Another major signing for Herts thanks to Jethro Tull

Joe Gray (left) receiving his BBF Life Member award from BBF President Mark Salter

Herts Baseball Club has announced that Joe Gray has joined the club after spending 2011 and 2012 with the double NBL champions, Harlow Nationals. Before that, he was with the Croydon Pirates going back to their own double championship years of 2004 and 2005. On the experience he brings, Joe Gray commented: “I have learned many things from being immersed in the superb coaching environment at the Nationals, and it was great to see the young players blossoming there. I’ll also never forget the many enjoyable seasons I had with the Pirates. Dave Ward has been a great diplomat there, for more years than he’d probably care to remember, and it’s heartening to see the re-growth of the club being driven by Conor Riffle and Alex von Rosenbach. But I’m now ready for a new challenge.”

Herts Baseball Club President, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “Only people with inside knowledge of baseball in this country will be able to realize the huge significance of this.” He added: “While the fight for the national championship grabs the headlines, there is a more important battle to grow and promote the sport of baseball and win market share in the leisure industry. With Joe Gray aboard, our club is in a very strong position to succeed in Hertfordshire and the North West quadrant of London.”

Joe Gray is a resident of St Albans and the home ground of Herts Baseball Club is located just a short drive away (or a slighlty longer cycle, on a pleasant day). “The combination of geographical proximity and peerless infrastructure that the club has draws me strongly to Herts and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Gray. “Of course, I can’t deny that the Club President’s penchant for Jethro Tull and Dire Straits on the PA system also factored in the decision,” he added.

Joe Gray is one of the most respected members of the British Baseball community. He is probably best known for Project COBB, which he founded. It is an online collaboration co-ordinated by him to support research and publish historical details of British baseball, help make digitized copies of British baseball artefacts available online and promote the preservation of history today, through scoring and photography. He recently unveiled the revamped Project COBB website.

It is largely thanks to Joe Gray’s efforts, via Project COBB, to pool his own work on National Baseball League statistics with that of other key contributors, including, most notably, Alan Smith and also Brian Holland and Josh Chetwynd, that numbers exist, in varying levels of completeness from 1976 to this day. Preserving these has created an invaluable resource for fans, clubs and the media to utilise.

Gray has also authored and edited popular baseball books. “What about the Villa?”, on which he was the sole author, was his first effort, while on “Nine Aces and a Joker” he was editor of the project, which brought together some of his own writing with that of other leading British Baseball writers. He is now in the process of writing his third book, which moves away from the world of non-fiction into the creative format. A novel with a working title of “The Bushleaguers” is currently undergoing revision at the draft stage. Gray is also a writer for BaseballGB, which was founded by Matt Smith and provides the best independent coverage of baseball from a British perspective. He makes regular appearances on TV, radio and documentaries as one of the leading experts on British Baseball.

In 2011 the British Baseball Federation (BBF) and community as a whole recognised Joe Gray’s outstanding contribution by inducting him as a BBF Life Member.

Joe Gray will join the Herts Baseball Statistics Department, working alongside Greg Bochan, but he will also have involvement in other areas such as media and club history. His addition to the media department will strengthen Herts’ activities in this area even further.

Apart from his involvement with Herts and the various other baseball projects, in 2013 Gray will also be continuing his written reflections on the NBL as a whole, on BaseballGB, to complement the growing journalistic coverage of the NBL and other divisions being driven by BSUK. As part of that he is expecting to do quite a lot of travelling around the different NBL grounds.

As the season progresses and statistical data builds up, Joe Gray could play a key role for the Herts Falcons providing game strategy analysis in key clashes in the latter stages of the regular season and in the postseason, if they qualify. The statistical analysis work behind the scenes in baseball was not widely known until the Oscar-nominated movie “Moneyball” came to the big screen. The Herts Falcons are going into the new season in a very strong position knowing that Joe Gray is now part of the team. “The samples size we’ll be working with are far smaller than what the guys in Moneyball had at their disposal,” Gray commented, “but there’s certainly enough there to begin to cut through the noise and baseball is a sport where even the smallest margins can make a difference.”

And who knows? Might we also see Gray as a pinch-hitter for the Falcons? He is, after all, the only player on record to have a perfect 1.000 batting average across a multi-season career. “This is an excellent example of just how deceiving small sample sizes can be,” he reflected.

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