Category: Falcons

Hiche is back as Herts Falcons manager

Hiche is back as Herts Falcons manager

Herts Baseball Club has announced the appointment of Cris Hiche as manager of the Herts Falcons who are preparing to make a return to the National Baseball League (NBL) this year.

This is a very timely homecoming for him as Falcons manager and looks to be a perfect fit given the fact that he played with the London Legends last season and last month Herts and Legends merged their NBL operations. This puts him in an excellent position to build a strong team made up of returning Falcons players alongside 2022 Legends players and new arrivals.

“It’s an honour to be back home so to speak and what better way than by not leaving Legends, the organisation I played for last year,” Hiche commented “It’s going to be an exciting season and I have a feeling, and hope, Herts fans might be in for further nice surprises in the upcoming weeks”.

This news comes a day after the club introduced financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches.

Herts president, Aspi Dimitrov, said, “Everyone at the club is delighted to see Cris back in charge of the Falcons in what is going to be a pivotal year for the club. Every game will be crucial not only to rebuild the team’s position in Britain’s top league but also to find a way into the NBL playoff race as the club aims to grow its fan base and bring spectators to the ballpark as part of the NBL Pilot Project launched last month. Cris already has a strong connection with Herts baseball fans which is another essential component for this project.”

Cris Hiche first joined the Falcons ahead of the 2012 season and it is not a coincidence that the next four seasons proved to be among the best in the club’s history as the team qualified for the NBL playoffs in three out of those four seasons. That included finishing as NBL runner-up in 2012 and reaching the NBL Playoff semi-finals in 2013 and 2015. That success elevated the team into 38th place of the European ranking.

His outstanding performances were recognised with the NBL Outfield Gold Glove award in 2012 and 2013 when he did not commit a single error. In 2013 he was also the team’s home run leader.

Hiche also played a key role in the club’s youth baseball department as the head of the U17 and U19 programmes. In 2013 he led the Herts U17 team to the National Final finishing as runners-up which is the club’s highest position in that age group.

In 2016 Hiche signed a professional contract with the Dornbirn Indians in the Austrian top league. He had the third best batting average in the team (.314) with a slugging average of .412 and on-base average of .455. He committed only 2 errors that entire season ending with a fielding average of .979.

In 2017 he returned to the UK and was back in a Herts uniform. In 2018 he became Falcons manager. During that season the team exceeded all expectations qualifying for the playoffs and shocking the NBL by eliminating first the Southampton Mustangs and then the London Capitals.

In the NBL final they lost to the London Mets but being runner-up meant that the team had booked a place in the 2019 European Federations Cup qualifier for the first time in the club’s history. They came up against tough opponents from Sweden, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria but held their own.

2021 proved to be a difficult season for the Falcons. Cris Hiche had to go back to Chile for most of the year due to family bereavement. The team’s roster was seriously depleted and the club had to make the painful decision of withdrawing the team from the 2022 NBL season.

Prior to joining Herts, Hiche developed in the USA where he played at the high school, college and semi-professional league level as well as on the international stage playing for the Chile U12, U16 and the senior national teams. Between 2008 and 2010 he played for the Sahuaripas in the Mesa Semi-Pro League alongside former or injured Minor League players trying to work their way back into the pros, as well as former MLB players such as former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Omar Daal.

The Falcons are back in the NBL now and Cris Hiche’s attention is firmly on preparing the team for a challenging but exciting season in the NBL.

Players can express interest in trying out for the 2023 NBL season by completing this form.

Herts introduces financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches

Herts introduces financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches

Last month Herts Baseball Club launched its NBL Pilot Project and today confirmed the introduction of financial incentives for NBL players and coaches for the upcoming 2023 NBL season as part of that project.

The level of compensation will be on a sliding scale based on player and team performances and achieving specific goals such as winning percentage, playoff qualification and the number of fans attending home games.

The amounts are set at a level in line with the scale of the project in this experimental first year.

The NBL Pilot Project aims to test a new business model designed to grow the fan base, attract spectators to its National Baseball League (NBL) games, generate revenue and build highly competitive teams by financially rewarding coaches and players.

This is not a new concept in sports and British baseball did have a professional league attracting up to 10,000 spectators in the golden era of the 1930s. But it has not been  achieved in the modern era, so this is an exciting challenge to see if it is viable and if there is sufficient demand in the market.

If the experiment is successful, it will set the path for the club and the sport to the next level.

Players can express interest in trying out for the 2023 NBL season by completing this form.

