This year, British Baseball is introducing several special events as part of the league schedule, and the first of these, the NBL Summer Classic, will take place this Saturday, June 5.
All eight teams from Britain’s top league will come to the same venue and each team will play one nine-inning game. Since these games are part of the league schedule, the outcomes could have a crucial effect on the race for the post-season.
The event will be held at Grovehill Ballpark, the home of the Herts Falcons in Hemel Hempstead. The venue has undergone major building work in the last two years, and last month the club unveiled its brand new second diamond. As a result, Herts is now able to stage these large national events.
With this event taking place on a Saturday, it is rare opportunity for AAA, AA and Single-A league teams to make the trip to Herts for a day packed with top-quality baseball.
STARS OF THE FUTURE LEADING OFF
The day will begin at 10.00 am with youth league games involving the six Herts Little League teams.
Combining youth and adult league games as part of the same event is unusual in British Baseball, but it is expected to be an effective way to bring baseball communities together, increase attendances and make events more vibrant and enjoyable.
Bracknell (9-1) v Croydon (4-6) on Diamond One at 12:00
The NBL action starts at noon as the 2009 Champions Bracknell Blazers take on the Croydon Pirates. Bracknell goes into the game with an impressive nine-game winning streak. The resurgent Croydon Pirates split their doubleheader with the Herts Falcons last Sunday, which puts them in fourth place in the standings. Can they cause an upset against the Blazers?
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Maikel Azcuy (Croydon) leads the league in home runs after his grand slam on Sunday at Herts, his fifth home run of the season.
Brendan Cunliffe (Bracknell) has been an RBI-machine for the Blazers so far this year. He hits for average (BA .500) and for power (3HR and Slugging .929). He leads the league in RBIs (13).
Essex (0-10) v Herts (3-7) on Diamond Two at 13:45
Neighbours Essex Arrows and Herts Falcons will resume their long-standing rivalry on Saturday. Essex have been showing signs of revival and they will probably target their game against Herts as a perfect opportunity to record their first win of the season.
On Sunday, Herts returned home after a painful six-game road trip and ended their losing streak, coming back from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to win against Croydon.
Two of Herts’ key pitchers are on the disabled list and the question is whether those players who are healthy can keep the team in touch with the pack. Despite their bad starts, both teams are still in the running for playoff places, and they will be desperate to pick up a win on Saturday and put their seasons back on track.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jeon Sungwon (Essex) is tied for the lead for most base hits (15) so far this season in the NBL.
Luis Goncalves (Herts), a 16-year-old shortstop, has been phenomenal with both bat and glove in his second season in the NBL.
Southampton (4-8) v Mildenhall (4-6) on Diamond One at 15:30
Despite finding themselves second from bottom in the standings, the Southampton Mustangs have quietly been producing some very impressive performances against the top teams in the league. Saturday’s game against the Mildenhall Bulldogs is the first of five upcoming games which they will see as must-win to put them right back in the race for the post-season.
After winning their opening four games, Mildenhall have suffered six losses in a row. Can they turn their season around against Southampton? They will go into the game with confidence, in the knowledge that just a few weeks ago they came out on top against the Mustangs on the same field in the final week of the Herts Spring League.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Charles Truelson (Southampton) may not have a 90 mph fastball but he more than compensates for that with control and movement. He has picked up two of the four wins for the Mustangs so far this year with an ERA of 5.40.
Jon Mabie (Mildenhall) is one of the toughest catchers in the league and a perfect example for young players of what it means to give 100% on every play. He has a batting average of .389 with 5 RBIs.
London (11-1) v Richmond (7-3) on Diamond Two at 17:00
This is undoubtedly the game of the day. The first-placed London Mets are bringing back memories of their championship-winning seasons in 2007 and 2008. However, after a slow start, the Richmond Flames are back to their best and on Saturday we will find out if they can stop the Mets.
This is billed as the main event of the NBL Summer Classic this Saturday and the other games have been scheduled to finish in time for all those attending to gather around the brand new diamond at Herts for this unmissable clash.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jason Roberts (London) leads the league in wins (5) and strikeouts (38).
Ryan Bird (Richmond) is the 2008 and 2009 MVP.
SCHEDULE: SATURDAY, JUNE 5
10:00 – Herts Little League games: Yankees @ Cubs, Red Sox @ Cardinals, Tornadoes @ Crocs (Diamond 2).
11:30 – Herts Little League games: Red Sox @ Yankees, Cubs @ Cardinals, Crocs @ Tornadoes (Diamond 2).
12:00 – NBL: Croydon Pirates @ Bracknell Blazers (Diamond 1).
13:45 – NBL: Herts Falcons @ Essex Arrows (Diamond 2).
15:30 – NBL: Mildenhall Bulldogs @ Southampton Mustangs (Diamond 1).
17:00 – NBL: Richmond Flames @ London Mets (Diamond 2).
Grovehill Ballpark is located at Washington Avenue, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP2 6NH.
For a map and directions, click here.
For more details please contact Herts Baseball Club via the official website.