Local Sport In Focus: Touching base with a whole new ball game
Leeds were champions of England in 1992 '“ in football and in baseball.
While Howard Wilkinson’s class of ’92 - the likes of Eric Cantona and Gary McAllister – were sweeping all before them en route to winning football’s First Division, the Leeds City Royals were claiming national honours on the baseball diamonds.
But as with all minority sports, the Royals eventually struck out and baseball in the city died.
Twenty-five years on, and while a revolution takes place at Elland Road, a baseball regeneration is also bubbling under the surface with the launching of the Leodensian Rams.
The reintroduction of baseball in Leeds is thanks to Mark Faulkner. In 2013, whilst living in Northampton, Faulkner got involved with the Northants Centurions baseball club, having never picked up a baseball bat in his life.
The speed at which he took to the game is an example for others to follow.
Northampton Centurions were a team to rival the vast amount of baseball clubs based in the south.
When Faulkner relocated to Yorkshire the following year, the absence of a baseball team in Leeds struck him.
Clubs existed in Sheffield, Hull and Harrogate, but there was a noticeable exception – there was no team in Leeds.
Consequently, this year, Faulkner, at 62, took it upon himself to found the Leodiensian Rams, and he is now the chairman of the club.
“The club is for anyone in the Leeds area aged over 14, girls and boys alike,” begins Faulkner.
“We welcome people of all abilities, and it’s great fun! Beginners are more than welcome – it’s great to welcome someone who has never put a glove on before.
“At the moment we are just practising, but we are hopeful of joining a league next year. Depending on the quality of the teams, we’ll see where it goes from there.
“We need a committee, we need to make the club more substantial, but after that we’ll be raring to go.
“We hope to have a youth team next year as well, and we could even get schools involved.
“Leeds is a fantastic city with a rich heritage of sporting achievements. Why not add baseball to the list of sports teams we have here?
“The universities here have baseball teams, but they only cater for students – what about the rest of us? That’s why I founded the Leodiensian Rams,” said the chairman.
The Rams train at Bedquilts Recreation Ground, Adel on a Thursday evening, with beginners incentivised by the fact that the first session is free. After that, each session costs £4.
The creation of a baseball team in Leeds has come at a perfect time for the increasingly popular sport, with the America-based Major League Baseball (MLB) announcing plans to host games in London next year.
Similar to American football, baseball has the potential to be a roaring success in the UK, and Faulkner is confident that baseball can become loved in Leeds.
“Baseball is going to take off even more than it has done at the moment,” continued Faulkner.
“Children across the country will be wanting to play baseball, and the sport could even overtake American football in popularity here in the UK. It’s so accessible, anyone can play.
“If you’re interested, simply come down on a Thursday evening in a tracksuit or sports gear. We need administration staff as well at the moment, so we would love any help we can get.
“Team GB baseball have been doing so well recently – we might even get a future star from Leeds.”
Faulkner’s love for the sport grew whilst living in the United States during the 1990s and he is clearly passionate about raising the profile across Leeds for the younger generation.
The Leodiensian Rams may not be playing baseball in a league this year, but in 12 months’ time, they hope to be competing in the regional league against teams from across Yorkshire.
Interest in joining the Leodiensian Rams is already very high, with many ex-pats and baseball fans wanting to play for the club.
The task of starting up a new club is not an easy one, but if all goes well, the Leodensian Rams may well be competing against England’s finest in years to come.
The club are also on the lookout for new sponsors to help them grow. If you can help, contact Mark Faulkner on 07595 262042.
Club: Leodiensian Rams Baseball Club
Based: Bedquilts Recreation Ground, Leeds.
Number of members: 20, but constantly growing
Training nights: Thursday 7pm
Contact: Mark Faulkner – 07595 262042.