The project will create a number of new off-field positions  which will need to be filled and more details of these will be published in due course but, those with experience in events, marketing, media, fan engagement, ballpark operations and food and beverage who are interested in getting involved in the project can contact us.

Herts publishes Spring Training schedules for its adult and youth league teams

Herts publishes Spring Training schedules for its adult and youth league teams

The BBF has indicated that the Opening Weekend of the NBL season is expected to be 15-16 April 2023. For the other leagues the Opening Weekend is expected to be 22-23 April 2023, although some lower league teams may play their opening games on 15-16 April 2023. More will be known when the BBF league schedules are published.

This is later than in previous years and the Spring Training schedule of the Herts teams has been adjusted accordingly to reflect this.

The Herts youth league is expected to start slightly earlier than last year. 

Here are the key 2023 Spring Training dates for the Herts adult and youth league teams. Events are subject to change due to weather or other reasons.

National Baseball League

Players will report for Spring Training on Sunday, 26 February 2023. This includes players who have expressed interest in trying out for the NBL. The schedule will include four weeks of training and three weeks of Spring Training games.

Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A League

Players will report for Spring Training on Sunday, 5 February 2023. Double-A and Single-A players based in Hemel Hempstead will start with several training sessions indoors. The schedule will include eight weeks of training and three weeks of Spring Training games.

Herts Spring League

The Herts Spring League is scheduled to start on the weekend of 1-2 April by which point the team managers are expected to have announced their preliminary rosters. The HSL will run for three weeks for Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A teams and for two weeks for the NBL teams as their BBF league season starts a week earlier.

Teams are expected to announce their Opening Day rosters shortly after their final HSL games.

Herts U15, U13, U11 youth league teams

Herts youth players will report for Spring Training on Saturday, 25 February 2023. The first four weeks will take place indoors alternating between indoor venues in Hemel Hempstead and in NW London. This will be followed by five weeks of Spring Training at Grovehill Ballpark and Basing Hill Ballpark. The Opening Day of the various age groups of the Herts Youth Baseball League is expected to be on Saturday, 29 April, subject to confirmation.

Full schedule

Registered players can view the full list of 2023 Spring Training dates, times and venues by logging into the Clubhouse.

Adult and youth league players now registering for the 2023 baseball season

Adult and youth league players now registering for the 2023 baseball season

Player registration for the 2023 season has started.

In 2022 Herts Baseball Club grew by 7% and saw performance levels go up with teams climbing up the league standings. In 2023 the club will aim to raise performance levels further and enter teams in all four league tiers.

ADULT BASEBALL LEAGUES

How many teams will represent Herts in 2023? The next few weeks will be crucial as the number of players registering will determine how many teams will be entered before the league entry deadline on 31 January, how many will play in Hemel Hempstead and how many will play in London.

KEY DATES – ADULT TEAMS

(events and dates are subject to change)

  • February – players report for Spring Training
  • 25-26 March – Start of the 2023 Herts Spring League (subject to confirmation of the BBF league opening day)*
  • March-May – Great Britain National Team Tryouts (senior and youth teams)*
  • 9 or 16 April – BBF League Opening Day (subject to confirmation)*
  • May – Midweek Evening Baseball commences
  • August-September* – BBF Postseason Playoffs and National Championships
  • September-October – Hunlock Series

* – these are preliminary dates. The BBF will be making its official announcements in due course.

Click here for more details of the membership packages

YOUTH BASEBALL LEAGUES

2022 saw the second season of the Herts Youth Baseball League. The number of registered youth players grew again. In 2023 the club will aim to enhance and develop the programme and the league further to make Herts one of the leading clubs for youth baseball.

KEY DATES – YOUTH TEAMS

(events and dates are subject to changes)

  • February – players report for Spring Training
  • March-May – Great Britain National Team Tryouts (senior and youth teams)*
  • April – Opening Day of the Herts Youth Baseball League season
  • May-July – Midweek evening baseball sessions
  • June – UK Little League Qualifiers
  • July – BBF National Championships
  • July – European Little League Qualifiers
  • September – Herts Youth League Playoffs
  • September/October – Herts Futures Tournament

Click here for more details of the membership packages

WHICH BALLPARK WILL YOU PLAY YOUR HOME LEAGUE GAMES AT?

Herts has two ballparks. The online registration form will ask players 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 important information to club management when they configure the adult and youth team rosters for the new season.

HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 2023 BASEBALL SEASON

Those who already have an account with the club will be prompted to register when they log on next time (click here to go to the Herts online Clubhouse and log on with your existing username and password). Those who are new to Herts Baseball Club and do not have an online account can register as members by completing this form. For more details about joining our teams in 2023 and the membership packages click here or contact us.

