Rochdale man part of GB team to win bronze at first-ever Blind Baseball European Champions
Date published: 18 October 2023
A Rochdale man recently represented Lancashire and Great Britain at the first-ever Blind Baseball European Championships in Italy, where the team won a bronze medal.
Basharat Mohammad, 44 – who has been visually impaired since he was a teenager – formed part of the GB squad which travelled to Bologna in Italy for the sport’s inaugural European championships.
Blind Baseball originated in Italy over 20 years ago by an ex-baseball player. Since then, the game has gone global with the hope that eventually the game will be played at the Paralympics.
The game was brought to the UK in 2018, following a connection between Lancashire Lions Visually Impaired Sports Club and the Italian founders.
In the UK, the sport is governed by The UK Blind Baseball Association, a non-profit organisation affiliated to the British Baseball Federation.
Basharat, who plays for the Lancashire Lions, says joining the team has proved beneficial: “I have been visually impaired since I was a teenager. This has greatly affected my self-confidence, restricting me from joining any mainstream clubs.
“However, since I have joined the Lancashire Lions, I have felt a real sense of teamwork and the experience in Italy was phenomenal in allowing me to experience this further.”
The European Championships were split over two days on 7 and 8 October, with all teams playing each other on the Saturday for league placings, followed by a semi-final and final on the Sunday contested by the top four teams.
The UK team of 15 arrived on the Thursday prior, before practising on the Friday.
Basharat explained: “We had the opportunity to practise on the baseball field and were given the first privilege to do this in the morning. This was a blessing as the morning was a lot cooler in the Italian heat and the pitch was untouched prior to our arrival.
“The players were in awe of the amazing facilities, something not experienced in the UK. After a morning of practise, the group had some down time in the afternoon with many taking a trip into Bologna city centre and sampling some of the coffee and gelato as well as taking in the street entertainment.
“In the evening we were all back at the field with kits on for the opening ceremony of the tournament. The squads were introduced and walked out in lines on to the field with flag bearers at the front.
“After the speeches and photos, it was back to the hotel for a much-needed rest before the competition began the next day.”
GB’s first game came against the Netherlands, a strong start which saw them win 5-0. Basharat said the game “went better than planned” as the players were “nervous stepping on to the field but also keen to show what they could do.”
One member of the GB team, Ray Clements, also got the first and only ‘flyball’ of the tournament which took everyone by surprise.
Those who didn’t play in the first game were given the opportunity to play in the second game against France, which GB won 2-0.
Game three saw GB win 11-1 over Germany before their first loss, 9-0, in a “tough” game against the strong Italian favourites, who had managed to score double figures against all other teams.
After the first day’s games, the Great British side finished second with a semi-final game against the Netherlands on Sunday morning.
Unfortunately for GB, the Netherlands won 2-1 – which Basharat said was “the best of the tournament” – leaving GB in a third-place play-off against France.
With the stakes high for third place, GB ultimately won 9-0, which included two runs from Basharat. All players scored runs in the tournament which was a remarkable achievement and showed the great strength in depth of the team offensively, whilst Grant Mallabar received the award of best defensive player at the tournament.
Basharat said: “After the exhausting semi-final all squad players were played and this brought a freshness to the team.
“Everyone did fantastically to lift themselves and put on this dominant display. Scoring one run short of the maximum in the two innings, the team played great and deserved the bronze medal.”
Basharat said: “When selected for this opportunity, I was very excited to be representing my team Lancashire Lions and Great Britain in Italy. We were able to connect to a range of people from different backgrounds as we were all able to relate due to our love for the game of baseball.”
He added: “I have always been an active person, however, due to my deteriorating sight, I have been held back.
“With no pun intended, Italy has really opened my eyes and has allowed me to see the unity that such a sport can bring.
“I am very proud to be able to bring home a bronze medal for GB and next time we will be coming for gold.”
The UK Blind Baseball Association is crowdfunding to cover the £4,000 cost of taking 10 players and their coaches to the championships; donations, if desired, can be made via Crowdfunder: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/taking-team-gb-to-compete-in-the-euros-in-italy
Basharat added: “Any contribution large or small will be hugely appreciated. Thank you.”
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