The waiting is over for British baseball fans. The 2015 league season commences this weekend. The Herts Falcons open their NBL campaign at home with a doubleheader as part of an Opening Day involving three NBL and two Triple-A League teams.
NATIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE
The Falcons will face the South London Pirates in the first game of the day starting at 10:30am. Maikel Azcuy, Robbie Almanzar, Edwin Alcantara and Moises Vasquez are expected to make their Herts debuts. The Pirates media department has been quite during the off season so it is difficult to assess what we can expect from them this season. This may be a ploy to keep their secret weapons up their sleeves. We will have to wait until Opening Day to find out. The Falcons won three of the four meetings between the two teams last year.
At 1pm the Pirates will play the 2014 NBL runners-up Southampton Mustangs and then at 3:30pm the Mustangs and Falcons will meet in what is always a tense clash. During the winter Southampton has strengthened its roster further with the acquisition of Shaun Macey (Australia), Kevin Hightower (USA), Alrey Lorenzo (Cuba) and Piotr Kosiba (Poland). Macey brings over 20 years experience, and was most recently a pitcher for the Auburn Orioles of the NSW Major League. Hightower is a catcher and can also play at first or second base. He spent the last ten years in Florida and Washington DC playing in the MABL. Alrey Lorenzo is a shortstop who previously played for the Southern Nationals. Kosiba is a former member of the Poland National Team. He also has experience playing in Italy, France and Germany.
Falcons centerfielder Cris Hiche hit a home run on Opening Day 12 months ago. Can he do it again this Sunday? (photo by Richard Lee)
Herts Falcons won two and lost two of their games with the Mustangs last year. Manager, Lee Manning, will need his players to make a good start if they are to be in the playoff race this year. He is going into the new season in an upbeat mood not only due to the new arrivals but he can also count on the return of players who missed most of 2014 with injuries. The one big setback for the Falcons is the news that shortstop Ryan Hackel, has had an emergency deployment. The date of his return is not confirmed at this stage.
The Herts Eagles also open their Triple-A league season this Sunday at home. They have the hardest possible start against the London Metros who were runners-up last year. In 2014 the Eagles finished last with a record of 2-16. They will once again go into the season with a team made up predominantly of under-19 and under-17 players who have grown in the club’s youth system. They are now a year older and the newly appointed managerial duo of Arnie Longboy and Jake Caress are going into the season with optimism. In addition, they will be able to count on several more returning experienced players such as pitcher Louis Hare, outfielder Mahendra Prasad, pitcher and infielder Gilberto Median, new signings Gary Ward and Omar Vallenilla among others.
There are seven players in the Eagles roster who are battling to win a place with the GB U19 and U17 National Teams. The biggest challenge for the team would arguably be to survive the weeks when players are called up to the GB national team.
The Hawks find themselves in new surroundings as they will make their first appearance in the BBF Single-A League. They are on the road on Opening Day making the trip to the Haverhill Blackjacks who reached the Single-A final in 2013 and 2014 but just missed out on winning the championship on both occasions. This will be a major test for the Hawks and it will give Herts fans a good idea about the team’s chances of reaching the playoffs. The Hawks have lost the services of ace pitchers Nick Russell who transferred to Northampton and Zack Longboy who is now with the Herts Eagles in the Triple-A league. Despite this, the team will not be lacking in the pitching department with Andrew Slater, Greg Bochan, Jim Arnott and Nic Goetz who are all experienced pitchers.
The Herts Raptors will have to wait an extra week for their season opener. They start at home on 19 April against Tonbridge who impressed in the Herts Spring League over the last three weeks.
SCHEDULE AT GROVEHILL BALLPARK
10:30am, Herts Falcons vs South London Pirates (NBL)
1:00pm, South London Pirates vs Southampton Mustangs (NBL)
1:00pm, Herts Eagles vs London Metros (Triple-A League)
3:30pm, Southampton Mustangs vs Herts Falcons (NBL)
3:30pm, Herts Eagles vs London Metros (Triple-A League)
FOOD AND DRINKS
Apart from five cracking baseball games, fans coming to Grovehill Ballpark this Sunday can look forward to the famous Herts hot dogs as well as many other snacks and drinks. The Herts shop will also be offering Herts, MLB and other baseball merchandise. Admission is free. Click here for directions to Grovehill Ballpark.