Herts launches NBL Pilot Project

Herts launches NBL Pilot Project

Herts Baseball Club is launching a project hoping to take the club and the sport to the next level. A new business model is designed to grow the fan base, attracting spectators to its National Baseball League (NBL) games, generating revenue and building highly competitive teams by financially rewarding coaches and players.

This is not a new concept in sports and British baseball did have a professional league attracting up to 10,000 spectators in the golden era of the 1930s. But it has not been  achieved in the modern era, so this is an exciting challenge to see if it is viable and if there is demand in the market.

Herts Falcons applauding fans after the final NBL regular season game in 2013 finishing top with Win-Loss % of .857

Herts has grown from having one adult team with 19 members playing on one diamond in 2004 to an organisation with over 200 adult and youth players today with three diamonds – two in Hemel Hempstead and one in NW London. The size of the club is not far from some of the clubs in the German Bundesliga which feature players who are paid to play.

At its 2022 Annual General Meeting in November, Herts Baseball Club members considered a draft proposal, and asked the club’s executive board to make the final decision on it. The board assessed the project, the costs and the benefits and voted to give it the go-ahead. The eleven members of the board were unanimously in favour of going ahead, saying it deserved the full commitment of the club.

This comes after last week’s announcement that Herts and Legends have created a partnership with a view to entering two NBL teams in 2023 and the pilot project will play an integral part.

Baseball fans at the 2019 MLB London Series

Herts Baseball Club president, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “In 2023 you will hear us talk a lot about fan experience, game day product, attendance levels and off-field operations but this project won’t succeed unless we offer attractive and competitive baseball on the field – so we have a lot to do on and off the field between now and Opening Day in April 2023. This is a very challenging project and the odds may be against us but, if we succeed, this would take the club to another level. We want to share what we learn with the rest of the NBL, so that Britain can close the gap on the leading European baseball leagues. If this experiment is successful, it is expected to inspire more children and adults to play baseball and join the club with the additional motivation of being paid to play. The club hopes to create a game day atmosphere which players will revel in. The feeling of playing in front of large audiences is something which very few have the chance to experience in their lives and we want to give this opportunity to our members.”

Herts baseball fans at the 2017 MLB Battlegrounds event in Hyde Park

Players can express interest in trying out with the Herts Falcons and Herts Legends by completing this form.

The project will create a number of new off-field positions  which will need to be filled and more details of these will be published in due course but, those with experience in events, marketing, media, fan engagement, ballpark operations and food and beverage who are interested in getting involved in the project can contact us. This would also be a good opportunity for university students and aspiring entrepreneurs to gain firsthand experience.

Herts and Legends announce partnership ahead of the 2023 NBL season

Herts and Legends announce partnership ahead of the 2023 NBL season

Herts Baseball Club and Legends Baseball Club have announced that they will link up with a view to entering two teams in the National Baseball League (NBL) which is Britain’s highest league.

The  teams  will be known as  the Herts Legends and the Herts Falcons. Both teams will be affiliated with Herts Baseball Club. 

The two clubs worked closely together during the 2022 season. There were two Legends teams in the NBL – Lancashire Legends and London Legends – which were both hosted by Herts at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead. Herts had decided to withdraw its flagship team, the Herts Falcons, from the NBL after a difficult 2021 season.

The two organisations are delighted to now be working even closer together.

The Herts Legends will be managed by Great Britain U18 national team manager and president of Legends Baseball Club, Jonathan Rodriguez. Under his leadership, Legends have had more players selected by GB teams than any club in the country since 2020. Their mission statement is to give players a pathway to compete at the highest levels in the UK and Europe.

Candidates for head coach of the Herts Falcons are being considered at the moment and it is not too late for other candidates to put themselves forward and be added to the shortlist. To express interest in the Herts Falcons head coach position, contact us.

The coaching staff of both the Herts Legends and the Herts Falcons will be evaluating players and planning their rosters when Spring Training commences.  Apart from returning 2022 Lancashire Legends and London Legends players, we expect to see Herts and other players from around the UK and overseas try out for a place on these two NBL rosters. To express interest in trying out with the Herts Falcons and Herts Legends click here.

In 2022 the two  Legends rosters featured twelve players who have played for Herts in previous years so they will find themselves in familiar surroundings in 2023.

Legends President, Jonathan Rodriguez, said: “After reflecting on the past three years, it seemed like a no-brainer to merge with Herts Baseball Club. Working together, Herts and the Legends will be in a much stronger position to get to the next level. We hope the strong infrastructure Herts has built over the years will facilitate and grow the Legends project, which is to provide young baseball players in Great Britain a place to develop into national team, college or professional baseball players. We are excited to see what the future has in store for us.”

