The four Herts adult baseball teams had a week away from league action and headed South to Croydon for the International London Tournament. Every year this event provides an opportunity for British Baseball clubs to have an All-Star week similar to the MLB All-Star week.
18 teams entered the tournament including teams from France and Holland. Herts Baseball Club was represented by a team which included a mix of all four of its adult teams, from a few experienced NBL players to first year Single-A League players. The team was drawn into one of the toughest groups of the competition with NBL teams like the Mildenhall Bulldogs, the Birmingham Maple Leafs who are leaders of the AA (Midlands) League, and a combined team from the NBL London Mets and the Dutch team Zuidvogels.
In their first game Herts faced Birmingham. The Hertfordshire team found it difficult to get on base in the early innings but stayed in touch in the hope of a big rally in the final innings. They managed to put several hits together and just when it looked like the team was coming back into the game, the rally was cut short by two questionable decisions by the two base umpires. After this 5-1 loss and with the London Mets/Zuidvogels winning a nail biting game against Mildenhall 8-7, Herts knew that they needed to beat the London Mets/Zuidvogels by 4 runs or more in the final group game on Saturday in order to make it into the elite bracket on the second day of the tournament. This was unthinkable as their opponents were all NBL-calibre players while Herts had an experimental squad made up of 40% Falcons (NBL), 7% Eagles (AAA), 33% Hawks (AA) and 20% Raptors (A).
The London Mets/Zuidvogels took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first and everyone who had gathered at field 3 in Croydon was expecting Herts to capitulate. Not even the most optimistic supporters of the Hemel Hempstead-based club could have predicted what was to follow. The boys from Hertfordshire started to put runners on base and a combination of some aggressive running and clutch hits gave Herts the lead in the second inning. The Herts assault continued in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings while at the same time precision pitching from Nic Goetz and solid defence was making the London Mets/Zuidvogels visibly frustrated. The Herts defence had to hold on to the required 4-run lead in the face of the Mets onslaught in the final three innings of the game, and they did. The 4-run lead was maintained every inning, 6-2 in the fourth, 8-4 in the fifth and 9-5 in the sixth and final inning. The game ended very fittingly with Herts centerfielder, Mahendra Prasad, making a spectacular diving catch.
The result meant that Herts were through to the elite bracket on the final day of the tournament while the London Mets/Zuidvogel team were relegated to the lower bracket in true FA Cup giant-killing fashion.
On day two Herts were hoping to continue the fairytale but it wasn’t to be as they came short against Richmond losing 6-1 and later had to battle against the eventual winners, Bracknell who had added an array of superstars including former GB players to their existing 2009 NBL-winning roster. No one could match them all weekend as they destroyed every single opponent that came up against them.
Overall this was a fantastic weekend for Herts as players from the four different adult teams had a chance to play side-by-side and also to cause the shock of the tournament. Herts had more reasons to celebrate on Saturday evening as its representative in the Home Run Derby, Kimiyoshi Saionji, reached the final and finished in third place with a total of 3 home runs. In second place was London Mets slugger, Daniel Williams, who put on a show with 6 massive homers, some of which reached distances of well over 400 feet. Mildenhall’s Mike McClure was the Home Run Champion after hitting 8 home runs.