It was back in April 1992, when on a wet day in Waltham Abbey, the newly formed Guildford Mavericks took to the field for their first ever game against the Waltham Abbey Cardinals, and despite couple of interruptions sheltering under the M25 from the rain, walked off the field 3 hours later, with the first win under their belts.
Fast forward 25 years, and in 2016, the Guildford Mavericks take to the field, for what will be their 25th year of uninterrupted play. They are now joined by another adult team – the Guildford Millers, as well as a thriving junior section, and an ever increasing Softball section. However British Baseball is a much different place now, than it was back then, and the thoughts of fielding two teams, let alone juniors and softball, was only a distant dream.
The Mavericks had been formed by a group of friends in the local Guildford area, with the aim of playing a new sport. They had no experience and little equipment. Fortunately, about 15 miles away in Wokingham, there was a club that had been playing in the BBF leagues for at least 2 seasons previously, called the Wokingham Millers. After the 1991 season, as a result of player losses, the club was looking to relocate nearer to the Woking home of several of the players. Possible venues in Farnborough had been sort, and even a name change was being proposed…..Angels anyone? Following some relationship brokering by the BBF, the two groups were put in touch with each other, and the merger resulted in the Guildford Mavericks taking the place of the Wokingham Millers in the BBF leagues for the 1992 season.
So it was, that Guildford were now represented on the British Baseball map. In that first season Craig Orrick, one of the returning Millers, managed the club along with Nick Jolly (right), and produced a winning season with an 11-7 record, finishing in 3rd place behind the Reading Royals in the BBF second division.
In those early seasons, the club hovered around or just above the .500 mark, all of which were at the current Double-A level, whilst off the field of play, the team which had played the 1992 season at Grange Road in Guildford, had moved home to the other side of the (railway) tracks, literally, to take up residence at Bishop Reindorp School (now Christ’s College). On the coaching side, Craig had left the club and Nick stood down for another set of joint managers – Michael Burdett and Nick Henderson.
As is the case even today, but more so back then, teams would come and go each season, and rarely did the Mavericks encounter the same teams for more than a couple of season, although many new teams (Richmond Flames, Bracknell Blazers, and Southampton Mustangs) came into the league and continued upwards to the NBL, as the Mavericks continued to tread water in Division 2. On the field, the standout players in the early days, were shortstop Nick Henderson and pitcher Dave Wallace (left). The latter still has the only club no-hitter, thrown at Burgess Hill in 1997.
A 2nd team and eventually a separate club, altogether, the Guildford Mudcats, also took the field, with games being played at the Guildford Spectrum. Current Mavericks coach, Rob Wheeler, joined at that time, and the all black uniforms are still remembered……although whether with fondness or not is debateable! Eventually the Mudcats merged back with the Mavericks and the club featured two teams in the BBF leagues for a couple of seasons.
An improvement in Guildford’s fortunes came in 1999 as the club benefited from new manger Paul McGuinness being able to bring in players from the recently other clubs, notably the Arun Panthers , many of whom had played at higher levels of the BBF. The gradual improvement, was capped by the club’s first unbeaten regular season in 1999 and a play-off final win over the Oxford Kings at Upper Heyford.
This was followed by an equally impressive first season in BBF South Div 1 (equiv AAA), as the Mavericks finished tied for first with the Richmond Flames, but lost out on the tie-breaker of more games forfeited (a notable DH at bottom club Bournemouth was forfeit!). It was a team of very good players throughout, amongst them the Hammer brothers (Mike and Pete), pitcher Darren Rich and 2B Steve Birchall.
As all good things do, the run was to come to an end. It started with player losses to begin with, and also the depature of manager Paul Mcguiness. Thus it meant that by 2002 the club were struggling to put out a team and came very close to folding. Michael Burdett stepped back into the managers role for the following season, and slowly but surely numbers began to pick up again. However it wasn’t until the 2006 season, and a drop down to Division 2, that the improvement was mirrored on the field of play.
The big change in the clubs fortunes came with the arrival of ex-pro from the US, the “white” Tony Oliva (check HoF, you will see what we mean!). Tony brought an unparallelled knowledge to the club, that it had never had before. He generated an enthusiasm amongst the players that even resulted in off-season training becoming popular!! Before too long, the club were fielding two adult teams for the first time since the days of the Mudcats. Improvements in results also came very quickly, as the players gelled under Tony’s leadership, and made the most of their talents.
