Excelling Young Men: Herts Kites 2016

Once autumn fades away, baseball does not fade away. Instead it begins its awards season. For the Major League players in the US, this means the Cy Young award, the leagues’ Most Valuable Player, and Gold Gloves for the top fielders.

Well, things are no different at Herts baseball! Club-wide voting is under way for several awards, and teams will also give out gongs. First out of the blocks this year are the Herts Kites, the Under-17 team, who enjoyed a tremendously successful season. Their coach and spiritual leader Andrew Fulford here gives us his take on how it all went:

“Wow, what a season. It started off with a bunch of shy and intimidated 13, 14, & 15 year olds on a U17 Herts Baseball Club, and I believe we ended the season with confident and excelling young men. For some, it was their first year of baseball and for others it’s been a life long passion. Regardless, every single one of them improved in their individual performances and as a team.

U-17s in Herts Futures action

At the beginning of the year I selected two Captains, Adam White (Veteran) and Lucas Lebrato (Rookie) they both did a fantastic job in leading our team this year. These guys are natural leaders. We will miss Adam White as a player next season, but hope to see him back as a Junior Coach.

While on the topic, I want to give a huge thank you to Jeff Witter and Duane Badenhorst. Both of you were a huge help to me this season, and the quality of training and coaching would not have been near the same without your voluntary help. Thank you to all other parents who contributed this season, including Genevieve Chew, who did most of our scoring.

The fundamentals

This season we alternated games and practices. One Saturday was a double header, the next would be a 4 hour practice. There’s no doubt in my mind that these long and hard practices paid off.

At the beginning of the season I was pulling my hair out during the games, because not every player was familiar with the fundamentals of the game. At the end of the season, I swear we knew exactly what we were doing in any situation.

I was able to keep my hair, but not my beard unfortunately. After losing a bet to the team in one of our practices, (betting that out of an entire bucket of balls, no one would throw from centerfield into a bucket) my beard was in their hands.

The team wins, the beard loses

As Manager, I’ve had an absolute blast this season, and I hope all the players and parents feel the same way. This season being my first as a Manager, I took it easy on you guys. I played Mr. Nice Guy to make you all like me, but next season you’re gonna be pushed a lot harder. Why? Because we got unfinished business to take care of.

This season we were just getting on our feet, and we did more than that! Winning the Herts Future Tournament screams of the potential success we’ll have for next year.

Mental strength

But we need to work harder than ever before, we got to want the Little League Championship. We gotta crave that National Championship Trophy. Everyone’s heart has to be in it!

Whether you’re a starter or a sub, you are all a vital part of us being the best. Remember the theme of most my talks this season was about our Mental Game, its gotta be strong and must be positive, Mental Strength is what wins ball games.

To complete the recap, we have some award announcements – but before we get into that, there’s just one more thing to mention.

You all are at a very important age in life, I know you probably hear this all the time from your teachers in school, but it’s true. Take it from me, I’m not your parents’ age, I’m 25 years old and being your age is fresher in my mind. (No offense parents)

You guys will blink and before you know it you’ll have your independence and a whirl of responsibilities. Being 14, 15, 16 its now time to find a balance in your lifestyles. Yes, no matter how old you are, fun and social life should be on the priority list. But right now you’re shaping your futures, being your age feels invincible and you’re anxious to be a bit older so you can drive and have additional liberties.

Kites, with London Sports, taking on an Australian side

But hear me clearly when I say, you’re only this age ONCE. And that means two things, one, you better be having lots and lots of fun discovering who you are. And two, have some sincerity in choosing the course you want to take in your life. Learn from those older than you, seek advice and guidance in every step to adulthood. There’s lots of people around you who want to support and who really care. And as I’ve said before you all can speak to me about anything, even if I’m harder on you guys next year in practice. I’m still your friend off the field.

Now enough of the wishy washy stuff, without further ado, here is the 2016 Herts Kites Awards! Literally every single one of you deserve an award making it very difficult for me to choice one person per category.

MVP – Aaron Witter

Aaron is certainly deserving of this award. With his fantastic pitching performances, clutch at bats, and glove in the infield. He really carried his teammates when they needed him. Not only is he MVP but Adam White has passed on his Captain legacy to Aaron for next season.

Infield Golden Glove – Juon Oono

Anytime the ball was hit to Juon I would take a nice big sigh of relief because I knew it was a guaranteed out. He was also one of our strongest catchers this season. Not many people work harder and are more dedicated to the game than Juon.

Outfield Golden Glove – Jamie Warren

Anyone who has watched Jamie play baseball, know they are watching a master at work. He is by far one of the most mechanically sound players I’ve seen. All around a fantastic player and was incredible to see some great diving catches in CF this season from Jamie.

Slugger Award – Felix Maldonado

Felix has some beastly at bats this season. Leading the team in extra base hits. We all hope to see more of that from him next year!

Rookie of the Year – Matthew Lister

This is a well deserved award. Matt showed up at the beginning of the season with little to no baseball experience at all. By the end of the season, he became a player I could rely on. Both at the plate, on base, and in the OF. Congrats Matt!

Cy Young Award – Tyler Badenhorst

Well, lets not toot his horn to much, but I think its safe to say Herts Baseball acquired one the best to ever play in British Baseball at the end of last season. Tyler is a phenomenal ball player, not only that, but a GREAT kid. His fastball never ceases to give me a nice breeze when coaching from the dugout. He really helped us out at the end of the season with some great pitching performances. Welcome aboard Tyler!

And to the rest of the team …..

Adam White; Giuseppe Basilea;  Michael Johnson; Tom Weatherilt; Plamen Georgiev; Matthew Benge; Maximilian Ixer; Oliver Durer;  Tobi Simmons;  Robert Wallace; Lucas Lebrato;  Thomas Garton.

…. you guys are all incredibly talented!”