Herts president, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “We look forward to welcoming the Legends coaches and players to Herts as well as new players who decide to join us in this exciting project further details of which will be announced over the coming weeks. Our task as a club is to provide a professional environment for the teams to work and develop in and see a ripple effect across the entire club, including the Herts youth baseball teams.”

About Legends Baseball Club: The Legends Baseball Club was founded in 2012 by Jonathan Rodriguez. Today it comprises two teams in California, United States, and two teams in the United Kingdom. The Club has helped produce 17 MLB Draft selections. Jonathan Rodriguez currently serves as the Great Britain U18 National Team Manager and as an assistant coach for the Great Britain  U23 national team.  He also works for Burnley Football Club, is a lecturer in Sport Coaching & Leadership at the University of South Wales and is head coach of the University of Central Lancashire baseball team. For more information visit the Legends Baseball Club website.

About Herts Baseball Club: Herts Baseball Club was founded in 1996 in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and has grown into one of the largest baseball clubs in the UK.  Its nine teams play in the various adult and youth leagues of the British Baseball Federation. Over the years, the club has invested into the expansion and upgrade of Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead and in 2019 the club opened a branch in north west London where they built Basing Hill Ballpark. Herts has featured  on BBC and other television channels and is frequently heard on several radio stations. For more information visit the Herts Baseball Club website.

Carter, McMenamin, Dearing, Wong and Ferroni are the first round picks.

Carter, McMenamin, Dearing, Wong and Ferroni are the first round picks.

The 2022 Hunlock Series Draft was completed on Thursday night. The managers of the teams had a plethora of talent to choose from with 87 players drafted over 18 rounds.

THE FIRST ROUND PICKS

It was no surprise that four of the five first round picks were pitchers.

On a toss of a coin, the Herts Ducks had the first pick. Manager, Brad Charalambous, determined to keep as many players from his 2021 roster as possible, selected Kent Bucs pitcher, Chris Carter.

Green Pilgrims manager, Mike Cresswell, was next to pick. He selected one of the top performers of the Herts Hawks, pitcher and third baseman, Harry McMenamin.

Red Roosters boss, Jack O’Brien, chose Herts Cardinals player-manager Brian Dearing whose primary positions are starting pitcher and shortstop.

The Black Bears went for pitcher, Stephen Wong, who has settled very well on the mound in his first season with the Herts Cardinals in the Triple-A League.

Finally, the Blue Buzzards picked another Herts Cardinals player Giorgio Ferroni who will bring a lot of speed on the bases and in the outfield. It would be interesting if we could see him in a race with Herts Falcons legend, Robbie Unsell.

FREE AGENTS AND TRADES

The full team rosters determined at last night’s draft are shown here. Shortly after the end of the draft the Blue Buzzards traded infielders Vytas Macenas and Miguel Gibson to Black Bears in exchange for Giorgio Ferroni and catcher Hunter Devine.

As more players sign up to play they will be able to join the teams as free agents.

Carter, McMenamin, Dearing, Wong and Ferroni are the first round picks.

One of the players who has just appeared on the Free Agents Block is Herts Falcons and Great Britain catcher and pitcher, Conner Brown (pictured above), who would usually be a first round pick. We will keep you updated about free agent signings and trades over the course of the Series.

New players aged 14 or above, regardless of whether they are members of Herts or another club or completely new to baseball, can be added to the teams at any point. To be added to the teams or for more details contact Herts Baseball Club.

OPENING DAY

The Series commence on Sunday, 1 October. The first games start at 10:00am at Basing Hill Ballpark in north west London. Admission is free. For complete Series schedule click here.

5 Herts teams enter the 2022 BBF leagues. Falcons aiming for 2023 return to NBL.

5 Herts teams enter the 2022 BBF leagues. Falcons aiming for 2023 return to NBL.

With just a few hours remaining until the deadline for British baseball clubs to submit their league entries for the 2022 baseball season, Herts Baseball Club confirmed that they will once again be entering five teams.

Herts Falcons

However, the Herts Falcons are not among them. The team had a difficult season last year finishing in last place with a record of 1 win and 24 losses. They went into it with a depleted roster of 15 players and suffered further setback when player-manager, Cris Hiche, had to go back to his home country due to a family bereavement. Another three players and the interim manager left partway through the season.

