Article by Rob Jones
The biggest pre-season baseball tournament in Britain is back, and this year it is even bigger and better than ever. The Herts Spring league will see a record 17 teams travel from as far afield as Leicester and Southampton to hone their skills and compete for the title. Organised by the Herts Baseball Club, it’s Britain’s very own version of the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues currently under way in the US, and it signals that the season is just around the corner.
Herts Baseball Club President Aspi Dimitrov was delighted by the surge in interest: “Every year we have had more teams wanting to play in the HSL. It’s fantastic to have another big jump in the numbers, and I think it’s going to be a great competition.“ He added: “We are also pleased to confirm that BarrysTickets.com have continued their association with Herts Baseball Club and have just been confirmed as the Official Sponsor of the 2010 Herts Spring League. The financial contribution which they are making will be used to improve and maintain facilities at Herts Baseball Club so that all teams coming to play at Herts can benefit.”
Last year’s winners Bracknell will be returning to defend their crown, led by their star slugger Ryan Trask. In 2009, their victory in the HSL was a springboard to taking the National League title, and top teams this year will be hoping to emulate that feat. Bracknell’s opening HSL game is a mouth-watering clash with the Richmond Flames in a repeat of the 2009 National Baseball Championship Final. Ryan Bird’s Richmond Flames will be battling them hard and the host team, the Herts Falcons, will count on flame-throwing Dan Kerry (pictured) to keep the offenses in check. The big guns will be joined by teams from all levels of the British game, including the current AA Champions, the Mildenhall Bulldogs, and the reigning masters of the British Single-A League, the Leicester Blue Sox.
The action will be spread across three weekends – starting on Saturday, 27 March and ending on Sunday, 11 April – and at two excellent venues, Grovehill ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, and Ham Ground in Richmond. The clubs will be split into two groups, HSL Majors and HSL Minors, based on the team rankings going in to the new season – NBL and AAA teams will be joined by the expansion team the Essex Redbacks in the Majors; the AA and A teams will make up the Minors. The winners of two mini-leagues will then go head to head for the Championships.
The Herts Spring League adds a competitive edge to Spring training. It’s the time for managers to work out their winning formula going into the BBF league season. It is an opportunity to evaluate existing and newly recruited players – which players will earn a spot in the pitching rotation and who will be batting where in the batting order? Who will make the first team and who will have to work their way up with the minor league teams? Not forgetting, it’s a chance to size up your rivals for the year ahead. It’s the first big challenge and the first big excitement of the baseball year. Don’t miss it.
Visit the official HSL website for more details.