Four straight winning seasons, including a couple of division titles, but frustratingly, failure in the play-offs in each of those season, as two finals, one semi, and one quarter final were lost over between 2010 and 2013. But nevertheless it formed the foundations of what Guildford Baseball & Softball club has become today.
The loss of the ground at Broadwater School in 2013, was a big blow, not only to the adult team who had to play most of the games on the road that season, but also to the club as whole. Relocation to Christ’s College in 2014 meant the lack of a proper playing facility, since the school now had both rugby and football fields installed since the club last played there in 2009.
Despite of the lack of a proper facility in the Guildford area, the club now boasts a junior section of around 75 members; an adult section that will be looking to expand to 3 teams in 2017; and a Slow-Pitch Softball section that is running pick up sessions every week that anyone can join in. This all illustrates just how much the club have moved forward since those days back in the early 90’s.
Only Brian Kendal, Michael Burdett and Richard Williams still remain connected with the club since it’s inception, but as the club continues to expand, the future is the brightest it has been. As current GM Michael Burdett states “We have developed good relationships with local Schools where we are running After School Clubs and other events. Overall we are committed to a focus on entry level baseball for adults, junior baseball and softball, all of which are easier for complete beginners to get into the sport, and will thus help increase numbers and grow the game. We are no longer dependant on ex-pats from the US or other nationalities as we were in the 90’s. Major League Baseball is talking about bringing teams over to the UK in the next year or so, in the same way the NFL has, and this will only increase the profile of the sport, and we need to be in a strong position to cater for an increased demand. I’m very positive about the direction the club is taking, and that the sports of baseball and softball will continue to grow in the UK.
Now if only the Borough of Guildford could help provide a facility to support this growth………
Season by Season Record for Guildford Baseball
|1990*||BBF South – Div 3 North||5-9||6th||Braintree Rays, Bushey Bulldogs, Hemel Red Sox, High Wycombe Alleycatz, Hoddesdon Sharks, Milton Keynes Rockets, Reading Royals II||Craig Orrick|
|1991*||BBF South – Div 3 South||2-16||8th||(Croydon Pirates, Eltham Eagles, Gillingham Dodgers, Reading Raiders, Tonbridge Bobcats, Westcliff Wildcats)||Craig Orrick|
|1992||BBF South – Div 2||11-7||3rd||Braintree Rays, Bushey Bulldogs, Hemel Red Sox, High Wycombe Alleycatz, Hoddesdon Sharks, Milton Keynes Rockets, Reading Royals II)||Nick Jolly|
|1993||BBF South – Div 2 East||8-6||3rd||Burgess Hill Red Hats, Caterham A’s, Chichester Titans , Hounslow Hawks, Maidstone Sluggers, Reading Royals, Waltham Abbey Cardinals||Nick Henderson / Michael Burdett|
|1994||BBF South – Div 2||10-11||4th||Bracknell Blazers, Caterham A’s, Chichester Kyotes , Hounslow Falcons, London Wolves, Maidstone Sluggers, Tiptree Rays||Nick Henderson / Michael Burdett|
|1995||BBF South – Div 2||7-8||4th||Bracknell Blazers, Brighton Bucs II, Burgess Hill Red Hats, Caterham A’s, Chichester Kyote||Michael Burdett|
|1996||BBF South – Div 2||6-8||4th||Brentwood Stags, Bracknell Blazers, Brighton Buccaneers II, Caterham A’s, Gillingham Dodgers, London Wolverines, Tiptree Rays||Michael Burdett|
