By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Nateshon “Shadow” Thomas made history as the first BVI player on a Great Britain Baseball team, when he made the roster for the European Championships in the Netherlands, not in one but two positions.
Thomas started the first four games between Friday and Monday playing at Short Stop, then on Tuesday, he took the mound as the starting pitcher and held Russia scoreless through five innings of Great Britain’s 11-5 loss, after they blew a 4-0 lead.
For the last two years, Thomas, 28, has been playing with the Bad Hamburg Hornets in Germany and wasn’t even aware that Great Britain had a baseball team until Carl Wordell of the Tuberlin Hawks approached him after hearing he was British.
“I told him ‘yeah’ and we conversed for a while then he gave the the coach for the UK national team information and I then reached out to the coach, just to get in contact and to let him know who I am,” Thomas explained. “After that, we pretty much stayed in touch all last year coming into this year. Then he had some guys come to Germany, look at and evaluated me and after that, he decided I was good enough to be in the team and he put me on the roster, so here I am.”
Playing in Europe Thomas said has opened his eyes to different opportunities playing baseball. “I wished I’d known from a younger age—but now, being a part of this team could help open doors for younger kids in the BVI to come in,” said Thomas. “Now, they can know about it and better prepare themselves to be a part of it and help the team excel.”
Great Britain kick off the championships on Friday with an 11-1 loss to defending champions and host Netherlands, then the fell 4-1 to the Czech Republic on Saturday. They had their best game of the tournament on Sunday—a 3-2 loss to Germany—in a game where Thomas tripled to tie the score, scored the go ahead run, before Germany came back to tie the the game then scored with winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
On Monday, Great Britain was overpowered by Sweden, 9-6 in 11 innings, in a see saw game that was decided in the last at bat.
In Tuesday’s starting role, Thomas was pulled after five innings. Then Russia scored six in the bottom of the sixth inning and five in the bottom of the seventh, for their first victory in Pool A. They finished 1-4 and Great Britain, 0-5.
“I pitched good. I had five shutout innings, gave up three hits,” Thomas explained. “There were no runs scored. I struck out four, walked three and picked off a runner at first. After I was pulled, things changed and Russia started hitting.”
Regarding his batting before getting the nod to pitch, Thomas said It has been all about progression. “First two games, I wasn’t seeing the ball that good,” he said. “Coming from the league in Hamburg, Germany, I wasn’t seeing that level of pitching consistently as I’ve been seeing here, so it has all been about getting the timing down.”
Thomas said the tournament has been a learning experience playing baseball at a high intensity and he’s loving it so far while trying to open some doors for BVI players, something he’s already doing.
“The biggest learning factor for me in the European Championships has been making the adjustments,” he said. “Coming from the first two games and not doing that good, I’ve been hitting the ball a lot better. That has been the biggest thing for me and the team. That’s all we are trying to do right now. Even if we go 0-for-3, to come back in the next game and adjust. You might still go 0-for-3, but the swings and how you hit the ball, should be as a result of your adjustments.”
Thomas said since the beginning the camp that preceded the tournament he has been getting good feedback from head coach Liam Carroll.
“From the first practice, he told me we have to have a sit down chat about opportunities and going to a better league than what’s in Germany and that’s good enough for me,” Thomas said. “He has been giving me good feedback, teaching me new things and letting me know when I’m not doing things right—something I haven’t had much of in the past two years playing in Germany.”
Carroll is delighted to have Thomas on his team. “Nateshon has been a tremendous addition to our program and I hope will be an asset for us for the rest of his career,” Carroll said. “He’s been a difference-maker for us on the field, with an impressive and electric skill-set. He’s a class-act all around and embodies our core values of attitude, integrity, confidence and hustle.”