Youngest baseball players in Hertfordshire set for Saturday’s season opener

Ahead of this Saturday’s season opening games in the youth leagues we are in conversation with Herts Baseball Club’s Head of Under-11 programme, Mike Wakelam.

The Dodgers versus Giants rivalry resumes this Saturday with the opening day of the 2013 season for the Herts U11 teams. Is one of the teams seen as the favourite or do you expect it to be a close race once again?

Mike Wakelam: It’s been close the past couple of years, and really, at the beginning of the year we feel it’s best to revisit the lineups for each time and make sure both teams are balanced out to ensure a great season’s competition and fun for all.

We understand that several players from the U11 age group will gradually be making the step up to the U14 league. Do you have any specific advice for them?

Mike Wakelam: There are a couple of the under 11s ready to move up this year or definitely next year. Ozan Martin and Oliver Durer are turning 11 in August, so primed to step up when needed in the Under-14 team. They’re both ready, having grown immensely the past couple of years.

There has been a good number of new players joining the U11 teams. If this continues would the club consider creating a new U8 age group and how would this benefit the Herts baseball programme?

Mike Wakelam: We’d love to have an Under-8 age group. The past couple of years we’ve had a few players join, and yes, this year more are interested, but unfortunately not enough to have their own age group. There are a couple of considerations when including Under-8 players in the Under-11 age group. Safety is an important point, as the older players are hitting and throwing the ball harder, but also the enjoyment factor. Young players enjoyment is usually linked to their skills and understanding, and this is different for all players.

Do you have any suggestions for the new U11 players who have joined the league on things they can do during the week at home or in the park to help their development?

Mike Wakelam: Consistency is very important at a young age. So playing catch at home with parents or siblings is a great way to improve skills. Also watching games or youtube skills videos is a great way to get a further understanding of the game.

We understand that the number of U11 teams from other regions is increasing. Will Herts look to use this opportunity to add a few exhibition or interleague games for this age group?

Mike Wakelam: Yes! This season we will be playing several games against other clubs. We’ll be selecting an All-Star team to play these games, giving the older and more experienced players in the age group a chance to display their skills at a higher level of competition.

The parents of the U11 league members are always in attendance on game days to support the teams. Do you have a message to the parents ahead of the new season?

Mike Wakelam: Enjoy! And please try to be on time. The first part of each Saturday is skills work, so for players to improve, they need to be on time. This means at the field with gloves on when it’s time to start. If you want to be in the starting line-up, please try to get to the park on time. Of course it’s fine when players are late with legitimate reasons.