by Special Correspondent, Rob Jones
Every dawn breaks with a new hope. At this time of year, every beautiful Spring day makes you dream of baseball. And there is a lot of hope linked to baseball in Hertfordshire this year. The new season has brought another successful and competitive Herts Spring League, and good tidings for the year ahead.
We were blessed with sunshine for the HSL, after an opening weekend of rain. The Falcons were able to put down a marker for the National League, with a big win over the reigning NBL champions, the Harlow Nationals.
The addition of players like Michael Osborn, Ryan Bird and Robbie Unsell fills us all with excitement. Critics of the Herts club have in the past conceded that its youth and and community set up is fantastic — but have worried that Herts can’t attract the big players. Now that can be put to bed. The arrival of not only former Richmond players, but also guys like Cristobal Hiche and Jake Michels from New York — who pitched a complete game in that win over the Nationals — means the Falcons can bounce back in a big way from a disappointing 2011.
The club’s long-term plans are also progressing well. That much-admired youth set-up is feeding more players into the adult teams in 2012. If last year’s experience with Zack Longboy, Jose Morillo and Liam Green is anything to go by, this will be another fillip for Herts. And the recent BSUK grant will help to further upgrade some of the best baseball facilities in Britain.
If all of this sounds like a big puff for Herts… well, there is a bit of that. But your correspondent is simply reflecting the wholly justified spring optimism here in Hemel Hempstead. And I also believe that this is emblematic of the big strides being taken by baseball across the UK.
New clubs have joined at many levels of the game. Teams are generating chatter not only on Twitter and Facebook, but on their local radio stations and in their local newspapers. Essex, Bristol and Liverpool have all been achieving great coverage. This can only help baseball to grow.
In the past few days, there has even been the suggestion of Major League Baseball following the example of the NFL and bringing a game to London’s Olympic stadium. Many of us felt the disappointment when baseball was removed from the Olympic roster just moments after the Games were awarded to London. Now it seems the five rings could bring us a diamond after all.
The balancing note for all this positivity is that my own connection with baseball this year has been at best, semi-detached. Despite the sunshine, I have had barely a sniff of action. Take for example, Herts’ all around good guy and totem Andrew Slater. This year I have seen him in my local supermarket as often as I have seen him at the ballpark. And he doesn’t live anywhere near me. I’ve been to practice once, and even then I was so late that I missed all the fielding drills!
It’s nobody’s fault but mine – family reasons, medical reasons, and work commitments all play a part. I have done my best to get down to the park and throw a ball against a wall to try to stay involved. But it means that my sun-kissed optimism has a cloud of frustration. Watch this space for news that I have returned if not to my dominant best, but that I have, at least, returned.
See you at the ballpark.