Category: Hawks

2023 Season Review

2023 Season Review

The following article was featured in Herts Baseball Club’s 2023 Annual Report distributed to club members ahead of its annual general meeting held on 26 November 2023.


It has been another record year for our club growing by 16% and we now have 248 adult and youth members. This has enabled us to have one or more teams at each of the four adult league tiers and in all four youth league age divisions. Substantial investment has gone into upgrading both ballparks and facilities and we are in a strong position to go further in the coming years after adding new revenue streams which increase our healthy cash reserves. MLB and other strategic partners have recognised us as an organisation they can work with and we hosted two MLB events – one in Hemel Hempstead and one in London. There are exciting opportunities on the horizon.

This would not be possible without the hard work, care and dedication of board and non-board staff, and the wider membership. We have been receiving very positive feedback from club members, parents and fans and I would like to join them in thanking you, the members, for your incredible contribution.

Adult Baseball

In 2022 we saw the unusual scenario of having one team in the Triple-A League and our other four teams all in Single-A. This year, the number of teams increased from five to seven and the allocation of teams was more balanced – one team in the NBL, one in Triple-A, two in Double-A and three in Single-A. From previous years we know that moving up the leagues is not an easy step to take. It became even more difficult when, after submitting the league entries in January, the Hawks lost five or six players from their strong 2022 roster and a similar number of new experienced players who were expected to strengthen the Ducks, withdrew their club registration shortly after registering due to change of circumstances. That had a significant effect on the competitiveness of those two teams in Double-A.

photo by Henry Bell

Despite this being an expansion season, the Cardinals, Raptors and Ravens achieved a considerable improvement with a combined record of 42 wins and 30 losses (.583) compared to 29 wins and 49 losses (.372) in 2022.

photo by Tony Small

Cardinals and Ravens qualified for the Triple-A and Single-A postseason, respectively, reaching the semi-final stage which is an outstanding feat.

Falcons and the NBL Pilot Project

After a one year absence, the Herts Falcons were back in Britain’s top league. In addition to the return of a number of former Falcons players, we saw a large number of talented young players with international experience with the various Great Britain national teams.

There were games when the team showed that they can compete against the best NBL teams, but at the end we have to give credit to our opponents and accept that the Falcons did not do enough to stay in the playoff race.

But there is no doubt about the enormous potential of this group of young players not only to close the gap on the leading NBL teams but to overtake them in the coming years.

There was a recognition of this when Falcons third baseman, Jack Warrington, was selected as the only British player among the top 90 young European prospects to take part in the MLB Development Tournament during the MLB London Series in front of the MLB scouts.

The return of the Falcons to the NBL was in conjunction with the club’s Pilot Project which had the aim to increase the number of fans and provide a more immersive game day experience.

Despite operating on a limited budget, we sold a total of 284 tickets for the four NBL home games. The total included a number of complimentary tickets given to local primary schools and an organisation which supports people in Dacorum facing homelessness or social exclusion.

The department made a small profit. It would have been interesting to see what the results would have been if the team’s win-loss percentage was higher and had avoided some of the blow-out losses.

The project achieved most of the goals which were set, including:

  • Falcons’ return to the NBL
  • Grow the club’s fan base
  • Increase attendances at home NBL games
  • Increase publicity and media coverage
  • Raise the club’s profile
  • Inspire more children and adults to play baseball and join Herts

Youth Baseball

The Herts youth baseball programme grew again this year setting another record high.

photo by Richard Williams

The club was represented in all four age brackets of the national youth baseball championships picking up a silver at U19 level and two bronze medals for the U16s and U11s.

There is still a gap between our youth teams and the leading youth programme, but that gap is getting smaller every year.

photo by Marcus Grant

The coaching staff deserve a lot of praise for raising the standard further and providing more playing opportunities, some of which were added extras on top of the membership packages.

Coach Lee Manning once again ran the midweek youth baseball sessions in Hemel Hempstead and coach Stephen Wong added ten summer holiday sessions and four April half-term sessions. The Basing Hill branch also added twelve midweek evening sessions to the calendar.

