The Herts Raptors ended a difficult season with a sprint finish, and one of the new players who helped that happen has been rewarded by being named MVP by his team-mates. After a close vote among the team’s entire roster, Paul Barton took the title.
In his first season of competitive baseball, Paul was a crucial part of the batting line-up, hitting an impressive .548. He could be relied on to hit the ball hard against any opponent, and in any situation.
Paul’s credentials also included becoming the team’s main starting pitcher. His calm demeanour and determination on the mound have secured him the title of Raptors Pitcher of the Year. He reliably threw strikes in a way that is crucial to Single-A baseball, worked throughout the season on a pick-off move and adding an extra pitch, and fielded his position consistently well.
The Infield Gold Glove was awarded to another new boy, Nick Shrimpton. He quickly took ownership of the key position of shortstop early in the season, and remained the go-to guy throughout the year. While refining his knowledge of the game he made a series of crucial instinctive plays, fielding hard-hit balls and throwing out runners when it seemed impossible. As an added bonus, Nick also hit .500 for the season.
The Outfield Gold Glove is shared between two winners — Daniel Bennett and Michael Cresswell. Michael — last year’s MVP, when he was mainly a pitcher — moved to be a regular outfielder this year to help the team adjust to an influx of new players. He performed admirably and reliably, occasionally spectacularly.
Daniel mixed his outfield appearances with playing shortstop, and catcher. But he had to be acknowledged for a remarkable game at the Guildford Mavericks. He recorded nine of the 27 outs in left field — including all three of the outs in one inning. And he was part of a bizarre double play with Yue Du at second base, which ended the second inning. Daniel also got two hits and scored four runs in that epic game, which ended in a 25-24 defeat.
The Raptors’ batting title for 2015 went to our much-missed manager and team-mate Kal Dimitrov. The sudden loss of Kal during a game in July was a hammer blow to the team, the club, and to the Dimitrov family. His contribution to the Raptors was often about intangibles — for example, his inspiration and encouragement — but the depth of his contribution was shown by the fact that he quietly racked up team-leading numbers in the first half of the season.
Against the toughest opposition in the league — the Herts Hawks; the Guildford Mavericks; and the eventual Single-A champions, Tonbridge — Kal had a batting average of .615. Taking into account a large handful of walks, his OBP was even higher, and he converted many into runs.
The Raptors’ joint manager, Rob Jones, said: “There aren’t enough awards to repay for what Kal did for us all, but it’s great to see his name on a trophy for 2015, and it shows how he led the team from the front.”
Referring to the awards for the new talent, he added: “So much fresh blood came into the Raptors this year and it gave us a real boost. Paul Barton has been a tremendous addition to the club and was central to what we achieved in 2015. Young players and new recruits really grew as the season went on, as was shown by the series of wins. There’s a lot to take forward into 2016.”
Jones will not be at the helm, he is stepping down after helping manage the Raptors for three years. A new manager — or managers — will be elected at the Herts AGM this weekend, December 6th, at Gadebridge Community Centre in Hemel Hempstead. Details can be found elsewhere on the website.