While the United Kingdom is gripped by the drama of Brexit, Herts Baseball Club is working frantically to secure and unveil its venue in North West London to host BBF adult and youth league games in time for the start of the 2019 season. Opening Day is on 7 April 2019 which is just a week after the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union so it is expected to be a Bexit-like race against the clock.
The club was founded in 1996 and over the years has developed Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead into one of the best baseball venues in the country with support from Sport England, BaseballSoftballUK, Dacorum Borough Council and other partners. At its Annual General Meeting ahead of the 2013 season, the club recognised the need to expand into North West London to accommodate not only the large number of existing London-based club members, but also to welcome new players from that densely-populated part of London who struggle to commute to Hemel Hempstead.
As a first step, a satellite baseball club was established in Whitefield School in 2014 running baseball sessions and games as part of a school baseball league involving schools from around North West London and Hertfordshire.
In a press conference on 8 May 2018 London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, announced that the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will play two official league games at the London Stadium on 29 and 30 June 2019. The London Series is part of MLB’s efforts to market Major League Baseball around the globe and to promote the development of baseball as a world and Olympic sport.
The announcement prompted Herts Baseball Club to accelerate the timetable for the creation of a baseball venue in North West London. This year the Club ran a series of events in NW London giving the local community the opportunity to come and try baseball. The participation levels and feedback from the public have been positive.
Ceremonial first pitch at the unveiling of the second diamond of Grovehill Ballpark in 2010.
The project is into the critical stage of negotiating to secure the venue where the first London-based Herts team will make its BBF league debut. “There are only 143 days until the 2019 BBF Opening Day so the pressure is on” said club president, Aspi Dimitrov, who was realistic that “it will take several years for us to have a fully-developed ballpark, but the key for 2019 is to have a diamond which meets the requirements to stage BBF adult and youth league games so that we are ready for the arrival of MLB and the anticipated increase in the number of players interested to play baseball.”
The club will shortly be launching its 2019 player registration. The online registration form will ask each player to indicate whether they prefer to play their home league games in Hemel Hempstead or in NW London, or whether they would be happy with either. This will provide vital information to club management about how to go about forming the first team which will play in NW London without affecting existing teams based in Hemel Hempstead. Team managers will also use the information to decide which BBF League the NW London team will enter.
Whether this is baseball, football or another sport, the prospect of opening a new venue always brings excitement. The club already experienced this back in 2010 when the second diamond was added to Grovehill Ballpark and gave it the capacity to achieve further growth and success on and off the field of play.