Costs (as of 2021/22)
There are about 60 Baseball teams in the UK, and allowing for some with more than one diamond, this equates to about 70 diamonds to play on. For any club running more than 2 teams it becomes very useful to have a second diamond, as scheduling becomes hard, especially with the current doubleheader format, when some Sundays will find 2 of the 3 teams at home. With 4 teams, it becomes a necessity. Hence building new facilities ranks only slightly second, behind attracting new players to the sport, and could even be considered on a par, as it is not really viable to play without one.
Guildford Baseball Club has fielded 1, 2 or 3 adult teams for most of it’s 30 year history, and has used 4 different venues over those years (even if 2 are actually the same venue). As the club and the sport grows in popularity, then it became obvious that a second diamond would be needed. There was also a desire to progress from a basic grass/pole/netting set up, that many clubs begin with, to something more permanent, both from an ease of setting up perspective, but also for creating a more professional image (which helps in attracting new players).
The following are details of what went into building a new diamond, on a more permanent footing, that can be used as a reference for any other clubs in future, trying to do the same thing. It is not intended to be an exhaustive guide to diamond construction, but as this country is hugely lacking in guidance, reference material and leadership from the various federations in developing new facilities, we thought it would help to detail our experiences, so that others can benefit, and not make the same mistakes that we did
On the face of it a baseball diamond is quite a straightforward structure. It is an area of grass, with some high use areas which are best being dirt rather than grass (bases, mound etc), along with a fence at the back to act as a ballstop, and safety measure. But that overlooks many of the following, all of which need addressing and ideally overcoming if you wish to build a viable diamond for British Baseball. So it is probably wise that these are highlighted to begin with
- Information. There are articles on the internet, although many of which assume a certain level of knowledge, and when viewed, actually don’t go into the detail needed. So there is a lack of information needed
- NGB Guidance. The UK has development agency for baseball and softball (BSUK), whose charter includes facility development. They were able to help with some of the funding, but they had very little practical material available or detailed knowledge to pass on, and it is the unknown, that is one of the biggest obstacles. So clubs have to look elsewhere in general.
- Funding. Of course everything costs money. There are ways to raise this/save for this. You can also apply for funding etc, but be aware, that it will almost always end up costing more than expected (perhaps partly due to lack of guidance provided, and thus costs being missed from estimate). It can also seem to be quite a cheap thing to build, until you delve into the detail
- Location. A lot of things depend on the part of the county you are in. The British Isles is small with a very high population density i.e. it’s overcrowded, most notably in the South-East (and even worse if you happen to be in London). Thus land is at a premium in many regions, and what there is, is often in the ownership of schools, who until recently have not realised the value of what they have been entrusted with. So finding a location, and a landlord who is willing, is a battle all in itself.
- Football. This is really a subset of the Land obstacle. What sports land there is, is usually used by football, which these days is an 11 month a year sport. Thus sharing with football as was possible in the past, is now not as easy. There are obviously more football players than baseball players, but there should be some allowance for other sports, especially as councils preach diversity on everything these days. As an example, Surrey has 3000 football pitches, and ours was the only baseball diamond.
- Weather. Another very British problem, but certain activities are best carried out at certain times of year. For instance, don’t try digging up a waterlogged ground in Feburary; seeding in the middle of July; or compacting dirt, when it is bone dry and has not rained for a month.
- Labour. Not to be critical of the club members, as most did come down and help with the activities requiring manual labour, but in general, as with any group of people, there will be some who won’t go out of their way to help and without spending a lot more of the funds on hired resources, it is by far the most cost effetive approach, to do the work yourselves. There are always some in the population, who don’t see that they should contribute, even though they will benefit. Finding excuses is easy. Finding solutions requires more effort. So having a good leader who can encourage greater participation is definitely an asset!
- Construction Knowledge. Again a subject that is perhaps a subset of another (Information). But it certainly helps if you have people engaged in the project who know about things such as calculating volumes of aggregate and compaction ratios; how to use a digger and operate it skillfully; how to remove weeds and/or improve conditions for seeding and ow to dispose of waste; how to level aggregate etc.
- British Baseball Season. Ideally the work is carried out, outside of this, as it absorbs dates, when work could be carried out. But then the weather is better during the baseball season. So this is something to take into account, especially when compiling the schedule for the work.
- Suppliers. Many of the timelines in the plan, will depend on the supply of materials. Knowing both the lead time and the availability of things like Aggregates, Eqpt Hire, Fencing contractors, Digger drivers, is vital, as they can all become critical items in the timeline of the plan.
- Covid, or to be more accurate Lockdowns. This is obviously not something that will always affect other projects, but since the effect of lockdowns, especially on supply chains and costs is likely to continue for some time, then it may still be worth taking into account. Obviously we were hit by delays, lack of access and postponements, in addition to the increased costs and problems getting certain materials (you wouldn’t think buying a home plate would be a problem)
- The Unknown. Not all risks can be foreseen and some things will go wrong, so it should be a case of trying to plan and avoid as many as you can, but not let the (hopefully) few that go wrong, distract/depress you too much.