“The best part of baseball is the atmosphere,” says Abalena Bytheway, who has been attending games ever since her mom started playing a few years ago, “the music in the arenas and on the fields makes everyone excited.”

As summer approaches, Sunday league makes a return for many on public pitches. However, surprisingly, this year has seen an influx of the great American pastimes hit the fields: Baseball and Softball. While it attracts many American players settled in the UK, it has been a huge hit with many players from different backgrounds. Most notably at the Manchester First Ball mixed gender team softball tournament this weekend, Slowpitch Ireland made a fantastic impression, coming in second due to a last second forfeit to catch their flight back home. The Manchester Mavericks took the Gold after a great day of playing.

Developing in the USA in the mid 19th century, baseball has become a phenomenon which continues to capture American audiences, with the average MLB team being worth roughly $2.64 billion, and the New York Yankees tallying an impressive $7.9 billion in estimates. Even after expanding into several countries, all the way across the pond to the UK, the major hub remains in the USA. Yet, it is easy to find a local baseball or softball team to get started.

Softball, much like baseball, originated in the 19th century as “indoor baseball”, but quickly spread outdoors with distinctive rules and a slightly softer, now yellow ball. While softball is currently almost exclusively female dominated professionally in the USA, there are many men’s leagues to still get involved with. Here in the UK, it’s a much different story.

“It has gotten so much more inclusive,” says Evette Bytheway, an American player living in the UK, and Abalena’s mother. She talks of the inclusivity of local leagues, with certain leagues not only having mixed-gender teams, but transgender players also being able to join single-gender teams. This has made the sport a much needed safehaven in the sphere of transgender individuals looking for sports teams in which they feel comfortable and affirmed. 

While the main hub of activity remains tucked away across the Atlantic Ocean in the USA, baseball and softball thrive in the UK. With regional tournaments, and even tournaments at a national level, there is always something to do in terms of picking up a bat and helmet and heading out to the field.