This Sunday is Women’s National Championship finals day at Brighton Baseball Cub and sees a matchup between London Mayhem, who topped the regular-season standings and their nearest pursuers Belles Baseball. The Belles, who ply their trade at the National Baseball and Softball complex in Farnham Park, Slough, are a story of overcoming adversity amidst a time where forming a sports team would have seemed impossible. However, the Belles are not looking to bunt stereotypes, more like hit them out of the park.
At Tales From Sport, we always look to support any British sports team or league, especially in sports that are not traditionally seen as ‘British’ sports, like Baseball. So after learning about the Belles, their unique setup and becoming enamoured with the side, we decided to reach out to the team, asking if they would like to share their unlikely tale on our website themselves.
Belles’ #13 Ashley Mackrell kindly stepped up to the plate, writing a piece on how the team formed, their significant achievements to date and just how exciting it is to stick it to the boys.
‘Tale from A Belle’ by Ashley Mackrell
The inauguration of The Belles isn’t such an amazing tale, but it is, however, a tale of a girl named Jess and a few free agents who wanted to play Baseball. Women have played Baseball in this country for years, but they are few and far between. They are playing on men’s teams and only playing in certain positions and fighting for game time. Women are told that if they want more game time, they should “go play softball” (which is great fun by the way!)
I think that all the other WBUK teams are affiliated with a club that already exists – The Belles came out of nowhere in the middle of a lockdown! Jess Vernon had a conversation one day with a coach from Guildford and thought, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could start a women’s team?” And that’s it. That’s how we started. What’s more interesting is how a team of girls who, for the most part, don’t know each other have come to be in sync for our first game together.
Weekly zoom meetings are where we first met, and we spent a fair amount of time analysing baseball games and talking about specific plays, pitching selection, and quality at-bats. We wanted to make sure that we kept our brains sharp despite not being able to be together physically.
The Belles are a team of firsts and have been making history everywhere we go. One of my favourite moments was when we played in the Herts Spring League this year as the first-ever Women’s team to compete. Umpires, players, and coaches kept coming up to us, saying how excited and honoured they were to have us there. But I do have to say; it was nerve-racking. Whenever I stood in the batter’s box, I was shaking and oh so nervous that I would let the team down. But, it turns out there was nothing to worry about. I’m telling you, once you get that first steal (successfully) and you hear your team cheering you on, it’s such an incredible feeling. We lost both games that day but only lost by two on our second one – we had them rattled!
When we hosted the WBUK games a few months ago, we wanted to make history and have women doing as much as possible. Again, our girls really stepped up and wanted to be field umpires – so again, we spent some time on zoom together, with the help of our coach Chris, going over the positions and what to do. One of our girls even took the opportunity to volunteer herself to plate umpire as the first female to plate umpire in the WBUK league, and she smashed it – we’re so proud of you Evette!
Growing up in Canada, you’re told “girls play softball, not baseball”, and it’s something that isn’t questioned, so I grew up playing Softball. But, of course, I watched a lot of Baseball – my dad bringing me up to be a Blue Jays fan. But when I moved to the UK, I found a Softball team – it didn’t even occur to me that Baseball was big over here. I still enjoy playing Softball, but Baseball is a whole new challenge and requires more concentration. Most importantly, Baseball has helped me mend my broken heart from when my dad suddenly passed away in September 2019. He was always my number 1 cheerleader when I played sports, but the fact that I’m playing his favourite sport and am excelling at it (look out for my pink hair bow, which I got for my exceptional hitting) would make him proud.
The Belles have come a long way in a short time to be in the final of the WBUK National Championships and are blazing a trail for sportswomen across the country. With the WBUK up to 10 affiliates in the UK, it is an exciting time to be involved in Women’s Baseball. Their story is as heart-warming as it is inspiring, and Tales From Sport will continue to keep tabs on the league as it goes from strength to strength. The Belles continue to be the 21st Century sporting fur trappers, frontierswomen, forging a path for others through a hinterland, diamond in shape, with a club in their hand and their hearts on their sleeves.
So tell your Ma when you get home. These are the girls from Baseball City.
Support UK Baseball by attending the first Women’s National Baseball Championship in almost 80 years THIS SUNDAY!
Belles Baseball vs London Mayhem
Date: 19th September 2021
Time: 1pm BST
Venue: Brighton Baseball Club
Support the team by buying their merch!
A huge thank you to Ashley Mackrell for agreeing to co-write this article with us. She has been incredibly supportive & patient with this process and we really apricate her willingness to work with us!