Liverpool Trojans Baseball Club Est.1946
The Trojans have decided to take advantage of their long weekend off by stepping over to the 'dark side' to enter a slow-pitch softball tournament being held at Childwall Academy, Queens Drive, Liverpool. L15 6XZ
There are teams from across England competing from 9am on both Saturday and Sunday, so if you're free for an hour or two then why not pop down and take in some of the action?
How hard can it be to hit a ball the size of a watermelon lobbed in at 20mph? I guess we'll find out!
The sun blazed down on Bootle Stadium this Sunday as Britain’s oldest existing baseball club, the Liverpool Trojans, marked their 70th anniversary as the club’s two teams met for the very first time.
Prior to the double-header getting underway, both teams lined up along in blaze of racing green as they posed for photographs with founding father of the club and British Baseball Hall of Famer, Norman Wells.
In 2016 Wells, 95, is a long retired great-grandfather, but it was as a fresh faced war veteran back in 1946 that he and a group of his friends first formed the Trojans. The name “Trojans” fittingly taken from the favourite beer that Norman and his friends used to enjoy in the Halton Castle pub – Higson’s Trojan. And so began the rich history of the much celebrated club.
Norman remains an active member of the club to this day, never one to miss team meetings or end of season parties. He still manages to get to plenty of games too, having only retired from scorekeeping a handful of seasons ago but still keen to watch his Grandson, Chris, carry on the family tradition.
After the first round of photographs were taken Norman was joined by fellow Trojan royalty in Clive Maude, Rob Alger and, of course, Norman Jr. All of whom have left their mark on the club in their own way across the decades.
It was then time for the ceremonial first pitch, the crowd had reached the dozens by this stage, and all lined up to get a shot of the Trojans’ founding father throwing it out. As a perfectionist, even at 95, Wells wanted to get this pitch right for the cameras and so took a minute to get some practice in before delivering a strike to Norman Jr to officially set proceedings underway.
After all the pomp and ceremony it would be forgivable to forget that there were two games to be played that day but just after noon it was time to play ball!
The form guide would suggest that these games should have been easy wins for the Trojans first team, but the “Twojans” had other ideas and made a quick start. They pounced on Martin Godsall’s consistent strikes, spraying hits around the park and took the lead when debutant Matt Agostinelli drove home Jamie Kerr on a single to left field.
For the Twojans, Jeff Ocenasek, was on pitching duty. After playing with the first team in 2015, Ocenasek was overlooked for selection this term and so was keen to prove the management wrong by putting in an impressive display. He probably couldn’t have wished to get off to a better start as he retired his opponents in order and sent his team out to bat again.
Perhaps the fanfare of the opening ceremony had disrupted Godsall’s game preparations as he continued to give up hits. This time Ed Wrightson’s double was followed up by a single from Dan Groves before he scored on Alirio Melendez-Romero’s sacrifice groundout to give the underdogs a 2-0 lead.
After Paul Smith flew out to left field, it was Ian Blease who stepped up and drove the first hit of the game through the infield to set the Trojans on their way. Blease would then score on Matty Waddington’s single to right, before Martin Godsall took the opportunity to aid his bid for a win by driving in two runs. Godsall himself would also score when Yoshiki Morikawa squeezed his hit up the middle. Harry Wren then popped out to end the inning, but just like that, the score had turned around and the Trojans led 4-2.
The Twojans gave their all to rally back but, by now, Godsall had found his groove and was doing what he does best – shutting down the opponent’s bats. Over the next couple of frames he would allow no runs, but his team would go on to score eleven more as they jumped out to an insurmountable lead.
To their credit the Twojans did try and mount an unlikely comeback in the fifth inning, as they combined for three runs on four hits, the highlight of which being Melendez-Romero’s 2 RBI single. Ultimately though, with the lead being 15-5, at the end of the fifth, the slaughter rule was invoked and that was that for game one.