U13 players also had the opportunity to work with coach Monte Brooks from The Master’s University, California who have seen a number of their players play in MLB.

Like any organisation, there will be hurdles that we need to overcome. This year, a large number of U11 players in Hemel Hempstead made the transition to U13 leaving a lower number of players in that U11 group. That made it difficult for U11 coaches to run regular season games. Although the size of our programme is at a record high, we are still slightly short of the level needed to run local league play in every age group on our own. Disproportionate fluctuations in numbers from one year to the next can leave one or more age groups vulnerable so we need to keep pushing for growth to reach the scale which will ensure stable regular season game schedule.

This year it was very satisfying to see the work of the youth baseball staff in the previous three years show results with many Herts youth players starting their transition to adult league baseball with the Hawks and in the Hunlock Series.

photo by Richard Williams

I must give a special mention to the parents. They see that the club is looking to build something special and provide children with lifelong memories and they have become very involved supporting all aspects on and off the field, from coaching and umpiring to concessions and field maintenance.

Financials

The club continues to be in a healthy financial position.  We were able to avoid any major increases in membership fees this year. However, we are operating in difficult economic conditions with high inflation.  We need to do our best to keep baseball affordable while continuing our prudent management of the club’s finances. There will be some cost pressures which we will not be able to avoid and club members also will have to adapt to the new membership fee structure which the BBF is about to announce for 2024.

Ballparks

In 2022 the club was awarded £2,851 match-funding from the BSUK Facilities Fund to be invested in improvements at Grovehill Ballpark with a total cost of £5,851.  The first stage of the work involving the installation of mound clay blocks for both pitching mounds at Grovehill was completed in 2022.  The main part of the project involved verti-draining, overseeding, top dressing and other procedures to improve the playing surface on both diamonds. It was scheduled for Spring 2023. 

Our contractors struggled to time the project due to heavy flooding in the Spring followed by a very dry spell which made the ground too hard for the spikes to penetrate the soil. As a result, it was implemented in September 2023 and grooves of newly grown grass could be seen during the Hunlock Series games in October (see photo above). 

We had wonderful support from Dacorum Borough Council who assigned two additional rooms to us.

They also re-painted all our rooms and installed new female and male toilets and washing facilities.

The club also acquired a new paint-based line-marking machine for Grovehill.

We completed the second phase of the Basing Hill Ballpark project with the installation of the infield perimeter fence.

photo by Rob Jones

Thanks to the Brent Cross Town Community Fund £2,632 award we were able to fund the purchase of a baseball pitching machine for Basing Hill which means that now both ballparks have one.

It is important that we increase awareness about ballpark and facilities operational and maintenance procedures and train the designated team supervisors so that we can ensure that our ballparks are kept at the highest standard year after year.

Media and IT

Our media operations continue to be among the best in British baseball, with the club and its members featured by various media organisations and publications.

The number of followers of our various media channels continues to grow at a good rate.

We saw an increase in quality and volume of video content on our YouTube channel which members and other followers enjoyed this year.

As always, our IT Director, Greg Bochan, was hard at work keeping the club’s IT infrastructure running, integrating all of its separate components to work smoothly with each other and enabling us to do things which would be impossible without this technology.

Events

photo by Rob Jones

Our club’s reputation for having some of the best ballparks in the UK and being able to host high profile events is paying off as we had the honour of hosting two MLB events around the MLB London Series. The first was the MLBPAA Youth Clinic featuring World Series winners, David Eckstein and Jake Arrieta, running a clinic with 60 kids from British baseball clubs around the UK.

The second was the MLB First Pitch event at Grovehill for around 200 pupils from local primary schools.

There was no Herts Futures Tournament in 2020 and 2021 but it is starting to regain momentum with the number of teams increasing from eight in 2022 to twelve this year.

The season would not be complete without the Hunlock Series. It also gave us an opportunity for all our adult teams to remember club member Dan Gipple who passed away this year.

