New season, new expectations

The Herts Baseball youth program had a good 2012 season and it is expected that 2013 would be even better. Ahead of the new season we put several questions to Herts Harriers (U17) Head Coach Cristobal Hiche who is in his second year in charge of the team and led them to postseason quarter-finals.

We are just days away from the Opening Day clash with the London Mets. Do you feel ready or has the bad weather in March affected preparations?

Cristobal Hiche: No, I don’t feel ready. We haven’t practiced as a team. Maybe individually they’re ready since most attended GB and/or the Academy during the last few months. But baseball is still about teamwork.

What are your main goals for this season?

Cristobal Hiche: To reach the playoffs and fighting to reach the championship game. In other words that no matter if we end up winning or losing in the playoffs, the opposite team will be quite worried until the last pitch of the game. There are other goals off the field to try and make this the best Youth Program in the UK and creating future GB players.

What win-loss percentage would be seen as a successful season for the team and is it realistic to expect your team to reach the playoffs or even challenge for the title?

Cristobal Hiche: We need to finish above .500. That to me is the minimum for the year. We should reach the playoffs and a lofty but achievable goal is to reach the championship game.

Who are the players we should look out for this year?

Cristobal Hiche: There are many players, if not all, in the team that can make an impact this season but also in the future. However, if you ask me for players that should step up to the plate because it’s either their last year in the team and/or are ready to play in the adult league very soon (some already are doing it), those would be Zack Longboy, Marty Cullen Jr, and Jonny Compton-Weight. They’ll need to carry this team this season.

Which of your opponents in the league are likely to be the biggest challengers for the national title?

Cristobal Hiche: I think in U17 every team can be a challenge because kids can grow and improve so fast, a year can make a difference between an ok team and an excellent team the next year. Furthermore because it’s age-specific, you’ll have players getting too old but also getting many new young players. This means you don’t have the consistency for example of NBL teams like Falcons, Nationals, Mets,etc which you know they’ll be strong based on last year’s performance. We’ll have to see each weekend how strong the opposition is, which is actually quite exciting and should be fun.

Which league game are you looking forward to most?

Cristobal Hiche: All of them. Each weekend will be a new challenge as mentioned above…Of course I’m looking forward to the championship game!

The postseason playoffs will be played at the brand new Farnham Park. Will this act as an even greater incentive for players to reach the postseason?

Cristobal Hiche: Maybe, maybe not. I think the incentive for players to make the playoffs should be more than where the playoffs are played. The desire to win should be as a reward for their hard work, commitment, and the love of the game and to say they’re the best team in the UK, regardless if we play in Yankee Stadium or in a barn. Nevertheless, if that’s an extra motivation I’ll take it.

What is your message to Herts Baseball fans ahead of Opening day?

Cristobal Hiche: Come watch us some time. You’ll have fun watching these kids and possibly future GB stars. Besides, there are always some nice doughnuts, hot dogs, and drinks to kill the time.