Tuesday November 12th 2019

Back in time: Herts young players help mark the dawn of baseball

Among the events featured in this British summer of baseball was one to mark the game’s origins right here in England. Herts’ own Robert Gregory was on hand to witness the day, and sent this report:

On Sunday July 7th a Blue plaque unveiling event was held at Walton-on-Thames to commemorate the first recorded baseball game that was held there. It took place at Ashley Park, what is now Walton cricket ground, in September 1749.

On that day, the Prince of Wales took part. As part of this year’s festivities a demonstration game was played by players that are either on GB team rosters, or are selected for the national development programme.  This included players of various age groups, among them 5 from Herts teams – Josh Jones, Pedro Gomez-Jones, Jack O’Brien, Lucas Lebrato and Chris Gregory.

Herts’ Chris Gregory in action

The day began with a wet start with the teams “warming up’ in a constant drizzle. All eyes were on the weather forecast and just before the start of the game the weather obliged and cleared up.

Managed by GB head coach Liam Carroll the players were split into two teams — one ‘Team USA’ and one ‘Team GB’. The former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read made the introductions, the two teams took the field and the GB and USA National anthems were sung.

A good crowd took their positions and it was ‘Game on’. 

It was decided that the older players should pitch and catch at a suitable level to provide a balanced game for the range of ages of the players. Chris Gregory of the Herts Londoners pitched first for Team GB.

Some good fielding allowed GB to take a 2-0 lead after the first innings. Team USA then put in two strong innings scoring 6 runs in each, this included strong hits by the younger Herts players.

The game progressed with the crowd enjoying the experience and being provided details of finer points of the game from the announcer, Cris Knoblock. Some young children were keen to play and so soon were playing a game of there own.

The game looked over in the 6th (and final) inning as Team USA stretched out to an 8 run lead. But Team GB came charging back from 18-10 down to tie the game. A final hit deep to centre field by Herts’ Lucas Lebrato provided the winning runs, much to the delight of the crowd.

The players could then relax and enjoy the rest of the festivities with batting and pitching cages run by BaseballSoftballUK. There were also food stalls, entertainment and various performances on the stages. VIP guests enjoyed a buffet lunch in the marquee that was decorated with USA and GB flags and baseball items.

In the afternoon, the blue plaque was unveiled by the comedian Bobby Davro and his father Bill Nankeville, who was a national and record breaker on the track and a two-time Olympian. After that a softball game was held with the celebs and special guests. A great day for promoting baseball in the UK.