The widest possible selection of snoods was on display this weekend during the Herts Spring League games in Hemel Hempstead. The snood is often dismissed as a fashion item of over pampered Premier League football players, but this weekend the snood saved lives. Temperatures stayed below 3oC on both Saturday and Sunday. That was the temperature for teams who had the fortune of being scheduled on the new diamond at Grovehill Ballpark. It was a completely different story for the fans and players of teams playing on the old diamond. Despite sitting right alongside the new diamond, the old diamond has a completely different climate with swirling wind channelled through to the open cornfields. With wind chill, temperatures felt more like -10oC making it the British Candlestick Park.
Despite the unpleasant meteorological conditions the teams made the most of the games to prepare for the start of the 2013 British baseball season. For the NBL teams this weekend was the first and last opportunity to play pre-season games before next weekend’s Opening Day.
Maikel Azcuy’s batting performance for the Harlow Nationals stood out. He launched two homeruns over the left-centerfield wall in the game versus the Herts Falcons. Before the games the Great Britain National Team slugger said: “I am not going to do too much today. I just want to get loose, see a few pitches and take a few groundballs”. It is scary for opponents to think what Azcuy will be like on Opening Day. Many may decide to give him the Barry Bonds-treatment and walk him intentionally in certain situations.
The Nationals also gave a debut to their new signing, Matt Gilbert, confirming the rumour which was going around the league and was mentioned in our article on Friday.
With many players away during the Easter holidays teams were visibly under strength, which was a good opportunity for players to make a claim for a promotion to a higher league team, earn a spot in the starting lineup or to be moved up the batting order. Pete Kikel was back in a Herts jersey after a two-year absence and Falcons manager, Lee Manning, was able to assess him offensively and defensively, including on the mound in the game against the Nationals.
Liverpool Trojans pitcher, Mario Escobedo, was in an Essex Arrows jersey on Sunday, raising speculations that he could be making a switch from the AAA-Merseyside team to the NBL.
The team of the weekend surely has to be the London Marauders who won two 1-run games. Their success had a lot to do with the incredible team chemistry and enthusiasm which they have been renowned for ever since the team made its debut in the British leagues.
A Herts Spring League spokesperson asked us to give a special mention to the umpires who officiated games this weekend in the most difficult weather conditions – Chip Andersen, Darrin Muller, Gabor Erdos, Geoff Hare, Petter Nordwall and Tomasz Kosak. It will take several days for them to regain their normal body temperature but they will be back in business for the Opening Day of the National Baseball League and the final round of HSL games next weekend.