For the average person, pulling on a baseball glove or clubbing a home run would be an exciting novelty. So, for those us who get that thrill regularly, what novelty provokes similar excitement? The answer, it seems, is a mini-digger and a dumper truck. On a bright Spring Saturday, some of the finest talent that Herts Baseball Club has to offer turned out to help prepare our brand new field, and touch up our existing diamond for the season ahead. They could barely contain their glee at two life-size Tonka toys to play with. One of them told me that when the call for volunteer drivers went out, his hand had never gone up so quickly. But this was not just about sandpit play on a grand scale. This was serious work. The machines were there to dig out the areas around the three bases, home plate, and the pitchers' mound on the new field, so that several enormous piles of sand and gravel could be poured in. Marty Cullen, Lee Manning and Dave Westfallen took turns at the controls, taking strides towards turning one small patch of Hemel Hempsted from plain old grass, to a magical baseball diamond. The germ of the idea was planted years ago; the turf was laid last autumn in a blaze of wet weather glory; and in just a matter of weeks, it should be hosting Herts games. The second field will give the club the room it needs to run four adult teams, as well as a burgeoning Little League project, throughout 2010 and for many years to come.
Over on the original field, the work was less dramatic but no less important. The grass had to be edged neatly, the new Redgra spread evenly, and the mound repaired lovingly, so that it can remain a Hertfordshire landmark. Baseball fields are rare enough in the UK — a field with a full, cut-out infield is even more rare, and with a bit of maintenance it can be a thing of beauty. So Greg Bochan, Mark Hoffman and Phil Hynes were among those who helped it become reality. They used the more mundane tools of shovel and wheelbarrow to five the field a facelift. In the course of the day, more than two dozen baseball stars put in their time as volunteer groundsmen. This has been the scene of many Herts triumphs — let's hope it can be even better looking when the next triumph comes around.