Herts Little League players from Hemel Hempstead, Watford, St Albans and the surrounding regions enjoyed a day which they could only dream about before this weekend. Major League Baseball (MLB) and the European Big League Tour (EBLT) joined forces with BaseballSoftballUK (BSUK), the development agency for baseball and softball in the United Kingdom, and London Sports to bring five of the biggest baseball stars in the world to London.
The EBLT was the brainchild of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and native Netherlander, Rick van den Hurk, who got the idea to bring a piece of the Major Leagues back home during the 2008-09 season. In an article for MLB.COM he said: “When I was little, I was a big baseball fan, and I never really got the chance to go to the United States and watch any Major League games, so I decided to set up a tour and bring baseball here.”
Van den Hurk was joined for the London tour by Kansas City Royals pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, New York Yankees outfielder, Chris Dickerson, Washington Nationals outfielder, Roger “the Shark” Bernadina and Seattle Mariners outfielder, Kalian Sams.
The five baseball stars headed for the David Beckham SoccerDome in Greenwich, London, to run a series of sessions for young baseball players aged 6 to 16 from across the United Kingdom. The event proved to be so popular that it could have been booked many times over. Among the participants were many of the players from Herts Baseball Club’s youth teams based in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. They had the opportunity not only to learn from the best players in the game, but also to show their talent.
Kansas City Royals pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie, said: “”They’re so similar to how I was. They want to see what a Major League player thinks about their game. They want to show their arm off or show how well they can hit the ball. That’s what’s fun. It’s a neat experience to be able to compliment them and encourage them and give them the hope that they can make a career out of this if they continue to work hard.”
This proved to be the case for one Herts player who made an impression on the MLB stars. This prompted an EBLT representative to enquire about the young player and seek him and his parents out after the event. (hertsbaseball.com cannot provide more information on this at this time until authorised by MLB, EBLT and the player’s parents.)
After the clinic the young players had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the stars in an open question-and-answer session and pick up tips and learn more about the players. When meeting these players in person you wouldn’t think that they are MLB superstars receiving millions of dollars in salaries and playing in front of 50,000 fans every week. They were so down-to-earth and immediately established a connection with the hundreds of young players and parents who came to the event.
Everyone became so attached to the MLB players during their London tour that so many are now following them on twitter. Jeremy Guthrie now has over 42,000 followers and that number is rising (follow him on Twitter @TheRealJGuts). He is still keeping everyone entertained with his Top 10 things I DID/DID NOT expect to see in London. Speaking with MLB.COM he said: “”When I travel, I don’t sleep. I don’t have time to sleep when I’m trying to see the entire city of London,” Guthrie said. “I took my wife out on the Boris Bikes here, and we’ve seen the entire city maybe three or four times. We try to take every tour we can, so for me the vacation is not a vacation, and there’s no vacation after the vacation — but I love it.”
One thing is for sure, the event has inspired the British Baseball community as it prepares for the 2013 baseball season, especially the young players who are buzzing at the moment and many saying that this has been the best day of their lives.
Herts Baseball Club President, Aspi Dimitrov said: “We are grateful to the players, the EBLT, BSUK, MLB, London Sports, the volunteers and everyone else who made this special event possible and for welcoming our club’s young players. They can’t wait for Spring Training to come and we hope that in the coming months and years we can work together with schools, the media and other organisations to spread the word and continue the amazing growth of baseball and softball in this country with particular focus on getting the kids playing the game.”
As Jeremy Guthrie said in a tweet: “Talent in Europe is coming, you’ll see!”
Players from 6 to 16 years of age can join the Herts youth teams at any time of the year. To join the club or for more information contact Herts Baseball Club. Adults over the age of 14 can join the club’s adult league teams. From complete beginners to experienced professionals, everyone is welcome to join the Herts teams.