London Charity Softball League 2018: battle for the Bluestep Shield!

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Into each life, some rain must fall...

Not our words, but those of either a great philosopher or possibly Steps, in their seminal turn-of-the-century opus Deeper Shade Of Blue. Probably accompanied by some sort of rain-indicating arm movement.

Either way, they had a point, so it's impossible to begrudge a couple of days' worth falling into the most exceptional summer anyone can remember; it's just unfortunate those days have included today (though we're assured by every weather service under the currently-hidden sun it'll clear up by kick-off), and the end of last week, delaying some vital semi-finals.

All of which goes some way to explaining why we're bringing you this year's final pair of finalists mere hours before they take to the field, but we're nothing if not up-to-the-minute round here.

We're celebrating 12 years as lead sponsors, but thanks to the league growing bigger and more popular every season there's been room to bring more on board too, including print experts RNB Group, fundraising gurus Brightspot Fundraising, and the magnificent merchandisers known as Bluestep Solutions!

They've brought plenty of great things to the league like food, team t-shirts and a brand new gazebo for the Harris Hill bar, but most importantly of all, a brand new trophy - the Bluestep Shield, which is what the talented teams from the RNLI and MS Society will be battling it out for today.

Over to the captains!

Amanda Robson and Nicola Winfield, RNLI

How long have you been involved in the league?

This is our fifth year playing in the league. Our first two seasons were pretty shocking - I think we won one game a season and one of those was potentially a walkover...nevertheless we all loved it and softball fever gripped the RNLI! We reached the last 16 of the Cup in our third season, and last year we made the semis of the Cup, losing out to Mind. So we were determined to reach the finals this year!

What's the best thing about being part of it?

Having the opportunity to socialise outside of work, with both RNLI staff and our lifeboat crew volunteers, meet people from other charities in the Tats and catch up with old colleagues that have moved to new teams. Also, being in a London park in the summer with a gin in a tin is pretty sweet!

What's been your best or funniest moment this season?

There was a moment in our semi-final against MSF when one of our fielders did a great stop and could have easily thrown the ball onto first or second to get an out, but somehow in a bit of a panic, managed to throw it vertically (probably the highest throw in recorded history) whilst essentially passing it to himself. It was quite a sight!

Friendliest team you've played?

We've played against some great teams this season - Global Make Some Noise definitely lived up to their name with the loudest cheerers! Sparks were nice in our quarters, and we had a really fun and close game against Sustrans in our group.

Who've been your toughest opponents this year?

Anthony Nolan destroyed us on a tough night in Regents Park where we conceded a mighty 73 runs over 4 innings (we probably should have just given up early and got home in time for Love Island). Their batting was great and a big hit towards third base resulted in a smack to our player Hannah's face 3 weeks before her wedding - fortunately the scar healed in time, phew!

Who's been your MVP this year?

It would have to be Sammy J, our 'Perfect Pitcher' (according to our umpire Jason from Marie Stopes), who is unfortunately is off on warm weather pitching training in Trinidad for the final.

So what's the secret of your success?

We always go into a new innings thinking its 0-0, we have an excellent cheer squad with chants and pom-poms, and we have incorporated some yogic breathing into our huddles which calms even the most competitive of us before each innings. We also have post-match reports each week done by different players which keep us all reliving the game and gets us pumped for the next one!

What are you hoping for from the finals night?

We'd love to bring back some silverware to the RNLI office but know it will be a tough game. Like last year we are also combining the night with a 'softball stag' for one of our players who is soon to be married - this year is Cub's turn so no doubt it will be a huge celebration if we win or lose!

Georgina Carr - MS Society (aka The Mammoths!)

Tell us about your team and the charity?

We're the MS Society Mammoths - the most orange softball team around. The MS Society is here for everybody affected by multiple sclerosis. More than 100,000 of us live with MS in the UK. We're a community of people living with MS, researchers, fundraisers, campaigners and volunteers. We know together we're strong enough to stop MS. And we're working hard to make it happen.

How long have you been involved in the league?

The MS Society has been part of the league for 8 years, and this is very first final (and we are VERY excited about it - check out our video for more on how we've been preparing).

We were re-branded as the Mammoths around 3 years ago, and since we adopted the name we've gone from strength to strength.

What's the best thing about being part of it?

There are so many positive things about being in the league - it's allowed us to develop lots of new relationships in the sector, which has been hugely beneficial for our work.

It's also improved relationships internally no end - it's far easier to work with people when you get to know them outside of an office setting. It means you get a far better understanding of their work, their motivations and priorities in a more informal way, and that can have huge benefits when it comes to working together further down the line. There are many conversations internally that could have been far more challenging had I not got to know colleagues through the softball team.

Getting to the final has just been fantastic - the entire organisation has got behind us, which is incredible, and it's likely that a few staff will come down and watch. Our internal news story about the final is the most engaged-with story on there - testament to the power of the league in getting people to rally together in support of the organisation!

What's been your best or funniest moment this season?

There have been many, but one my favourites was when our pitcher, Jonathan Blades, got someone out at home plate but couldn't seem to find the base - he looked like he was treating it like a dance mat.

Friendliest team you've played?

There have been so many - Shelter were particularly lovely in the semi-final.

Who's been your MVP this year?

Joe Murray - he's had a stormer of a season.

What do you think has got you to the final?

Hitting the ball LOW and HARD. And some seriously solid fielding - our fielding has got us through some very tough times this season.

And lastly, how confident are you feeling about your chances this afternoon?

We are obviously in it to win it, but we're genuinely thrilled to get to the final - of course, like any good captain I am going in confident (and the team have been playing exceptionally well), but this has already been our most successful season ever!

Our huge thanks to Amanda, Nicola, Georgina and all the teams, players and supporters who'll no doubt be making it an unforgettable afternoon and evening. We're off to pick up an entire lorry-load of refreshments but we'll see you at the park (or the pub), and may the best team/s win!

Team Harris Hill

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