Baseball returned to my hometown of Folkestone after a gap of 100 years on Sunday, June 16 when the CANUK Warriors took on the Buccaneers Baseball Travel Team at the Three Hills Sports Park for the Folkestone Great War Baseball Game supported by Folkestone Town Council.
The match was enjoyed by a large crowd of spectators who witnessed the Kent-based Buccaneers win an exciting game 13-1.
Last year I wrote a guest post on Bluebird Banter on how the game of baseball was played extensively in Folkestone during World War I by the Canadian troops who were garrisoned here.
The Canadian team had been recruited entirely from among serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces in the UK and commemorated the Military Baseball Leagues which originated in Folkestone in 1915. On the back of the Canadians’ shirts was a second name tag representing a deployment or operation that was of individual significance to them.
The Buccaneers Baseball Travel Team travel the world playing baseball tournaments, notably the MSBL/MABL World Series which is held in Arizona on MLB Spring Training facilities every year and also exhibition games at the Field of Dreams diamond in Iowa. The team for this game comprised of players from the Kent Buccaneers, Kent Mariners, London Mets, and the Bracknell Baseball Club.
Presentations and an exchange of gifts were made before the game by Canadian Warrant Officer Chris Anderson and Brigadier General Lowell Thomas. The National Anthems of Canada and the UK were sung before the game by opera singer and right fielder Petty Officer (2nd Class) Josee Sulyma.
The Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Jackie Meade, threw the ceremonial first pitch which was caught by me (wearing a Blue Jays cap, for the record).
The first pitch is thrown out by Folkestone’s new mayor, Jacqui Mead #letsplayballPosted by Three Hills Sports Park on Sunday, June 16, 2019
Strong gusts of wind caused some initial problems for the Canadians, who after five innings trailed the Buccaneers 5-0. The Buccs, eager to extend their advantage and hit a home run, began to swing for the fences, but the wind held up the high fly balls and they were expertly caught by the Canadian outfielders.
Although the linescore suggests the game was one-sided, the Canadians patiently got players on base, then advanced around the diamond by stealing bases at opportune moments, but whenever runners were in scoring position the bats ran out of luck before they could be brought home. The Buccaneers continued to score steadily.
In the eighth inning, the star catcher for the Warriors Chris Anderson hit a line drive that scored Captain Elizabeth Poulin, whereupon the Canadians briefly threatened a comeback.
A memorable feature of the game was the Canadian rooting, for what they lacked in runs they more than made up for in spirit.
After the game the Mayor presented a beautiful trophy—locally made by ATEC 3D—to the Buccaneers skipper Jon Carter.
Despite the loss Anderson declared, “today was a great day for baseball and I believe, for the Town of Folkestone. The entire community really. We are humbled by the support of everyone who came to Three Hills Sports Park today and even as the visiting team we felt like we had the hometown crowd with us from first pitch to the final handshake. We did really well today and are proud of ourselves and the effort and result we have achieved. On behalf of the CANUK Warriors and their families we want to thank the Madam Mayor, Councillor Jackie Meade and the organizers for their invitation and this wonderful hospitality.”
Carter of the Buccs said, “When I was first approached by baseball historian Andrew Taylor asking if I knew of any teams who may like to play baseball versus the Canadian Forces baseball team, commemorating baseball being played in Folkestone, Kent 100 years ago, I jumped at the chance! Every player involved was honoured to be part of such an historic event & we hope this can become an annual ‘remembrance’ of all the heroes from the Great War who served & played baseball between 1914 and 1919.”
Talks are underway to arrange another fixture next year and to once again make baseball a regular feature on the local calendar.
Andrew Taylor is a resident of Folkestone, United Kingdom and is the curator of the Folkestone Baseball Chronicle Facebook page. I visited Andrew in Folkestone last year and he and his family took me on a whirlwind tour of the area and I was very grateful for their kindness and time. I’d like to take this chance to thank him again for another fantastic guest piece here on Bluebird Banter! It is surprisingly difficult to get baseball equipment in the United Kingdom; if you have the ability to send baseballs, gloves, and bats across the Atlantic, drop in on the Facebook page above and let Andrew know!—Minor Leaguer