselves fairly fortunate that the only real damage done was to Yuli Gurriel. Looking forward to seeing La Piña back in action ASAP, I’m unashamedly a big fan of that dude - a clutch hitter in a team of clutch hitters.

Prediction for 2018? I’ll take the fairly non-controversial pick of an incredible 102-60 regular season to win the AL West again. I’m not going to make a postseason prediction as so much unpredictable funky weirdness (UFW, for future reference) happens in October and you just pray not to be on the end of too much of it. All I’ll say is we are stunningly poised to do real damage again - insane hitting lineup, insane starting pitching rotation, bolstered bullpen with potentially Sipp the only weakness. It’s crazy just thinking about how good this Astros club is. Savour it!

Roll on Astros 2018 Edition. Let me know your season predictions or even any 2018 baseball predictions actually!

2019: MLB in the UK?

Some of you may have seen last week, Bloomberg broke a news story reporting the Yankees and Red Sox were ‘close’ to sealing a deal to play a 2-game regular season series in June 2019 in London at the London Stadium (née Olympic Stadium).

For the UK this would be huge. What I said earlier about repeating an Astros championship triumph not seeming so daunting does not apply here. At all. This is enormously daunting. The small (but perfectly formed) and highly-dedicated UK baseball fanbase has been pushing and hoping for MLB to arrive on these shores for nearly 20 years. If this happens we simply HAVE to get it right first time. If we make a mess of it and it turns into a novelty embarrassment we Brits are keenly aware that MLB will never come back. Full stop/period. There is a truckload of pressure on this to take off.

As for the teams purportedly involved, am I disappointed? Yes, I would honestly have thought they’d want to bring over the current world champions, the most exciting team in baseball, however I can of course understand the theory behind bringing one of the most storied baseball rivalries of all time over here. The Yankees and Red Sox will, through gritted teeth, certainly bring out everyone curious in the sport of baseball and the goal has to be to catch up to NFL, whose profile is now of a decent footing in the UK.

My major concern is with how the London Stadium will translate into a ballpark (the dimensions just aren’t right, as with any stadia we have here aside from several cricket stadiums - good luck convincing them to allow baseball to be played there during the cricket season). I will speak more on this series when further information is confirmed by MLB and MLB UK.

The UK Movement

Following on from last year’s Facebook Live event in London where I represented the Astros (and the subsequent MLB Battlegrounds event which drew 20,000 free spectators in Hyde Park last July), us UK fans of all MLB clubs came together with the unified goal of seeking out new baseball fans. We held a few ‘meetup’ events where circa 30 of us would gather and watch a ballgame or two or three, which was replicated in Leeds and Birmingham. 

This year however, we are taking it up another notch, starting with a bang in Opening Week. We have meetup events scheduled for:

Saturday 31st March - Leeds
Sunday 1st April - London
Saturday 7th April - Aberdeen, Scotland
Saturday 7th April - Birmingham
Sunday 8th April - Manchester

Aside from designing the promo posters for all the events, I’ve been heavily involved in arranging the London event at Belushi’s London Bridge along with @MLBUKCommunity and this is going to be a big, big night. We have over 50 registered attendees lined up already, with Team GB baseball coach Liam Carroll as a special guest and UK-based podcast Bat Flips & Nerds doing a live podcast from our event. 

We have received superb support from MLB UK, who have contributed £600 behind the bar for the London event; from Topps, who have sent us a simply staggering amount of baseball cards for free to give out to attendees plus Fanatics are on the verge of offering us a special store discount code as I understand as well.

I did a radio interview for Love Sport London last week ( the UK 2019 series and plugging our London meetup event, at which I will of COURSE be representing the Astros and hoping to cheer us on to victory vs the Rangers.

If you’re interested then check out the forthcoming photos and videos from the event on my Twitter @AstrosFansUK and the hashtag #MLBMeetupsUK.

We have a hell of a long road ahead of us to get MLB eatablished in the UK sporting consciousness but we will not be found wanting in terms of effort!

Bring. This. On.