Heslington United Baseball Club, normally known as Heslington United or Heslington, is a professional baseball club located in Oldstead, Arclidshire, Ianoia. They are recognized as the second team to turn professional in Oldstead, after Oldstead Irish, having joined the Nationwide Baseball Alliance (NBA) in 1910.
Heslington United was formed in 1899 as a fitness club for the local community, specializing in athletics, baseball, association football and golf, within the northern coastal suburb of Heslington. The club played it’s first game of baseball on 7th of July 1900, defeating fellow Oldstead-based club North Ham, 7-6. In 1903, the baseball club split from the other departments, going it alone off the back of financial success from hosting exhibition games. They also joined the Ianoian Baseball Association (IBA) during this time. The club merged back with the association football department in 1906, citing financial troubles. Under pressure from both football and baseball governing bodies, the two departments split once again in 1908, with the footballers folding just a few months later from lack of interest.
After Ince Ironworks withdrew from the Nationwide Baseball Alliance as Champions in 1909, the NBA, in conjunction with the Ianoian Baseball Association, set out to find a a new club to join the league. After a 3 month search, Heslington United was chosen due to the clubs facilities at Stetchworth, which were considerably better than the majority of clubs already competing professionally at the time.
United played it’s first professional game on the 1st of April 1910, losing 4-2 to NN Kingsdown, before winning their first professional game the following day, 7-0. Heslington’s first professional home game was played on the 15th of April, resulting in a 7-0 loss to eventual champions Caunton Victoria. They won the second game of the series the following day, 4-0. Despite a positive start to their debut season, Heslington United slowly dropped down the table, finishing 12th out of 14 with a 29-8-41 record.
1911 proved a tricky sophomore year for the club as they slumped to last place, winning just 21 games and conceding the most runs out of all teams, exacerbated by an 11-game losing streak during August and into September. The following year proved worse, winning 2 less games all year and rooted to the foot of the table from the end of June. With growing calls for the club to be removed from the league, Heslington United improved slightly in 1913 – but still finished last – after dropping to the bottom on the penultimate weekend of fixtures. Having sat mid-table for much of the year, a 13-game winless streak that began in mid-July, saw them slip down the order.
In the final year before the Nationwide Baseball Alliance rebranded to the Nationwide League and became the second tier of baseball within Ianoia, Heslington finally moved off the bottom of the standings, finishing a respectable 10th, their highest finish in the NBA, despite another dreadful run of form in the back-half of the season when they went 1-4-10. It was during this time the club gained the nickname “The Valiants”, after a dozen immigrants from the United Kingdom, who worked on the construction of HMS Valiant, started to support the club.
A ridiculously small stadium by modern standards, Stetchworth is the home ground of Heslington United, a ground they have called home since 1902. Originally playing in a nearby park which had numerous trees in the outfield, the baseball and football departments moved to Stetchworth, an unused site next to a brick pit, situated just a kilometer north, to allow the construction of small seating areas for spectators. When the football department folded in 1908, baseball operations took full control of the site, which had been heavily invested to include an enormous scoreboard and seating for over 4,000.
The incredibly shallow left field foul pole makes Stetchworth one of the most batter-friendly ballparks in the country. The brick pit, used by Smith’s Brick Company until it closed in 1924, was situated directly behind the outfield wall, forcing the foul pole to be brought in to just 234 feet from home plate. When the brick pit was filled in during the 1925 season, the club decided against adjusting the dimensions of the ballpark, instead preferring to convert the land into a park. Subsequent changes include a large grandstand behind the outfield wall and an electronic scoreboard that were built in 1969 and 1991, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the shallow left field boosts home run averages by right-handed hitters as much as 64%, with triples nearly unheard of. This quirky stadium, surrounded by 10-feet high walls in the outfield, also sees a boost in batting averages.