British Baseball

Momentum is continuing to gather for baseball in the UK. The Great Britain National Team overcame the odds at the World Baseball Classic and secured a place in the next edition in 2026 without having to go through the qualifying stage.  

British coach Liam Carroll was appointed as the manager of the Boston Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate.

The MLB London Series was back. In 2024 we will welcome the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

2024

I expect to have a number of personal commitments coming up as we go into 2024. Although I will still be able to perform office-based roles such as Treasurer and Secretary, this will affect my ability to cover some of my other roles such as events and facilities manager.  I am also mindful of the fact that I have been a board member of the club since 2004 and it may be appropriate for club members and the board to have the opportunity, periodically, to consider whether they wish to appoint different persons in the roles which I am covering at present. The last time I stepped down from my roles was in 2015 and perhaps now is a good time to do that again.

If no candidates are appointed at the upcoming AGM and if the board decides not to co-opt others to these roles, I would be very happy to be co-opted again to roles which I am able to perform in 2024, if the board decides that this is in the club’s best interest. Whatever the decision of club members and the board, I will of course be very keen to ensure the best possible transition and hand-over of roles which are assigned to others in 2024.

We have grown from having one adult team with 19 members playing on one diamond in 2004 to an organisation with around 250 adult and youth players today and three diamonds – two in Hemel Hempstead and one in NW London.

These are exciting times for our club and its members and there is enormous potential and opportunities to continue growing and developing the club as we strive to get to the next level. 

Aspi Dimitrov

President

2023 MVP vote results are in

2023 MVP vote results are in

The Most Valuable Players (MVP) of the seven Herts adult league teams have been announced.  The players of each team voted to determine their team’s MVP so the results reflect who the players consider to have been the most influential members this year.

Herts Falcons (NBL)

The 2023 Herts Falcons MVP is player-manager, Cris Hiche. With a batting average of .397, slugging average of .638 and 3 home runs, Hiche was a consistent contributor to the team’s offence. Defensively, he produced a series of web gems including a Play of the Year candidate in the game away at the Capitals which was streamed live (see video above).

(photo by Tony Small)

Herts Cardinals (Triple-A)

For a second consecutive year, the Herts Cardinals chose Tyler Cote as the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was the team’s “go-to” pitcher including in the Playoff Semi-Final. He had the team’s best ERA (.366) and led the pitching staff in strikeouts (36) and wins (3) tied with three other pitchers. Offensively, he led in RBIs (21), stolen bases (18) and had the third best batting average (.400).

photo by Will Baxter

Herts Hawks (Double-A)

Harry McMenamin is the Herts Hawks MVP. This was his third season playing in the BBF senior leagues and he has been voted as the Hawks MVP in each of these three seasons.  His batting average was .552, slugging average was .845 which is almost identical to his numbers last year, despite the fact that his team is playing in a higher league tier this season. His contribution was in all aspects of the game, as a pitcher, with the glove in the infield and with his speed, stealing 27 bases.

photo by Rob Jones

Herts Ducks (Double-A)

The Herts Ducks MVP is Taysir Barakat. His teammates recognised his contribution on and off the field in a diffiuclt first season for the Ducks in the Double-A League when the team needed a lot of lifting. He had a batting average of .349, led in stolen bases (14) and his team relied on his pitching with the most innnings pitched (24).

photo by Tony Small

Herts Ravens (Single-A)

Zak Beller won the MVP vote among the Herts Ravens. He was a key player in a very successful season for the team going all the way to the Playoff semi-final. He led the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (40), was third in batting average (.686) and stolen bases (38). We should mention that pitcher and infielder Nic Goetz was a close second in the MVP vote. He had another exceptional season with an ERA of 2.45, 8 wins , no losses and 61 strikeouts. He also led the team with a .778 batting average.

