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Meet the 2023 Charity Softball finalists!

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Landing just ahead of the big day and 20th anniversary celebrations, meet the teams playing for glory in the 2023 Charity Softball League!

Like any other year, 2003 gave the world some things we’d rather it hadn’t - war in Iraq, the SARS outbreak, the Black Eyed Peas – but over the course of that long hot summer, it also gave us (courtesy of founding father Leo Visconti) something we’re very glad it did: the London Charity Softball League!

Yes, celebrating its 20th fantastic season (note for maths pedants: not the 21st, having skipped 2020), this very Thursday brings the grand finals of this year’s league, which just keeps getting bigger and better.

So much so, in fact, that there’s now a fourth trophy up for grabs on the night: the Bluestep Cup, joining the regular Cup, the Shield, and the legendary Harris Hill Plate, which boasts its own shiny new trophy in honour of the occasion.

All of which means there’ll be eight teams slugging it out for the silverware, and due to overwhelming popular demand (two, maybe three messages...) we're once again interrupting their vital last-minute preparations with a bunch of questions about the highs and lows of the season, and just how they’ve made it this far.

Fortunately not everyone had time to answer or you’d still be reading this next year, but we’re delighted to bring you one of the teams from every contest, starting with the aforementioned Harris Hill Plate!


It’s a battle between the British Heart Foundation and the combined forces of Social Finance and the RNLI – no strangers to the finals themselves - collectively known as Sibs n Ribs.

For this one it’s over to Will Slater, Basemakers captain and Communications Manager at the British Heart Foundation.

How long have you been involved in the league?

I believe the BHF were one of the league’s founding teams and have been ever present since then. Rumour has it that some of our current kit dates all the way back to 2003. Well, many of the gloves certainly smell like they do.

What's been your most unusual moment this season?

Over the years, we’ve stopped matches for all sorts of reasons: injury, rain, civilians wandering across the pitch, through to collective confusion over exactly what just happened in that last play. However, this season saw a new first with a match halted because a crow was attacking a fox in the outfield. We paused to wonder if this bird’s vulpine assault was perhaps a metaphor, a reminder of nature’s ruthless circle of life, or a terrifying portent of a complete breakdown in the natural world. But as we really needed to get the game going, we ultimately never came to any conclusions.

Best catch/longest hit?

I’ll skip giving an answer on longest hit as it’ll only trigger angry emails from someone else saying theirs was longer. But as for best catch, that must go to Dr. Dan who seemed to bend time, Matrix-fashion, to snag an incredibly high ball that had gone deep into the outfield. I don’t know what colour pill he swallowed that day, but I hope he keeps taking them.

Who’s been your MVP this year?

You raise a sore point among the team. With her peerless batting and fielding I don’t think there’s any denying that Rachel has been our MVP this year, but she has rather hogged the weekly title. Mercifully for the rest of us she went on holiday for a couple of weeks which gave us mere mortals a chance to have a moment in the spotlight. She’s back now though *sigh*.

What's the secret of your success?

To be honest, I find it hard to attribute our success to anything as motivation in the team remains highly variable – ranging from hardened softball competitors to those looking for some fresh air, an excuse for drinking alcohol in public spaces or an opportunity to avoid childcare responsibilities.

However, a growing number of our team have an almost cult-like belief that any success we enjoy is down to the ‘vibes’ – a mysterious, intangible, and elusive force that players may experience collectively or individually.

Among those attuned to this nebulous energy, there’s always much discussion about what the vibes are, who’s bringing the vibes, and who in particular is feeling the vibes. Apparently, a couple of weeks ago we achieved ‘maximum vibes’ – which I’m told is the most desirable form of this altered state.

Sadly, I have yet to experience the ‘vibes’ myself. There was one game where I thought I might finally be tuning into them, but it turned out I was just feeling a bit chilly, so I put my jumper on.

Wise and rather excellent words from Will there – sometimes we all need emergency knitwear - and may the vibes be with you, eventually.


Next up is the brand new Bluestep Cup, which sees two hybrid teams going head to head: the Food Fighters (featuring Fareshare and the Felix Project) versus Sloths & Centipedes (Centrepoint and Hospice UK).

Answering the questions is Centrepoint Senior Employer Relationship Officer turned Sloths & Centipedes co-captain Lara Johnstone!

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

We’ve all really enjoyed playing in a friendly and inclusive league. The majority of our team had never even held a softball bat before the start of the league, but everyone has been welcoming. Often people stop playing sport as an adult if they’re “not good at it”, but this league has given everyone the opportunity to get involved, regardless of skill. The best thing about making the final is how much we have improved each week and how well we work together as a team!

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

Playing in the rain through our classic British summer.

Friendliest team you've played?

Amnesty were by far the friendliest team we played, they were patient, friendly and gave us the most wholesome arch tunnel to run through as we lost yet another game.

Greatest player you’ve seen grace the diamond?

Markus Tralla.

What do you think has got you to the final?

Hard work and determination! We’ve come a long way from our consecutive losing streak, to winning every game since our first win! We’ve worked really well and bonded as a team, always taking advice from more experienced players and other teams and of course, had fun whilst doing it!

Thanks Lara and good luck to both teams! It seems like this hard work thing might be a factor in getting to the final, but surely/hopefully no-one works themselves harder than our next team....


Aiming to take home the top prize for a record-shattering seventh time – unless Save the Children’s plucky Sporks can stop them – are 2021 AND 2022 champions Cancer Research UK, better known in softball circles as the Mighty CRUKs!

