High Hopes for the Defending Champions
Clothes hang on lines as reminders of dinner parties past, dishes fill the sink, and paperwork clutters the table. People begin to fill the streets with tedious Sunday chores, getting ready for the upcoming week. But in a little corner separate from this mundane reality, people meet on a field to play an organised — and exquisite — game of baseball. It is the AAA Scotland National Cup Championship. The Edinburgh Canons might be undefeated this season so far, but the Tayport Breakers are hoping to defend their title — and become the first back-to-back champions.
Dark clouds loom in the distance, threatening to ruin the game. Tayport is hoping to get in and out with a clean win. They need to get a healthy lead and come out early — and aggressively. That’s exactly what they do with two singles, two stolen bases, and a double resulting in a two-run lead in the first inning. A steady rain falls over the field as the players settle in. Edinburgh responded in the second inning, yet Tayport shut them down, limiting the damage to only two runs and tying the game. But Edinburgh can’t keep Tayport down for long, as they quickly send two home in the third followed up with another two runs in the fifth, the score now 6-2. Then tragedy strikes in the fifth. Edinburgh knocks a grand slam, equalising the game.
“It was a big kind of struggle in that moment. But only for a few seconds. And then after that I tried to settle my mind and put myself together. Because I knew I was going to come back and pitch again. And I also knew baseball is baseball. No one can guarantee who is going to win the game”, says Tayport pitcher Hsinyen Lai, a professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews.
The players keep it tight through the sixth. An unsettled Edinburgh pitcher leads to a walk-in run for the Tayport Breakers in the seventh. The Tayport Breakers are up by one run, now all they need is three outs. One. Two. Three. They win the game on a strikeout. Players rush the field, taking each other in their arms.
“Relief,” says General Manager Jason West, “it’s just a relief”.
Excitement carries them over to a local pub where they sit outside reminiscing, already nostalgic about their victory. “It’s surreal”, says Hsinyen, “it’s amazing”. He has played baseball since he was seven years old and has been a part of the Scottish league for 11 years.
“Baseball is a huge part of my life. The reason why I have been playing baseball is not about winning or losing games, because baseball has taught me a lot more than just winning or losing games. We learn so much. Today, we learned how to come back when we were down. We learn how to get through the ups and downs of the games. I think this is what baseball teaches me”.
Hsinyen was the first official player to be featured on the Tayport Breakers roster. In 2022, he was selected as the SNBL AAA MVP, the SNBL AAA Gold Glove pitcher, and the AAA All-Star MVP.
He says, “For this club the baseball we are playing is more than just winning or losing. While we are playing at Tayport Baseball club it is more than just baseball itself. We have a future to work on. We try to reach out to our local communities, even our students at St Andrews, and see who wants to play baseball and join us. We are creating a culture for this club. We are hoping to see as many as possible who can join us and enjoy baseball”.
Jason West established the club in 2019. Out for a walk with his dog one day, he passed the then-empty field that they now play on. Now it is a well-manicured baseball field with a pitcher’s mound, basepaths, and a tall chain-link backstop. His very own field of dreams.
“Prior to 2019 there was no baseball in Tayport and not only seeing it happening week to week and seeing the growth, but it is now something that exists on its own”, he says. If you build it, they will come — and come they did. Players from all walks of life have come to claim a spot on the Tayport baseball team. “A typical training session is mid-week, and we will have a mix of different levels and talents and experience. Everyone is there to make everyone else grow and be that much better of a ball player. Everyone is there to enjoy that time with each other. It’s not just practise or getting ready for a game. It’s time we enjoy spending with each other. We enjoy all aspects of the game together, not just when we win”, Jason tells me.
The Tayport Breakers are a heartening story of a team viewed as the underdogs, who came to claim the national cup not once but twice. They are looking to establish a dynasty of Tayport Baseball in Scotland. “This season has been a good benchmark, last year there were a lot of question marks surrounding the team and we had a little bit of an underdog mentality coming in, even though we have progressed from year to year we have always been able to keep that fight”, says Jason. He hopes to “keep the forward momentum. Build [the team] little by little”. Jason dreams of getting more students involved from the University of St Andrews and possibly organising a club for recruitment.
On the journey back, exhaustion begins to seep in, but Jason still holds some excitement for the future: “what excites me the most is the unknowns, the players we haven’t met yet”. While the future of Tayport Baseball is uncertain, what they seek is clear. Something we all seek: a lasting legacy.
Image: Mahaley Wise