The biggest pre-season baseball tournament in Britain is back. Commencing on March 17, the Herts Spring League will see a record 20 teams travelling from as far afield as Torbay and Milton Keynes to compete for the title. Organised by Herts Baseball Club, it’s Britain’s very own version of MLB’s Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues currently under way in the US, and it signals that the season is just around the corner.
This is the fifth year of the HSL and for the first time the 20 teams will be entered into three HSL tiers. The top teams in the country from the National Baseball League will play in the HSL Majors. They will play each of their opponents in a league format. The team finishing on the top of the standings wins the title.
The HSL-AAA is the second tier of the Herts Spring League. It will feature predominantly British AAA-League teams. The teams will meet each other once over the course of the competition in a race to finish top of the league.
The HSL-AA is the third and largest tier in this year’s HSL. Five of the teams are located north of the river Thames and they will play against each other in the first two weeks. Over the same period the four HSL-AA teams located south of the river Thames will do the same in their own region. Despite the geographic separation in the games schedule the teams from both north and south will be keeping an eye on each other as they will be battling for positions in the same standings. The top two at the end of the league stage will meet in the final week to determine the HSL-AA Champions. The third and fourth placed teams will meet in the Bronze Medal game, fifth versus sixth and so on. The “games-back” column in the standings will be critical, but undoubtedly some teams will end up with the same record and so it may go down to the number of runs conceded per game to break the tie.
The action will take place at two of Britain’s best baseball venues, Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, and Broadwater Park in Guildford. This is the first year in which HSL games are held in Guildford and is a tremendous opportunity for fans of baseball in that region to enjoy some Spring League action. The opportunity to add Guildford to the schedule comes as a relief for the Torbay Barons to reduce their journey slightly in what must be a record 7-hour round trip.
Over the four weeks of the HSL a total of 45 games will be played. The reigning champions, Harlow Nationals open up the HSL-Majors with a game against the London Mets at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead on Saturday, 17 March (first pitch 10:50am). On the adjacent diamond the hosts, Herts Falcons, will face the National Runners-up, Lakenheath Diamondbacks. The Falcons have been unveiling star signings every week this Spring and this will be a first opportunity to see how the team is shaping up ahead of the 2012 NBL season.
The Sidewinders open up HSL-AAA with a game against the newest AAA team in the country, the Cambridge Royals on Saturday, March 24, also at Herts.
The opening games in the AA bracket will see the Herts Raptors welcome the Essex RedBacks, while over in Guildford, the hometown Mavericks clash with the rejuvenated Kent Mariners.
Herts Baseball President, Aspi Dimitrov was delighted with the surge in interest: “We have equalled last year’s record with 20 teams entering the HSL, but Herts Baseball Club would not have been able to satisfy this demand without the Guildford Mavericks who have so generously agreed to host HSL games.” Dimitrov added “Very importantly the HSL has had fantastic support from so many umpires which will mean that games will be covered by some of the country’s best umpires in the first two weeks of the HSL before the start of the NBL season”
EXCITEMENT BUILDING UP
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.
For more details about the event you can contact Herts Baseball Club