How Does It All Work?
The British Baseball Federation is structured into four levels, from the National Baseball League at the top, down through Triple A, Double A, to Single A at the bottom. The level names are taken from Major League Baseball’s minor league structure in the United States.
In addition to the BBF leagues, there are several Affiliated and Independent leagues in the UK.
Affiliated leagues are under the BBF umbrella, but are not administrated by the BBF directly. They largely run their own leagues, however follow BBF rules and guidelines and send the champions to the BBF National Championships. These leagues include SWWBL, Eastern Baseball League, North East Baseball League and the British Baseball League (covering the North/North West of England).
Independent leagues have no connection to the British Baseball Federation league structure and don’t compete in the BBF National Championships, however many BBF member clubs play in them. Examples include the West Midlands Baseball League.
At time of writing there is no promotion/relegation system, teams are placed into the league it is felt best matches their level of play, with attention paid to geographic location.
National Baseball League – The NBL is the “Premier League” of British Baseball, featuring the best teams in the country. The London Mets are the dominant force, having won the last seven straight titles (and 8 of the last 9).
Triple A – The Triple A level is where you’ll find the top teams outside the NBL, including the 2nd teams of many clubs with NBL teams, and the top Affiliated Leagues. Triple A teams are a mixture of NBL club’s second teams and the best teams among non-NBL clubs.
Double A – The Double A level is an intermediate level between Single A and Triple A. Many of the teams who play here are either the experienced, veteran core of primarily Single A clubs (such as Milton Keynes, Kent and Brighton), the second/third-string team of bigger clubs (Bristol, London Mets, Herts) or single-club teams who have dominated Single A in the past and moved up (Bracknell, Formosa Islanders).
Single A – The lowest level of competition is generally for less experienced teams, development arms of larger clubs, or single-team clubs. It’s also where you’ll find the majority of affiliated leagues, including the South West & Wales Baseball League that Bristol’s lower teams participate in.
Women’s Baseball League – A relatively new league, the WBL (formerly WB-UK) is a separate league conceived as a development league for female players only. A number of female players also decide to play in the main BBF leagues (which are all co-ed), however this league is an environment where they’re able to compete against women only. WBL games traditionally take place on Saturdays rather than Sundays.
Within each level (except NBL, and recently AAA, due to the smaller number of teams) are geographical groups, known as Divisions. To reduce travel time as much as possible. each team generally plays the other teams in their division only (except the SWWBL, who also play inter-division games against each other as it’s already a regional league).
Games are usually played as double-headers between two clubs each week. This means that one team will travel to another and play two seven-inning games back-to-back with a short break in between. Double-headers mean more games and opportunities to play. At lower levels, games are timed to ensure that there is enough time to play both – no new innings are started after the 2hr mark (this generally results in 4 or 5 inning games).
Some levels also mix in weekends with one 9-inning game instead of a double-header, for variety (especially when one team has to travel a long way, as this usually ensures they get home earlier). This is done at Double A most often.
Overall, this leads to most teams playing roughly 20-30 games per season spread over 10-15 weekends. The season will usually run from April to August, with the National Championships happening in September. “Spring Training”, a pre-season training program, generally happens in February and March but this is organised by each club individually, usually a mixture of indoor and outdoor sessions and friendly games.
The best teams from each division at the end of the season meet in the National Championships for that level (usually a Wildcard round, Semi-Final to find two finalists), culminating in the National Championship Finals, usually played at Farnham Park in Slough (the National Baseball and Softball Centre owned and operated by BaseballSoftballUK).
Baseball is a game that lends itself well to tournament play, and British baseball is no exception. A number of in-season tournaments exist, notably the BBF Summer Cup, as well as out-of-season tournaments, travel tournaments and European tournaments (including a Champions’ League style event).
Most tournaments are open to created teams made up of players from a variety of regular teams, rather than being for individual BBF teams themselves. Bristol often enter a mixed team of Bats, Buccaneers and Brunels (or Bats and Badgers, depending on the intended level of play at the tournament) into tournaments.
Results, Fixtures and Statistics
All BBF clubs are required to use the MyBallClub app to record the scoring during their games. This app links with the World Baseball and Softball Conferation’s website to provide the scorer with full team rosters, and the app enables live play-by-play data, scores, stats and standings to be viewable on the website to anyone who cares to look.
Throughout the Fixtures, Stats & Standings category of our website menu you’ll find links to all of the current league standings and Bristol team pages on the stats.britishbaseball.org.uk website, which is our portal to the international stats site.
On that site you can view historic stats, standings and results for all levels and seasons played since 2021 (the first season the BBF began using the system). Most stats prior to this were kept by individual clubs themselves, and sadly many have been lost, however the Project Cobb initiative is working to archive any British Baseball stats they find, and most data on British Baseball that still exists can be found there, as well as articles on the history of the sport in the UK.