Human highlight reels: Herts 2018 MVPs

The 2018 season saw Herts baseball club take another step forward, and it is time to celebrate some of those who powered us on.

Adult and youth players have been voting for their Most Valuable Player (MVP) of 2018, and the contests have been close as always. We can now **drum roll** unveil the results.

The Herts Falcons of the National Baseball League (NBL) were a cherry on top of the club’s year, making a stunning run through the playoffs to reach the final series at Farnham Park against the London Mets.

The Falcons players chose slugger (and outfielder/pitcher) Walter Bates as their MVP, acknowledging the impact he has made since joining the team.

Walter’s highlights for the year included going for 6-for-7 with three triples against the London Capitals in June, and winning a home run derby against a former Marlins organisation player, Chris Squires, at a summer exhibition event.

He also helped support the club online, spreading the word about Herts and British baseball generally – and was the first to sign up for 2019 once registration opened.

Walter Bates after beating Chris Squires in a home run contest

The Herts Double-A side, the Hawks, had another impressive year which saw them end with a 18-4 record in their second year after promotion.

Team stalwart Jon Lewys was once again instrumental in their success and his team-mates rewarded him with the MVP award.

He led the team in hits, and also played stellar defense both in the outfield and at second base. Hawks Manager Michael Cresswell said he was great to have on the team, consistently putting in great performances and fully deserving the award.

There was a fitting — even poetic – result to the voting among Herts Raptors players. They chose Paul Auchterlounie as their MVP. Paul is one of the club’s longest serving members, and at the end of the 2018 season he retired from playing for good.

After joining the Raptors to act as a mentoring catcher to young pitchers, he became a reliable go-to starting pitcher himself, and a consistent bat. He still did a bit of catching, and still helped out young players (especially to guide them away from their appalling choices of music).

Paul Auchterlounie in action

The 2018 season of British baseball suffered at many levels from some organisational problems. That affected the Herts youth teams as much as anyone, interrupting the flow of games. But they still put in a great year of performances.

Joshua Badenhorst was voted the MVP for the Under-15 team, recognising a year in which he was not only an ace pitcher and catcher but also a valuable utility player. He pitched a great game against London Sports in the UK Little League qualifier, and went 4-for-5 with the bat as an added bonus.

He has impressed with his positive attitude and team leadership – with opposing coaches even offering their praise. Josh was also valuable behind the scenes for the club, going the extra mile to help to set up and clear away the field at games.

The Under-13s perhaps suffered more than most due to issues with their game schedule, and a fluctuating line-up. But the MVP award went to Nathan Mudd. Coach Dana Myzer agreed he had deserved the accolade, praising him for his heart, and determination.

The U-11s get a team talk at Farnham Park

The Under-11 players voted Leon Gutowski their MVP. The team capped their year with an impressive run at the Youth National Baseball Championships at Farnham Park in September.

Leon played a key role as they won both of their pool games – including a dramatic walk-off against a powerful London Sports side – to reach the final. They were the first Herts youth team to achieve that feat since 2013.

The contest for a Play of the Year — which is voted on by all players from across the club – produced a very close result. Anthony Lavender’s spectacular diving catch for the Hawks against the London Marauders was locked in a tough battle with Alex Deacon’s double play in the NBL final.

Deacon’s moment of brilliance came out on top, and he takes the prize. In Game 1 of the final against the London Mets, he made an improbable catch at second base on a ball which looked certain to get over his head. Smartly, he threw to second base to double off the runner.

Spectators couldn’t stop talking about the defensive play of the game — which was seen by a wider audience because of the BBF streaming the game on YouTube. Now it has won Alex Deacon the coveted Herts Play of the Year, too.

Alex Deacon flashes leather in the NBL final