Herts Baseball Club has been trying to delay making this announcement, hoping against hope that it will not happen, but it has now been confirmed that three-time National Baseball League MVP (Most Valuable Player), Ryan Bird, has moved to America.
Over the last 6 years he has been one of the most dominant baseball players in Great Britain. His name appears prominently at the top of the majority of the defensive and offensive NBL stats. He received immediate recognition, voted as the NBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2008. This was his first season in the League and this achievement is even more significant given that this was a time of total domination by the amazing London Mets. In the following year Bird was once again voted as the League’s MVP, making him the first player to receive two MVP awards since the days of Simon Pole during the London Warriors era. In 2009 he was also the league’s home run champion with 5 dingers.
In 2012 he made a high-profile move to the Herts Falcons and the domination continued. In 2013 he was voted NBL MVP for a third time.
He has performed consistently throughout and he is the NBL leader in career batting average (.500), career on-base average (.572) and career slugging average (.808). His primary position is catcher, but he has also had a real impact as a pitcher. His career ERA is 2.72 with a record of 15 wins, 4 losses, 2 saves and, very notably, one of the highest strikeouts per nine innings ratios (16.4). Last season he pitched those memorable back-to-back no-hitters for the Falcons.
Ryan Bird won his second NBL MVP award in 2009 as a Richmond player
This season’s opening game against the London Mets was his last for the Falcons before his move to the USA and he said good bye to the fans with another outstanding performance going 4-4 with a home run which probably is still hovering somewhere over St Albans.
NBL statistics courtesy of ProjectCOBB.org.uk
Bird’s departure is a major blow not just to Herts Falcons but to British baseball as a whole which needs players like him to fill the ballparks around the country.
This is one of several high-profile departures for the Falcons this season. Dave House, Jordan Farkas, Robbie Unsell and Xavi Gonzalez are all moving overseas. The start of the year for the Falcons has felt a lot like the opening scene of the Oscar-nominated movie Moneyball as staff at the Oakland Coliseum were removing the large banners of Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen.
Xavi Gonzalez is another Herts Falcons player who is playing overseas with the Stuttgart Reds this season
However, losing these big players also means that the door is open at Herts for the new stars to rise to the top of British baseball. The addition of players like Abel Salas and Jamie Gregory has been a major boost helping manager Lee Manning to start rebuilding the roster. Last week Herts fans had an extra boost seeing video footage of catcher Andrew Fulford preparing in Tampa Florida for his upcoming NBL debut. Manning has also shown faith in the club’s talented young players. Carlos Casal Jr, Conner Brown and Tom Everex-Armstrong joined Liam Green to make their NBL debuts in 2013 and this year they have been joined by Will Zucker, with more youngsters pushing hard with the club’s Triple-A team. We will have to wait and see how far these players will go over the next few years and if they will be the next Ryan Birds of British baseball.