UK showcase an opportunity for youngsters to get noticed

16-year-old Jack Warrington participating in European Development Tournament ahead of London Series

June 21st, 2023

LONDON -- Although the jewel events of the two-game London Series between the Cubs and Cardinals at London Stadium are still a few days away, the excitement has already begun to boil over in the town of Slough, about 26 miles west.

On Tuesday the European Development Tournament (EDT) kicked off at Farnham Park Baseball & Softball Complex. The three-day event, hosted by MLB and BaseballSoftballUK, is the beginning of MLB’s concentrated efforts to grow and promote the sport throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa and Asia. It features more than 80 amateur baseball players, ranging from ages 14-21, from the likes of the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Though Tuesday’s primary plans of a morning showcase workout and opening ceremonies had to be maneuvered around due to early thunderstorms, the EDT still got off to a rousing start with games in the afternoon. The pool of prospects was divided into three teams that played in front of MLB scouts and received direction from Europe’s finest baseball minds.

Jack Warrington, a 16-year-old corner infielder from Cardiff, Wales, and the only representative from Great Britain Baseball at the EDT, could feel the anticipation brewing -- even if rain showers delayed the festivities ever so slightly.

“I know that a lot of my friends and teammates have come down to Farnham -- they train here usually,” said Warrington. “With the whole British baseball team playing on a Sunday as well -- it’s been getting really exciting for the London Series and all the MLB people coming down here. I’ve been talking to friends about this for weeks. And I’m just really glad to get an opportunity to come down here.”

Warrington was born in Miami to British parents and spent the first 11 years of his life in South Florida before the Warringtons moved back to the U.K. five years ago to be closer to family. Warrington, a lifelong Marlins fan (“Despite the bullying,” he said) whose fandom was spurred by a childhood of watching Giancarlo Stanton hit titanic blasts, was looking for ways to continue to foster his “true passion” for baseball.

“And the first day I got here, actually, I was going through the airport and have the vivid memory of seeing some other kid with a 'GB' backpack and a 'GB' cap for baseball,” he said. “I’ve always loved the game. And so when I found out there were opportunities here to play, I immediately jumped at them.”

This week’s festivities represent the growth and reach that baseball has achieved in the U.K. and the rest of the world, while also taking steps to ensure that growth will continue once the Cubs and Cardinals finish their series.

Efforts to instill that passion for baseball in a new generation of international fans are well under way, and Warrington himself can already see the results in his local community back in Wales.

“When I first got here, I started playing with this men’s team in Cardiff -- and we were literally working out in a judo gym starting off with about 10 to 12 guys,” he said. “I’ve seen that team almost quadruple in size here. And starting out, I literally played in football boots because there was nothing I could get here.

“Now I’m seeing MLB scouts here, all the MLB stuff going into the London Series, even just getting to play every weekend -- it’s genuinely breathtaking. How much it’s developed, especially seeing all the British guys on TV in the World Baseball Classic as well. Words just can’t describe.”

Warrington, who turns 17 on Thursday, dreams of playing college ball in the U.S. He points to a 15U MLB Europe event a couple of years ago as a watershed moment for him, with the advanced level of coaching helping him begin to understand himself as a player even more.

He was part of Great Britain’s U18 squad that competed in the European Baseball Championship last year, and looks forward to the next opportunity to compete in international competitions due to the organization’s growth, crediting top-down support from GB manager Drew Spencer and coach Jonathan Cramman as pivotal figures for baseball in the U.K.

But for the time being, he’s raring to compete in the EDT, knowing that an opportunity like this can change his future in the game of baseball.

“I’m looking forward to meeting all the new people coming in,” said Warrington. “You’ll get a bunch of knowledge and a bunch more insight into how I should be playing, and what I can do to improve my game. There’s going to be amazing coaches and amazing players, and I just hope to get a bunch of feedback and new info about what I could be doing to get better.”