The long dark offseason of the soul

written by Ken Pike

Dear Santa. Please get me a time machine so I can skip past Christmas. If you could deliver it now, that would be peachey.

Bloomin Christmas. Baahhhhhhh Humbug. It’s not sunny. I’m not playing baseball. That horrific whiney sound of Mariah Carey ‘singing’ that fe**in ‘song’ that sounds like a mating call for bats (the flying rodent type, not the maple-wood Louisville type). People eating turkey at every chance, ignoring the dry tastelessness that cause them not to eat it for the rest of the year. Shopping department and well known soft-drinks manufacturers saturating tv and Facebook with something designed in equal parts to tug at our heart strings and purse strings. A billion pointless cards to make you feel guilty about not having sent a card to your long lost fifth cousin twice removed, and oh YAY, a jumper featuring a reindeer. That never gets old. FFFUUUUUUU….and breathe…I hate it. Hate it all. Humbuggery all round.

On a plus note, with the club’s AGM out of the way, we can at least reflect that Herts baseball club had a tremendously successful season in 2013. Staggeringly successful in fact. Several teams (both youth and adult) seeing post season, the Falcons finishing top of their league, and the continued growth of the club and wonderful development of our entry level teams. The Raptors for one shed their traditional “Craptors” tag from a couple years back in wonderful style while the Falcons came top of the regular season league. Amazing results really, especially when you consider that most teams were working on a shallow roster to facilitate having five teams compete.

All of these aspects combined are surely a great testament to the hard work that everyone, not least out board and managers, have put into developing the individual teams and the club as a whole. We all deserve a massive collective pat on the back, and especially Aspi, Lee and co for making it all possible. Thanks guys.



One thing in that list of achievement rankles. It bugs me. Its sits horribly at the back of my mind…(a bit like Mariah’s bat-mating song)…and festers. Despite all the success, the growth and the progress….there was a distinct lack of trophies at the end of it all, and to make it worse, all three teams that made it to playoffs were most certainly capable of going the whole way. Ultimately any team that makes the knock-out rounds of any competition can go all the way in the right circumstances…bit of luck here, good call there, nice strategy then…

I blinking hate off-season, not just because of the aforementioned ‘festive’ twaddle, but also because its the one time of the year that you absolutely cannot do anything to improve your league position, personal game, etc. You just get to think about the things that nearly went right. Hopefully you have a nice stockpile of things to think about that did go right, and we have more this year than we ever have before, so that is a good thing, but I can’t help but replay my last out at Farnham Park, that one dropped catch that could have closed that one inning out slightly sooner, that one bad throw to second that could have stopped that scoring runner dead had it not been two…ok… five feet wide. Yeah you win and lose as a team, but lets face it, that one individual’s performance can, and often does, make the difference, so I get a few long winter months to ponder if I could have been that person.

I know, defeatist introspective navel gazing talk is never productive, but these are the facts, and that brings me to my main point (“Finally!” they say, “stop insulting our 2013 results!”-I’m not, honestly!). I imagine many, if not every single player in the club, will share my desire to get back into the swing of things. (I nearly said ‘yearning desire’ but that sounds a bit weird.) Training and pre-season really can’t come soon enough if you ask me. I for one had an absolute blast last year. It was easily the most enjoyable year of baseball in my six year long ‘career’, but having come so painfully, tantalisingly, and agonisingly close to a trophy but falling short at the last means the hunger to play, to win, has grown beyond all belief. I’ve joined a football team to quench the competitive thirst, but frankly they are rubbish and while its helping to maintain fitness it’s doing little to replace the crack of the bat, the snap of the pitch, and that enigmatic sound “STEEEERAAAIIIIK!” which is a simultaneous joy for one bunch of people and an agonising cringe for another bunch. I guess at least my beloved Broncos are doing well, but it’s just not the same as my beloved Herts doing well. It’s certainly not the same as playing and (occasionally) doing well myself.

So I look forward to the first training session, seeing if my vague attempts to keep fit have worked…. finding out what new additions have joined the club… seeing if that talented young prospect from last year who showed glimpses of raw ability has grown a couple inches in height, gained a few pounds of muscle and developed the calm confident swagger that will translate to hits, strikes, outs, you name it….seeing if the existing talents, and developing players of last year have continued that trend and seeing which of them make a push for promotion up the teams….seeing the aging and experienced players and the young newcomers alike all struggle with rust, match fitness issues, aches and minor pains from pushing too hard too early….seeing the managers scrutinise every play, and noting how the players groan with the same anguish as they would missing a playoff play in the knowledge that each slip takes them further from promotion….its exhilarating, addictive, wonderful, and terrible all at once.

I don’t care if it’s two foot deep in snow come January. I will happily run up and down an outside court chasing a ball I can’t see for whiteness. I don’t care if I can’t feel my nose, I will happily don a glove and mask and work on zoning in the target for our young pitchers (I can’t feel my nose anyway and certainly don’t need it for baseball). Heck, I don’t care if the ball has icicles hanging off it, that won’t stop me from trying my best to smack it with a bat. At least until I land flat on my arse for the first time.

I for one know that as Christmas approaches and I munch yet another bland and slightly chewy turkey-related food item whilst listening to my other half humming the tune to Wham, or Slade, Pogues, or Live Aid or whatever other horrendous 80’s pop band Christmas-tune/travesty-of-music she last heard on the radio , I will be thinking of the crack of a bat every time I hear a Christmas cracker, and there will be a little ditty running through my head all along that I really won’t mind hearing again and again and again…. “Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…dum di dooodidooohhhdidaaa……….aaallll I wan’t for Christmaaaass…is a ball game.”

Merry Christmas everyone…see you in January. Bring yer game faces.