Casal appointed as Herts Ravens manager

Last month Herts Baseball Club confirmed the return of Carlos Casal to the club after a two-year spell at NBL rivals, Harlow Nationals. This evening the club announced that Casal has been appointed as the manager of the Herts Ravens, the club’s newly-formed fifth adult league team which will play in the AAA League this season.

We had an opportunity to speak with the new Ravens manager about the appointment and the season ahead.

This is the first season of the newly-created Herts Ravens. What should the rest of the AAA League expect from the team in 2013?

Carlos Casal: It is difficult to define the right strategy and expectations at this early stage, especially when I don’t know the teams in the division. However, discipline, right motivation and optimism are the main ingredients towards success. I won’t raise the bar too high but our success will be based in individual progress play by play and who knows, there may be a surprise. I had a quick look at these teams in the GB website and noticed some names in Spanish which suggests potential Latin American opponents, and also seems to be a big presence from London with equal international contingent…. As it should be, that isn’t a deterrent for our success. Remember, we are our own biggest enemies!

When the club announced that this fifth Herts team is entering the AAA league, the Board indicated that one of the main reasons for this was to fill the gap at the AAA-league level and help players progress through the leagues and develop. Will the team’s goal in 2013 be to win games, help the development of the club’s upcoming prospects, enjoy playing the game or perhaps all three?

Carlos Casal: Based on the choices given, the answers are in the following order: enjoy playing the game and help the development of the club’s upcoming prospects. However, remember that physical, mental and skills preparation are a key factor to achieve these goals.

What would be a realistic win-loss percentage target for the Ravens this year? Can the team challenge for a postseason spot?

Carlos Casal: Again, difficult to define. Our goal(s) for the AAA team this first season will be all around individual and team performance. As said before, with the right motivation and mindset surprises are possible. Remote, but it would be fantastic securing a spot in the postseason.

Who do you think are likely to be the strongest opponents in the AAA league this season?

Carlos Casal: Each one of us players of the Herts AAA team are our strongest opponents. The opposing team at any given weekend is as strong as our desire to fail.

Your appointment as the first Herts Ravens manager was confirmed this evening and we have less than five weeks before Opening Day. Does this give you sufficient time to assess the players and be ready for the first pitch of the league season?

Carlos Casal: It is certainly a big challenge putting together a team ready for competition in five weeks. However, in conjunction with the managers of the other Herts teams we believe we have sufficient experienced resources to create a good core for the AAA team. All the years I spent in the past with Herts as a player and adult coach helped me realise the potential with this group of players. In relation to the elite youth players added to the roster, I am happy with their inclusion which is a reflection of their improvement as youth players and their long jump towards adult’s standard baseball based on skills, physical and mental conditions in the baseball field. For these youth players and some new adult players added to the roster, the experience will come during the season with a big helping hand from the senior/experienced players within the team, and surely from some other experienced players scattered among the other top division teams in the club. In summary, yes we will be ready for the first pitch of the league season.

We understand that as soon as your appointment was confirmed you had to go straight into the process of determining the preliminary rosters of the five Herts adult league teams ahead of the Herts Spring League. Should we expect any surprises when the Ravens preliminary roster is announced?

Carlos Casal: Surprises are, for every team in the club, all down to players acceptance to join the team they have been selected to play for. The main highlight of the AAA team however, is the large contingent of elite youth players which include players from the Herts U17 team and players who are becoming 17-years-old this year.

You have previous experience of being a player-manager while you were in charge of the Herts Hawks. In football player-managers find it difficult to perform this dual role. Is it easier to do it in baseball?

Carlos Casal: That is right. Baseball gives you the possibility to perform managerial duties while playing. However, despite feeling with enough energy to keep performing at top level in baseball, this year I will reduce playing time as possible to give way to the development of our team.

You have been playing in the National Baseball League for the Herts Falcons and the Harlow Nationals in the last few seasons. Taking the AAA manager role will obviously make it difficult for you to battle for a spot on the club’s NBL roster. How difficult was it to make this decision?

Carlos Casal: I still feel that my experience, abilities and physical conditions allow me to fight for a spot at NBL in this country. However, with the progress of the sport the last few years and the interest created among the youth moving up and international players to come and play in the UK, it makes the life of any NBL manager a nightmare at the time of selecting a competitive team. I can’t deny that deep inside me I would like to face the best of the best in the NBL but I have taken a more pragmatic approach and use that energy to develop and make a successful Herts AAA team.

During the voting to decide the name of the Herts AAA League team last month, did you vote for the name “Ravens” or did you prefer one of the other names?

Carlos Casal: I have to be honest, I didn’t follow this voting poll as, sadly, all my internet time was focused in the current problems currently developing in Venezuela. I would have picked up another name but surely I will get used to this one.