Herts Red Kites win inaugural Kal Cup

The Herts Red Kites won the inaugural Kal Cup, a baseball tournament in memory of our friend and team-mate Kal Dimitrov who died suddenly during a league game between the Herts Raptors and Essex Archers in 2015.

The tournament featured mostly Single-A League teams including both the Essex Archers and the Herts Raptors. The lineup also included Kal’s Knights, a team made up of veterans who played alongside Kal during his 14 years at the club.

On day one of the competition, the teams faced each other in a league format. The organisers opted for the single-inning format in these group games, a concept which Herts fans are familiar with from the Hunlock Series. In a change from the usual baseball system of counting wins and losses to determine the group standings, teams were awarded three points for a win, one for a tie and no points for a loss, perhaps influenced by the fact that the Premier League football season kicked off this weekend.

The Herts Red Kites, which is the club’s Under-17 team managed by Andrew Fulford, dominated the group games picking up 5 wins and a draw out of their 8 games. That was enough to put them in first place in the final Group Standings, one point above Kal’s Knights. That earned the Herts Red Kites a considerable advantage on Sunday as they could sit back and wait during the first round of double-elimination games while all the other teams knock each other out.

Before Sunday’s game, on Saturday evening each team had a representative in the Home Run Derby. The lineup of batters included a good number of power-hitters with many home runs to their names over the course of their careers, so it was surprising that the derby produced very few home runs. The MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the NBL in 2012, Jarrod Pretorius, proved too strong for the rest and won it.

Pretorius was a member of the Babalas Barracudas, who struggled on Saturday winning only 1 of their 8 games. Their chances were further hindered when they lost their first game on Sunday 3-0 to Kal’s Knights. There was no room for error as one more loss would mean that they would be eliminated. An outstanding performance by Iain McCrimmon on the mound helped them secure a 2-0 win eliminating the Essex Archers despite an excellent performance from their own pitcher Humberto Goncalves.

It seemed like everyone was wearing Kal’s number 12 this weekend

Herts Raptors had a strong start on Sunday but the resurgent Barracudas knocked them out of the Cup with an 11-2 win.

The number one seeded Herts Red Kites came up against Kal’s Knights for a place in the Final and continued their dominant performance from the previous day winning 7-5.

Kal’s Knights were not out of the Cup yet. They had a second chance to book a place in the final if they could beat the Babalas Barracudas. The large number of games played was taking its toll not only on the Knights but also on the Barracudas, as some of the players on both sides were playing baseball for the first time after announcing their retirement from baseball years ago. Both teams submitted a joint request to the tournament’s Commissioner, Lee Manning, to merge the two teams for the Final and face the Herts Red Kites whose young players had hardly broken sweat all weekend. The fact that they were wearing different colour uniforms did not matter that much as the jerseys of both teams had Kal’s number 12 on their back. The request was accepted but even that wasn’t enough to derail the Herts Red Kites who went on to win the Final 11-4 and lift the Kal Cup, a crystal trophy which was made thanks to the kind personal donation of British Baseball Federation President, Gerry Perez.

View full 2017 Kal Cup Scoreboard

One of these three caps is edible – Heather Cooke produced another outstanding array of cakes for the Kal Cup

The first Kal Cup proved to be a very fitting way to remember not only Kal but other members of the British baseball community that we have lost including Phil Chesterton (Essex Arrows), Norman Wells (Liverpool Trojans), umpires Dave Smith and Ted Gerard-Thesingh, among others. The event was another example of the incredible power of baseball to bring people together. Some of the players on show made their return to the diamond for the first time in many years. There were others who were playing their first ever baseball game.

“We aim to make this an annual event” said Commissioner, Lee Manning. He added that “the club hopes to find a free date in the 2018 British baseball calendar in discussions with the BBF”.

Kal’s brother, Aspi Dimitrov, thanked everyone involved for creating this wonderful event in Kal’s name. He said: “I know how much work Lee and everyone at the club put into this and I want to express the gratitude of the whole Dimitrov family for all the support and kindness from everyone at Herts and the wider baseball community not just at the weekend but over the last two years.”