British League braces itself for the Grabowski factor

It would be fascinating to see how Doug Grabowski would compare to some of the top pitchers in the NBL like Herts Falcons' Robbie Unsell (pictured), Michael Osborn, Jordan Farkas, Ryan Bird and Darrin Ward among others (photo by Richard Lee

The Herts Ravens travelled to the Cambridge Royals upbeat after a good run of 5 wins and 1 loss in the last six games put them back in the playoff race. They knew they were about to face one of the favourites for the AAA title, but they were not aware that just a week ago Cambridge had made a player signing which could turn the league on its head.

Doug Grabowski arrived from America on duty with the nearby US air bases. He is around 6 feet and 5 inches in height and has the physical attributes which have become the standard for the pitching staff of MLB teams. Similar to Roy Hobbs in the movie “The Natural”, there is little information about his career on the internet, but we understand he has played at the college level back in America.

AAA League (Game 1): Herts Ravens 0 Cambridge Royals 10 (click to view box scores)

His fastball overwhelmed the Ravens. Perhaps they would have had some success after a few innings of getting the timing on their swings right, but that became impossible when he introduced his knee-buckling curveball and changeup. Grabowski is certainly the best pitcher in the AAA League and Herts Ravens Manager, Carlos Casal, went a step further. “He is probably the best pitcher in any of the British Leagues today. We didn’t have a radar gun on hand but it probably reached 85-90mph.” said Casal.

From the 20 plate appearances made by Herts batters only 5 resulted in the ball being put in play. The remainder were 12 strikeouts and 3 walks giving Doug Grabowski a complete game shutout no-hitter on his British baseball league debut. He also proved to be a class act quietly shaking the hands of every Herts player during the break between the two games. Players like him are a rarity and his presence can have a very positive effect on efforts to promote baseball and the league. The British Baseball Federation should not miss the opportunity to publicise outstanding players like him.

In this first game of the day the Ravens were not able to keep up despite good pitching from Petar Kikel.

AAA League (Game 2): Herts Ravens 3 Cambridge Royals 13 (click to view box scores)

The Ravens were eager to see the back of Doug Grabowski and face a different pitcher in the second game of the doubleheader. Levandowski seemed a much more hittable pitcher, but despite a much slower fastball Herts only managed 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks. The hits came from Conner Brown, Gilberto Medina and Liam Green. The 3 runs were not enough and the Ravens went down 13-3.

The Herts Ravens had to face the Royals without ace pitcher Louis Hare who fractured his left elbow in a football game at the end of June. They need him back if they are to stand a chance of somehow getting back in the playoff race especially as the club will be losing Seth Lipstock in the coming weeks as he flies back to America.

It will be interesting to see how the introduction of Doug Grabowski will affect the AAA League as we enter the deciding final third of the season.

Our visit to Cambridge gave us a lot of food for thought. The Royals team includes a large number of players from the US air bases. With the news of the their neighbours, Lakenheath Diamondbacks, struggling this Sunday in their NBL game at Southampton, the door is open for the two clubs to consider a merger in 2014. While Lakenheath have American Air Force players, they appear to lack the administrative infrastructure and community activities of the Cambridge Royals. Bringing the two teams together would create a very strong multi-team organisation which would have the potential to become a major force in British Baseball. Lakenheath or Cambridge club officials reading this article may want to schedule a meeting in October to secure a merger deal.