MLB spring training baseball is in full swing here in Florida, and my wife and I attended our first game of the season on Saturday in Lakeland, watching the “home” Detroit Tigers beat the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 4 -1. The game-time temperature was 57 F (14 C) under breezy, partly cloudy skies. Year-round Floridians such as ourselves bundled against the “cold,” while the Detroit and Pittsburgh visitors (and most players) seemed to take the weather in stride.
I was thinking about baseball in Ireland, having recently come across the Field O’ Dreams website though my Twitter feed. The New York-based Baseball United Foundation is raising money to build a baseball field in Ashbourne, County Meath.
Baseball in Ireland isn’t as new or as rare as you might think. The sport has been played in the Republic and Northern Ireland since the late 1980s. Here’s a history from Baseball Ireland, the sport’s governing body
Back in the summer of 1990 I donated a baseball glove to the pioneers of baseball in Ireland through my good friend Scott Cronenweth, a technology marketing copywriter then doing work for Lotus Development Corp, now part of IBM. At the time, many US software companies were opening development offices outside Dublin to advantage the well-educated, English-speaking workforce and Irish tax breaks. In a recent email, Scott picked up the story of his trip and first-hand encounter with early Irish baseball/softball:
Many of the [software] companies had softball teams and played one another. The Irish folks were very determined, but of course terrible because they hadn’t played as kids. They also didn’t really know the rules. Fielding in particular was really poor, resulting in astounding scores like 78-56. They’d just keep playing, inning after inning, til it got dark around 10PM and then go to the pubs.
Baseball and softball in Ireland have come a long way since then, but the sports still need help developing decent fields and obtaining adequate equipment. Spring training is already underway for the 2013 Adult League season, which begins March 23. They play for love of the game, and in Ireland they are not bothered by a little brisk weather.
Aerial view of O’Malley Fields in Dublin.