History of the SSL

  
The league was founded in 1995 by Chris O'Connor, who moved from London to Portsmouth and missed playing softball so much that he decided to try setting up a league in his new home.
Chris put up posters for a series of winter sessions in January 1995, people turned up (including a young Andy Burgess and a few of his mates who had once played Little League and adult baseball in Chichester and then softball for a year at secondary school), and two teams that later became the Southsea Sharks and the Portsmouth Dodgers were formed. By the summer, there were four or five teams and a small league that's been going, with ups and downs, ever since.
Four years later, the five or six people who called themselves the League Committee were sitting in the pub when Chris O'Connor announced he was stepping down. There was the usual silence that happens on those occasions, with everyone looking down at the beer mats. Then Graham Cooper said, “Andy – you'd be good at running the league!” and everyone else nodded enthusiastically and looked relieved. And the rest is history....
There have always been some unusual aspects to the Solent League, and it's taken some creative thinking and a willingness to take risks to respond to circumstances and keep the league on course. This has been one of the hallmarks in its history – but it didn't start out that way.
  
Most recreational leagues play their games on weekday evenings, but the Solent League started out as a Sunday league and has largely remained that way, though teams now have the option to play home fixtures on weeknights and some do. Being a Sunday league allowed teams to be spread out geographically, and the Solent League has had teams based as far away from Portsmouth as Brighton and Southampton, as well as in places like Hursley and Bordon in the Hampshire hinterlands.
However, being a weekend league made it difficult for keener Solent players and teams to get involved in the burgeoning weekend tournament scene around the UK, and that's where the creative thinking came in.
The change that followed was more like a revolution. The better players from throughout the Solent League – but especially from the league's top teams – took themselves out of league play altogether and formed two graded tournament teams, Mariners A and Mariners B, who were now free to enter as many weekend tournaments as they chose. And the gamble was that a league that was never very big would be able to fill in the gaps from the bottom.
According to Andy, the Mariners experiment worked for the first four or five years, but there were signs that its time may have been coming to an end. Recently though, under the guidance of Brad Gilmour, the Mariners have enjoyed a resurgence in enthusiasm & support from within the SSL. After consolidating themselves down into one single A grade team, they have started to once again produce great results in both the National Softball League and at the annual Nationals Tournament (with several Solent players back in contention for a place in the GB squad).
Integrating new players – especially those who have never played before – became one of Andy's key aims as his Chairmanship of the league progressed over the years. "I wanted someone to be able to turn up one week, come to a practice, and play a league fixture the next week," he said. "We're never going to keep new players if they just sit on the bench and get an inning or an at-bat here or there when a game is already won or lost."
An unusual & sudden influx of new players one year saw this ethic put into practice with the creation of a complete new team, the Baffins Brewers, who were made up solely from new recruits that had attended the weekly pre-season indoor training sessions. In fact, indoor softball has now become the single biggest (and probably the most successful) recruitment tool for the League as a whole. The emphasis has been switched to finding & training new players during the months of January, February, March & April each year rather than during the Summer season itself (when most captains & coaches are already busy playing fixtures/tournaments).
Another notable league success has been the growth of the annual Solent Lastball Tournament. Originally created just as a one day event specifically for all the local SSL teams, this has grown & evolved over the years to become one of the most popular two day regional tournaments on the UK softball calendar (peaking at 43 competing teams in 2011). This transformation has been primarily driven by the enthusiasm & sheer hard work of long time Solent veterans Bryan Barry (SSL Chairman – 2011/12) and Nigel Davies.
Another highlight of the leagues continuing growth was when they played host to the European Slowpitch Championships back in 2008 at their Wide Lane venue in Eastleigh. As well as having several National teams from throughout Europe all competing against each other, the league also organised its own ‘Euroball’ with 23 teams from around the UK also competing on the same weekend. Being able to successfully step up onto the International softball stage remains one of the leagues biggest & greatest achievements (which in turned earned them worthy recipients of the ‘Glover Cup’ - awarded to them by the British Softball Federation for their contribution to softball in the UK).
Currently the SSL is looking relatively strong, with the 2012 season seeing the introduction of two Divisions (something which has not been tried since 2008). Also, the League Committee is looking stronger than ever under the leadership of new Chairman Will Taylor.
 
We now enter our 20th anniversary year, with big plans afoot. The possibility of a three league system, a three tournament 'series' and a major party to end it all. It's going to be a big year and one that the SSL are very much looking forward to. 
  

Hall of Fame

  
Andy ‘Beefy’ Burgess – inducted 2005
 
A veteran of the very first indoor sessions that led to the formation of the League back in 1995, Beefy Burgess has enjoyed many successes both as a player, coach, tournament organiser and Committee member. He was awarded the ‘Glover Cup’ by the British Softball Federation back in 2006 for his continuing services to softball in the UK.
 
Alan ‘Silver Fox’ Medland – inducted 2006
 
Originally from Calgary in Canada, Alan was a local baseball veteran who switched to softball upon hearing about the creation of the Solent League. Since that time he has won many awards both as a player and coach with his treasured Dodgers team that he helped to form back in 1995.
 
Graham ‘Coops’ Cooper – inducted 2007
 
After catching the softball bug Coops took on the formidable task of forming his own team, the Britax Bruisers, who were a competitive force within the League in the late 90’s. Graham has since become the Leagues very own  ‘fixtures guru’ and continued to do so until the end of the 19th season.
 
Nigel Davies – inducted 2008
 
Nigel remains the Solent Leagues most successful coach after leading his Dolphin team to five consecutive League titles (1999-2003). He was also a guiding force in the creation of the successful Solent Mariners club back in 2004. Now at the head of the OAP's, Nigel has further enjoyed success with a whopping 5 titles in a row for the Southampton based team.
 
Chris O’Connor – inducted 2009
 
The man who quite simply started it all!!! It was Chris who first had the idea of organising some indoor training sessions and then seeing if there would be any interest in creating a local League. He took on the role of the 1st ever League Chairman and also became one of the first local players to train as an official BASU umpire. There is still hope that one day he will return to the pitchers plate for one more game – watch this space! 
 
Beverley Wilson – inducted 2010
 
Another veteran of the original 1995 indoor sessions, Bev has enjoyed many years playing behind home plate for her beloved Sharks team and in that time has become one of the most experienced catchers in the League.
 
Johnny ‘Longtime’ Heather – inducted 2011
 
Johnny was another baseballer who made the transition to softball back in the late 1990’s. Since then he has been a leading force in advancing the level of coaching within the League. He has also enjoyed  considerable success ‘prowling’ the outfield for the Solent Mariners.
 
Glen Barber – inducted 2012
 
Glen became the first ever Solent player to make it into the GB squad during his time as a player with the Dolphins team. He was an integral part of the Dolphins many League titles and also worked hard to help give the Solent Mariners some of their earliest victories.
 
Bryan Barry – inducted 2013
 
Bryan has been a guiding light for softball in Southampton, helping the Dolphins to back to back championships and then the same with the OAPs after a few years away from the league with the Solent Mariners tournament team. Bryan also coaches at the Southampton training sessions and is a font of knowledge for any softball player regardless of years playing. 

Tracy Robinson – inducted 2014
 
Tracy has been in the league for a long time and only played for her beloved Dodgers. She is a well loved member of the league and has helped bring through many players into tournament teams and run many of those teams to victory, including the Dodgers gold Nationals win in 2016. Tracy is always there to help any player with any help they need.
  
Will Taylor – inducted 2015

​Bev Brockway - inducted 2016