Meet the teams competing for The Plate!
Can it really be that time of year already? Apparently so, as after another sterling summer of softball showdowns, it's time for the big one: the grand finals of the 2017 London Charity Softball League!
The annual competition brings together over 120 charities (playing in 88 teams) from right across the sector and is a fantastic, friendly way of bringing people together, so we're delighted to be key sponsors for no less than our 11th consecutive year!
The big event is this Thursday, 24th August in Hyde Park so we'll be there along with our brilliant fellow sponsors Bluestep Solutions and Snap Print Management (now part of RNB Group), to cheer on the players and keep the refreshments flowing for the huge crowd of teams and supporters that always make it such a superb day. Everything's set to go, including our brand new bar courtesy of Bluestep, so all that remains is to hope for that sunshine we ordered to arrive on time!
Meanwhile, with outstanding dedication and commitment, the teams have been battling it out every week since the start of May, gradually whittling it down from 88 teams to the superstar six who'll be competing for the three grand honours: the Harris Hill Plate, the Bluestep Shield, and the Harris Hill Cup!
Ahead of the big matches we're catching up with the six finalist teams, and over the next three days we'll be getting the lowdown on their seasons this year and hopes of taking home a trophy on Thursday...
Anna Simons, Cancer Research UK
How would you summarise the charity's aims?
Cancer Research UK is passionate about bringing forward the day when 3 in 4 people survive from cancer through research, influencing policy and innovative fundraising.
What are the three things you love most about softball?
Meeting new people, the atmosphere and all the weird nicknames and songs/chants we make up throughout the season.
What's been your best or funniest moment?
We had a hilarious situation when we played the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - a lovely lady ran into our fielder on 1st and grabbed them right in the boob to stop herself.
Greatest player you have seen grace the diamond?
Jon Fry - always MVP!
Who've been the best (or friendliest!) team of the season for you?
Unicef! Had a great game in such good spirits, the scoreline didn't matter and both teams had a great time!
Best catch/longest hit?
A rolling/diving catch form our Pitcher Sandy and newbie Nick hitting from one side of Hyde Park, over two other games and across the path!
And lastly, any expectations for the finals you can share?
A great atmosphere, a few nerves but hoping to shake them off for the win! And looking forward to seeing all the teams again at the pub!
Lloyd Tingley, Muscular Dystrophy UK
Tell us about your history in the league?
We've been in the league from the very beginning, but back then we didn't have much luck! A lot of our current team came in about three years ago, when we became the Ducks. We reached the plate quarters that year, and were knocked out of the cup by eventual winners BHF last year. It's my first year captaining this talented bunch of softballers, and the furthest we've ever gone in the league!
What's the best thing about being part of it?
I'd say the best part of the league is getting to go out every week and have a laugh with some of the great people that work for the charity. It's a great way of bringing people together from different departments, and getting to know each other while smashing some home runs as well. The league is a real community as well, and over the years I've really enjoyed meeting players from other charities over a pint in the pub. I really think this league is a special thing, and we're very lucky to have it. So a massive thanks to the committee who I know put so much time and effort into making it as great as it is.
Who've been your toughest opponents this year?
We started our season off with a really tough game vs MS Society, which we lost. And I wasn't there to witness it (captains are allowed holidays too!) but I'm told Independent Age were another really tough team to play against.
We've played so many great teams this year who have been nothing but lovely. So it's hard to pick just one, but I'd like to give a shout out to Amnesty International. Sometimes I'm a bit wary of playing the bigger charities in the league in terms of tension and tight calls, but we had a brilliant high scoring match and they were great fun to play against.
Highlight of the season so far?
It has to be our semi-final win vs WaterAid. We'd already made history by making it to the semis, and we knew it would be a tight game. However the tight game part nearly went out of the window when we found ourselves 11-0 down after the first innings! After that we remembered how to play softball and clawed our way back into the game with some brilliant play. They were 20-19 up going into our last bat, we managed to get the 2 runs we needed to win, the celebrations that followed were incredible. Hopefully we get to repeat them for everyone on finals night!
Any other special mentions?
The whole team are just brilliant, and everyone contributes massively, from Jo who does our social media to Alec who hasn't missed a game all year. So a big-up to everyone who has played even a single game this year. I do have to give two special mentions though. Firstly to my vice-capt Krishan. He's supported me brilliantly all year and not to mention is a very talented softballer of course. Secondly to Ravi, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of the conditions we support, but more importantly the Ducks' chief cheerleader and always last in the pub.
Will you be doing any special preparation or training?
Quite simply no. We've played 17 games now this season (winning 14), which has prepared us very well for the big final. We'll go into the game confident with all of that softball behind us. My only personal special preparation has been to book the Friday off, because win or lose it's going to be a great night (that I may need a day to recover from). Bring on Cancer Research UK!
Our thanks and best of luck to Anna, Lloyd and their teams, and we can only second the appreciation for the tireless enthusiasm of the organising committee who've been doing a fantastic job all summer (and well before) to make it all possible.
Meanwhile you can follow more of the build-up over on the league's Twitter feed, and we'll hear from more finalists tomorrow!
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