Reflections on life in British baseball and softball


John Boyd

Over the past year my time in baseball and softball has largely been spent thinking about the future.  It has been easy to think only about the direction of our sports, about action, and to become thoroughly engrossed in the strategic planning of our next four year funding cycle.  Once in a while - and three times in recent weeks - I've been given cause to stop and think about the deeper reasons behind what we are doing.

Today I learned the sad news of the passing of a dear man, Johnny Abrams. Many will know him as the first-aider and physio who worked at so many softball and baseball events until three years ago. Johnny died yesterday after a long battle with sickness.  He and his wife, Sue, were married earlier this year and the time since he first fell ill was full of both pain and joy. These warm and lovely people were a bright fixture of the community for so long. My heart goes out to Sue and Johnny's family for their loss. Johnny made many friends in the community, first within his baseball club, the Essex Arrows, then befriending the entire softball community in an empathetic way that only a physio could achieve. I don't stand alone in missing his presence.

Earlier this year we lost another bright, caring and sincere lover of our sports. Emma Ley, whom I had the pleasure of working with, died suddenly and unexpectedly.  I remember her joy and enthusiasm the very first time I met her when she came for interview at BSUK, and the raw and abundant passion she showed every day since. Emma loved our sports. She spent most of her time outside of work volunteering in softball, as well as regularly offering her services to baseball (she's fondly remembered by then GB Baseball General Manager Alan Smith for her hard work at a fundraising cricket testimonial in Taunton). But most of all Emma loved the people in our sports, with whom she built amazing bonds and friendships.

Last year a friend and former teammate also passed away. Chris Stephens led a fascinating life and, as my colleague Jenny has already expressed so eloquently, he was a friend to so many of us. Like Johnny and Emma, Chris was well liked and had built up friendships with so many people, some still playing, many not, over his decades in the sport.

It is these bonds -- the human impact -- that one can lose sight of in the every day world of playing or working in our sports. It's people like Johnny, Emma and Chris that make us feel that we are part of something bigger than the sum of its parts: a community of friends. The world of British baseball and softball is very small. We spend an amazing amount of time each season, year on year, in each others' close company and, hopefully, enriching each others' lives.

So, it is an unhappy truth that it often takes sad news for me - and many others, I'm sure - to remember that our time in this community is in itself such a wonderful gift.

tagged under: bsuk staff, chris stephens, obituary, johnny abrams, emma ley

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About John Boyd

John Boyd

John joined BaseballSoftballUK as one of its inaugural employees in January 2000 after a brief stint with the Major League Baseball office in London, where his last project was concerned with bringing British baseball and softball together into the joint venture that emerged as BSUK.  After seven years heading Operations at BSUK, he moved into heading up Development, where he oversaw the writing of three Whole Sport Plans and the delivery of BSUK’s 2011-17 Facilities Strategy. After serving as Joint-CEO for a number of years, John became BSUK’s sole CEO in April 2017.

John is also a member of the WBSC Development Commissions, a strategic aide to the Confederation of European Baseball and serves on the joint ESF/CEB Commission for marketing and development.

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