In November, the club started the process of rebuilding the roster.  Despite a large number of players signing up to try out with the team, the club struggled with the appointment of a new manager.  They came close to securing a highly rated candidate last month but he received a contract offer from an MLB club.  The identity of that coach has not been made public yet to enable him to decide when to do so in what is a very positive news story for British baseball.

This morning club president, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “we ran out of time and we have to bear the pain of withdrawing our flagship team from the National Baseball League”.

We understand the club considered assigning the Falcons team name to one of its other teams in the lower leagues in order to continue the team’s record of 26 uninterrupted seasons playing in the BBF leagues, but decided against it. “Our work to rebuild the Falcons continues and our target now is the 2023 season” said Dimitrov.

The club’s other five teams will now have to carry the Herts flag in the playoff races this year.

Herts Cardinals (Triple-A)

The Cardinals are the newest Herts team, unveiled just a week ago.  They go into the Triple-A league – the second tier in the British baseball league system. When taking on the role, team manager Brian Dearing did not expect that his team would have the extra pressure of being the club’s highest ranked team but Herts fans hope that the team will thrive on this.

The Cardinals will play their home games at the club’s Basing Hill Ballpark in North West London which is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in late April or early May.

Herts Hawks (Single-A)

The Hawks are one of four Herts teams which will play in the BBF Single-A league. They will be managed by Ken Pike, who was in charge of the Herts Raptors last year.  His team is expected to feature many of his 2021 Raptors players but the squad may also feature new faces as the competition for places intensifies.  The Hawks will play their home games at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.

Herts Raptors (Single-A)

As confirmed at the end of January, Mantas Poderys, is back at the helm. He managed the Raptors in 2020 bringing his trademark enthusiasm but the season was wiped out by Covid so this will be his managerial debut in the BBF leagues.  The Raptors will play their home games at Grovehill.

Herts Londoners (Single-A)

Last year Herts Londoners improved on their win-loss record of the previous season but the team still finished far from the playoff places. They hope to climb up the standings further this year.  Co-manager Arnie Longboy has taken up the front office role of co-General Manager and Matt Bell takes his place as co-manager. The Londoners will play their home games at Basing Hill.

Herts Eagles (Single-A)

The Eagles finished the season with the best record out of the three Herts teams in the Single-A league last season with some exceptional numbers put up by MVP, Mike Wakelam, including 9 home runs. Will he be back with the Eagles or will he be called up by the Cardinals to the Triple-A team.  The Eagles hope to announce their new manager soon.

It remains to be seen if all four Herts Single-A teams will be placed in the same pool which would mean that there would be a plethora of Herts derby games this season.  Would this increase the chances of seeing a Herts team reach the playoffs or will the four Herts teams end up knocking each other out? In the next few weeks the BBF will also reveal who they will face. Will it be their old rivals the Redbacks the Minotaurs and the Mustangs who are the reigning Single-A national champions or will the BBF reshuffle the composition of the pools perhaps bringing in teams like the Richmond Dukes and the Bracknell Inferno?

The managers have left some room in the rosters so new players can still join the Herts teams. However, the club reported that the number of players registering to play is higher than on deadline day last season so those available places are likely to be filled quickly.

Herts also announced the tryout dates to play for the Herts Cardinals in the Triple-A league.  For more details contact the club.

Teams starting to enter the 2022 Herts Spring League

Teams starting to enter the 2022 Herts Spring League

The game dates for the 2022 Herts Spring League (HSL) have been confirmed.

  • Saturday, 19 March 2022
  • Sunday, 20 March 2022
  • Saturday, 26 March 2022
  • Sunday, 27 March 2022
  • Saturday, 2 April 2022
  • Sunday, 3 April 2022

They are based on the indication that the BBF league season will start on 3 April 2022 for the National Baseball League and on 10 April for all other senior leagues.

Spring is the time when managers put together their teams and aim to turn them into winning machines ahead of Opening Day. Similar to the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in MLB, the HSL provides a competitive edge to spring training. This is the fifteenth year of the HSL. Every year this competition keeps growing. Last year a record 22 teams took part. For more details visit the HSL site.

LEAGUE FORMAT
Teams will be placed in divisions based on their ranking going into the new season. The exact format will depend on the number of teams entering the HSL. Full details will be published when the league line-up is confirmed.

(photo by Tony Small)

TEAMS
Over the years the HSL has featured teams from the National Baseball League (NBL), Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A Leagues, as well as international teams such as the GB Under-19 and Under-16 National Teams and the ASL Eagles.

Teams from around the United Kingdom will be submitting their entries over the next few weeks and the HSL lineup and games schedule is expected to be published in early March.

VENUES

All games will be played at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.