LONDON – When the city won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, Liam Carroll thought his dreams were coming true, until two days later when he learned baseball was dropped from the games.
“Thinking back, there was the day that London got the Olympics and I think I was a summer coach and was with the staff in a pub and it was a game-changing moment,” Carroll said. “You just felt the significance, the money that we were going to have, the facilities that were going to be built. And then it was two days later that we had the rug pulled out from under us. And that was a really sad moment. When you think about what could have been, it really hit me during the Olympic Ceremony thinking, ‘Hang on a sec, we should be there.’”
Carroll, 30, has built his life around the sport. Carroll began playing when he was 4 and went to America to play junior college baseball in California. He quickly realized his passion was not in playing but coaching and landed a volunteer job at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from 2009 to 2010. During his first year at UNLV, the team won the Mountain West Conference championship and went to regionals in Tempe.
Carroll is now responsible for many different aspects of the organization BaseballSoftballUK, the governing body of baseball in the U.K.
“I wear lots of hats. My day job, I’m the regional coach and club development officer in London for BaseballSoftballUK,” Carroll said. “The other hat I wear, the most important hat I suppose, is the head coach of the British 23u National Team. I’m 30, but I figured out a long time ago that I’m not very good and I should coach rather than play.”
Carroll said he sees the 23-and-under team as the perfect age for British baseball players because they mature later than ones in America due to lack of resources and opportunities.
Playing for someone with as much experience as Carroll is beneficial to baseball, said Luke Foley, who plays for the 23-and-under team.
“It’s fun playing for someone who knows so much about the game,” Foley said. “We play for club coaches as well and they don’t seems to be as knowledgeable. Under him, you always learn something new.”
Carroll’s knowledge is a cumulation of perspectives that have been defined him since birth.
“My dad is an Irish-American,” Carroll said. “I grew up here with an American dad. I was brought up in that faith.”
He means in the faith of the Mets. His dad lived in Brooklyn and loved the Dodgers but refused to become a Yankees fan when the Dodgers left the New York area.
Being exposed to the game at a young age instilled the baseball spirit in him, something other kids in the U.K. now miss out on because it is no longer part of the world’s biggest sports competition – and the money that goes with it.
“The biggest impact has been that our nationals teams haven’t received funding and any other money that might have been poured into the sport in terms of youth programs and facilities,” Carroll said. “It’s sad to think, well, not only that we could have been playing in it but what impact it could have had in the last five or six years should we have been preparing for an Olympics.”
Now, with his Olympic dreams shattered, Carroll said there is still one last thing that can be done.
“The NFL, NBA and NHL all play exhibition games in Europe,” Carroll said. “Before, we never had a place to house an MLB game, but now, with Olympic Park, we do.”
The fields are hard to find, but there are some in Britain who are passionate about baseball. Cronkite News reporter Austin Controulis introduces to the man who thought he’d be helping lead the GB Olympic baseball team on his home turf, only to see his hopes dashed with the IOC dropped the sport.