Game two again saw the Two’s lead early on when Matt Agnostinelli’s single scored Jamie Kerr who had reached base on his own single to left before being advanced by Scott Gray’s ground rule double.
This time however, the Trojans came roaring back and immediately turned the tables on their ever improving development squad. Lead-off hitter, Wren reached base on balls as Agnostinelli initially struggled for control – hardly a surprise as this was his first outing after several years away from the game. Wren then stole second before moving over to third on Paul Mason’s ground-out. He would then score on a past-ball to tie things up.
Victor Juarez, who has been in fine form with the bat this season, was next up and got things started with single driven past the feet of the pitcher. Juarez would then steal second before scoring on Paul Smith’s long single to left-centre. The Trojans had the lead by a score of 2 runs to 1.
But “like Jack Russell nipping at the heels of a Rotweiller” the Twojans were never going to give up easily. Four runs of their own followed in the top of the second hit batters, walks and errors took their toll on the Trojans with Melendez-Romero, Dan Groves, Niall Kane and Richard Brophy crossing the plate to put the Two’s up 5-2.
In the bottom half of the inning, Agnostinelli looked in dominant form. A monster single from Harry Wren scored Colton all the way from first just when it looked like he was going to throw a zero up on the scoreboard.
At 5-3 down the Twojans had the chance to pile the pressure on the first team when they came out to bat at the top of the third. Paul Smith however had other ideas as, despite hitting Richard Brophy with an inside pitch, he quickly shutdown the opposing offense.
Agnostinelli was replaced on the hill in the third by Brophy after a powerful debut outing. As a pitcher, there are days you will always remember. Earlier in the season Brophy was just one out away from a one-hit shutout, he will have fond memories of that day despite the line drive that brought his bid to close. He may, however, have nightmares about this outing.
His first pitch slipped out of his hand and sailed feet above the umpire and catcher, he did recover though and seemed to have forced Chris Taggart into a ground-out only for an error on the play that would ultimately see Taggart finish up at second base. There were then three consecutive walks and a series of wild pitches that would allow the Trojans to tie the game up.
Things looked to be turning around for Brophy and the Two’s when first Paul Colton popped out to second base then Harry Wren ground in to a fielder’s choice, but finding the final out proved to be a bigger task than anyone could have suggested.
Taggart’s ground-rule double was followed up by Juarez’s fifth home run of the year. From there Paul Smith and Ian Blease singled before, to add insult to injury, Wrightson and Gill both reached on error. Another ground-rule double followed, this time for Rick Mills who pinch-hit for Wren and drove in two more. Chris Taggart eventually groundout to second base to end the inning but the damage was well and truly done as the Trojans scored 14 runs on just 5 hits as 8 walks and 3 errors took their toll on the Two’s.
After that marathon half if the inning, and in the searing heat, Paul Smith was replaced on the mound by Mills. The Canadian would strike out one and give up no hits as he closed out the game. The final score was 17-5 to the Trojans.
The Trojans continue to lead the North West Division with a record of 13 wins and 1 loss, the Twojans slip to a record of 6-8.
“To push us so hard like that is a testament is to how far the Two’s have come over the past few years. A couple of years ago the vast majority of the guys had never played before, and today they took the lead against us, three times.” said Ian Blease, Trojans first team manager. “They all play for each other, and for the love of the game. The character they show in the dressing room is matched by their enthusiasm on the field and if the team can stay together a while longer then who knows what they can achieve. This is their first year playing in a combined northern conference and before today they were sitting at .500 having played most of the big teams, and even taken a few games off them. They were even missing a few players today so we haven’t seen them at full strength. Maybe we’ll even meet them again in the play-offs!”
Prior to the days play Clive Maude and Norman Wells Jr were asking to pick out an MVP for the day and this was awarded to Matty Waddington for his performance in game one. He went two for two with bat, picking up four RBIs as well as handling a couple of hard hit line drives. Waddington was also called up to the GB u18 squad earlier the week, so has plenty to celebrate – after he’s finished his exams!
Article By: Ian Blease