|1997||BBF South – Div 2||10-7||3rd||Brentwood Stags, Bracknell Inferno, Brighton Buccaneers II, Burgess Hill Red Hats, Caterham A’s, Cambridge Monarchs B, Stevenage Knights, Windsor Bears, Waltham Abbey Arrows||Michael Burdett|
|1998||BBF South – Div 2||7-7||4th||Alconbury Seniors, Brentwood Stags, Cambridge Monarchs B, Caterham A’s, London Exiles, Milton Keynes Truckers, Tonbridge Bobcats||Michael Burdett|
|1999||BBF South – Div 2 South||16-0||1st (P)||Brighton Buccaneers II, Caterham A’s, Croydon Pie-Rats, Richmond Flames||Paul McGuinness|
|2000||BBF South – Div 1||11-3||1st**||Alconbury Dragons, Bournemouth Sharks, Bushey Falcons, City Slick Sidewinders, Milton Keynes Bucks, Richmond Flames, Tonbridge Buccaneers||Paul McGuinness|
|2001||BBF South – Premier||5-7||4th||Bournemouth Sharks, Enfield Spartans, Essex Arrows, Richmond Flames||Michael Burdett|
|2002||BBF South – Premier (R)||1-20||8th (R)||Bournemouth Sharks, Cambridge Monarchs, City Slick Sidewinders, Croydon Pirates, Essex Arrows, Oxford Kings, Richmond Flame||Michael Burdett|
|2003||BBF South – Div 1||6-10||6th||Bournville Razorbacks, Croydon Pirates 3, Essex Arrows 2, Bournemouth Sharks, Herts Falcons, MK Bucks 2, MK Rebels, Richmond Dragons, Richmond Knights, Southampton Mustangs, Windsor Royals||Michael Burdett|
|2004||BBF South – Div 1||2-9-1||6th||Bournemouth Sharks, Cheddar Rockies, Croydon Pirates, Richmond Dragons, Southampton Mustangs, Windsor Bears||Michael Burdett|
|2005||BBF South – Div 1||2-14-1||9th (R)||Bournemouth Sharks, Brighton Bucanners 2, Burgess Hill Red Hats, Cheddar Rockies, Croydon Pirates, Richmond Dragons, Southampton Mustangs, Windsor Bears||Rob Wheeler|
|2006||BBF South – Div 2 (P)||8-4||2nd (P)||Bracknell Blazers, Braintree Rays, Brentwood Stags, Croydon Pirates 3, Richmond Riverdogs, Southampton Mustangs 2||Rob Wheeler|
|2007||BBF South – Div 1||5-15||4th||Bournemouth Sharks, Bracknell Blazers, Herts Falcons, Richmond Riverdogs||Rob Wheeler|
|2008||BBF South – Div 1||5-7||4th||Bracknell Blazers, Braintree Rays, Croydon Pirates, Essex Arrows, Herts Falcons, Old Timers, Southampton Mustangs, Thames Valley Bisons||Rob Wheeler|
|2009||BBF South – Div 2, Group A||6-7||2nd||Bracknell Blazers, Braintree Rays, Essex Archers, Herts Falcons, London Marauders, Old Timers, Richmond Dragons, Southampton Mustangs||Rob Wheeler|
|2010||BBF South – A (P)||9-4||2nd (P)||Brackenll Pyros, Braintree Rays, Chelmsford Clippers, Herts Raptors, London Marauders, Old Timers, Richmond Dragons, Southampton Mustangs II, Tonbridge Bobcats||Michael Burdett|
|2011||BBF South – AA||16-4||1st||Herts Hawks, Poole Piranhas, Richmond Dragons, Sidewinders, Thames Valley Bisons||Tony Oliva|
|2012||BBF South – AA||16-0||1st||Croydon Pirates 3, Poole Piranhas, Latin Boys, Richmond Dragons, Southampton Mustangs 2, Thames Valley Bisons||Tony Oliva|
|2013||BBF South – AA||12-4||2nd||Hove, London Mammoths, Sidewinders, Herts Hawks, Daws Hill Spitfres, Richmond Dragons, Brentwood Stags, Kent Mariners, Southampton Mustangs 2, Croydon Pirates 3||Tony Oliva|
|2014||BBF South – AA, Pool B||9-10||3rd||Bracknell Inferno, Daws Hill Spitfires, Southampton Mustangs 2, Sidewinders||Michael Burdett|
|2015||BBF South -A, Pool C||10-4||2nd||Tonbridge Bobcats, Brighton Redhawks, Richmond Squires, Kent Mariners||Michael Burdett|
|2000||BBF South – Div 2||4-10||10th||Bracknell Dynamite, Brentwood Stags, Brighton Buccaneers II, Cambridge Monarchs II, Chiltern Blue Jays, Croydon Pie-Rats, London Exiles, Mildenhall, Oxford Kings, Richmond Knights|
|2011||BBF South – AA||5-8||3rd||London Marauders, Southampton Mustangs II, Tonbridge Bobcats|
|2012||BBF South – AA||6-4||3rd||Hove Tuesday, London Marauders, Richmond Dukes, Tonbridge Bobcats|