Over to co-captain (and Divisional Manager of Supporter-Led Fundraising, Engagement and Operations for London) Tom Dawson…

How long have you been involved in the league?

We’ve been involved since the beginning (that’s a guess, nobody from the current team was here then but I think it’s the case!) and have won six times, in 2008, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2021 and 2022.

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

The League is a fun and inclusive environment, it’s a great way to meet and socialise with people from your own and other charities. It’s easy to take playing in Hyde Park for granted but we’re lucky to be able to play in such an amazing place - where else would you rather be on a summer evening?! Plus, it has excellent drainage.

Friendliest team you've played?

Wellcome Funderbolts who introduced us to their pre-match “friendship circle”, which set up a hard fought but very enjoyable game

Who've been your toughest opponents this year?

Wellcome Funderbolts again - watch out for them next season!

What's the story behind your success?

It starts with a gruelling pre-season schedule. The first round is fitness tests, which really helps sort the wheat from the chaff, we then move to try-outs to further whittle down the squad. Once we’re happy with our squad we start twice weekly practice sessions at our state-of-the-art rooftop practice facility, elements of which (including batting cages) we were able to bring with us when we moved offices from Angel to Stratford. As the season approaches it’s time for friendlies or as we call them, preparation games. We pick our opposition carefully, choosing match-ups that will help us work on our weaknesses.

During the season we rely heavily on our network of scouts, who help us prepare for each game with a tactics dossier and video footage that we break down in our pre-game briefings. Finally, you can’t expect to perform on the diamond if you’re not looking after yourself off it. We have strict rules on diet and alcohol consumption, and post-game you certainly won’t find any of us sinking pints, shots of Cazcabel (RIP Café Patron) or stumbling into a McDonald’s gone midnight.

So now you know. Whether multiple wins would ever make up for the loss of late-night McDonald's is something that ultimately, each of us can only answer for ourselves, but while you ponder, let's move on to the fourth and final contest...


Last but by no means least is the Shield, in which the Parkinson’s UK Peacocks take on frequent finalists and veterans of this very feature, the Sustrans Sluggers! Over to team co-captain and Sustrans Evaluation Manager Will Wright, who helpfully did…

Tell us about the team and your charity?

The Sustrans Sluggers are the team making it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle to their softball game.

How long have you been involved in the league?

Our first season was back in 2016. Since then we’ve made it to two finals – the Plate in 2018 and the Cup in 2019, both times ending as runners up. We’re hoping it’s third time lucky this year!

Friendliest team you've played?

There have been so many amazing teams and this is what makes the LCSL so special. We had a great game against the Sporks in our group, who we’ll be cheering for in the Cup final (sorry CRUKs!) And each year we always have a friendly against our BFFs, Mind. But the friendliest team we played this year has to be the ROBOT COCK SOX [that's Age UK and CharityDigital to us civilians - Ed.] – massive shout out to Kiki their captain!

Who’s been your MVP this year?

The whole team have been fantastic but our new co-captains Chris and Tash have struck up a pretty deadly Pitcher-First Base combo this season. Of course, the real MVPs are the LCSL Committee who work so hard to make this happen each year. You guys are awesome (and we’re not just saying that for some favourable base calls on finals night…)

Any mascots, MVPs or special mentions?

Our team mascot is Slugs McKenzie (the original party Slug) who has been a key part of the squad since 2019. They’ll be on the sideline cheering us on and will no doubt be found at the bar afterwards. Wimmy Wham Wham Wozzle! [we're really hoping this is slug-speak, or something's gone very wrong with our Boris filter - Ed.]

You've made the finals in three of the last five seasons - what's the secret?

Our Exec rejected our request earlier in the year to employ Daryl Strawberry in an entry level role, so we had to fall back on our tried and tested approach of overcomplicated spreadsheets, unbridled enthusiasm and an unmatched team spirit. Plus, it’s been a mild, damp summer – perfectly suited to Slugs. The team has also switched to a salt free diet which has helped immensely.

And finally, what are you hoping for from the night itself?

We can’t wait for finals night! We’re hoping for a buzzing atmosphere, an entertaining Cup final, a karaoke afterparty, and of course, the Sluggers lifting the coveted LCSL Shield!

We’re pretty sure at least three of those are a nailed-on cert, and best of luck with the fourth!

Huge thanks to Will, Will, Lara and Tom, and good luck to all eight teams who’ve been smashing it week after week to make it this far.


As for Team Harris Hill, we’re delighted to be sponsoring for something very close to our 20th year, and even happier that after a few years off-site we’ll be back in Hyde Park to help celebrate in person. Just look for the bright blue t-shirts (thanks, Bluestep!).

Yes, the trusty Harris Hill Bar has been tracked down, exhumed from storage, cleaned up and will be ready with the refreshments throughout.

IMPORTANT NEWS: under new park rules we can only hand out water and soft drinks at the bar, but don't worry: plans are in place to ensure each team gets their own stash of grown-up drinks too. Just look and listen out for details of how to collect them, which are coming soon.

There’s also the small matter of our Softball Emoji Quiz, where one lucky winner will bag their team a sizeable bar tab for the post-match celebrations. A big thank you from us for all the entries – we’re working through them now, ready to announce the winner (if there’s a single highest score), or draw a winner from all those with the joint highest score, which will be happening somewhere among the post-match awards.

That just leaves us to echo our appreciation for the tireless LCSL committee who’ve been making it all happen for 20 fantastic years, it’s a huge achievement – and to wish the very best of luck to everyone taking to the pitch on Thursday – we'll see you there!

Team HH

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