Herts Raptors (Single-A)

Among the seven Herts senior league teams, the Herts Raptors recorded the biggest improvement in their winning average from .038 in 2022 to .348 this season. The players determined that pitcher Lee Dunn played a vital part in this and voted him as the Raptors 2023 MVP. He had the best ERA and the lowest opponent batting average. He also led the team with 3 home runs. This is only his first season with the club so we look forard to seeing what 2024 will bring for him and the Raptors.

Herts Eagles (Single-A)

The Herts Eagles MVP is George Llewelyn Thomas. He may not have been at the top of the offensive and defensive categories, but the fact that his teammates voted for him speaks volumes about the role he played in the team, bringing everyone together and leading by example. The team made enormous progress over the course of the season and they are already preparing for 2024.

Apart from being 2023 Ravens MVP, Zak Beller also won the Play of the Year with his 3 home runs in a game. Close behind him in the vote were Lee Dunn for his 2-home-run-game and Ben Sporleder for his fearless catch in centerfield smashing into the outfield wall.

There was a tie in the Nob-Out Award category between Tyler Cote and Lewis Auchterlounie for the most spectacular mishap of the season. Tyler Cote caused a delay in the start of the game away at Bristol when he lost his wedding rind requiring an urgent search party where both the home and away players had to comb the field on their knees. The ring was found successfully.

Lewis Auchterlounie shares the Nob-Out Award with Tyler Cote. He was one of the fans who came down to watch the Herts Falcons NBL game and decided to enter the 200m fan race during the 5th inning stretch. The prize for the winner was a hot dog so there was a lot on the line. One furlong into the race Lewis went down after pulling a hamstring.

With 2023 award-winners confirmed, attention is turning to preparations for the 2024 season. What will the new year bring? How many Herts teams will we see and which leagues will they play in? Which players will be challenging to move up the leagues and will a Herts team bring a national championship trophy home?

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

The game schedule for the 2023 Hunlock Series has been published and it has been confirmed that the “9th Inning” game format is in force which means that all games will be decided over a single inning only. This format was first adopted in the 2017 Hunlock Series. It recreates the tension and drama of the ninth inning.

The Green Cheese Cutters open the competition with a 4-game series against the Black Barracudas at 09:40am at Basing Hill Ballpark, followed by four more of these 4-game series with the day ending at around 5:30pm.

Opening Ceremony

There will be an opening ceremony at 12:30pm for the annual group photo of all the teams. This event will also see a ceremony to officially mark the opening of Basing Hill Ballpark after the completion of Phase 2 in June. Five local Councillors will throw out the ceremonial first pitch as the guests of honour.

Tournament rules

The following regulations will apply to the “9th Inning” format.

• The batting order of each team remains unchanged for the duration of the day unless a substitution is made.

• A substituted player cannot re-enter the same game, however that player can re-enter a subsequent game.

• The batter who was next to bat upon completion of the previous game will be the first batter in the next game with the rest of the batting lineup coming up to bat in order.

What is also noticeable from the schedule is that the home team alternates over the course of the 4-game series which implies that the fielding team in the bottom of the inning will remain in the field in the top of the inning of the subsequent game. This scheduling approach was adopted in previous years and it sped-up the games enormously as that halved the number of times teams go in and out of the field. There even was no need for warm-up pitches as the pitchers were ready. The downside is that a pitcher will need to stay on the mound for 6 outs without a break as opposed to the usual 3 outs, which could mean twice as many pitches thrown in an inning. This is where the defence can really help pitchers, by minimising errors and not adding to the pitcher’s pitch count.

League and Playoff Format

The first two weeks of the Series will see a league format where each team will play a total of 16 games, 4 games against each of their opponents.

The postseason playoff will be played on 15 October. Those games will also adopt the one-inning game format. See playoff tournament tree above.

Other rules

The other rules which differ from what teams are used to in the BBF leagues are:

• Pitching Restrictions. A player can appear as a pitcher in one, two or more games per day, but no player shall accumulate more than 3 innings (9 outs) as a pitcher over the course of the day. It is the responsibility of the opposing team to inform the umpire when a pitcher reaches the limit. Managers must inform opponents of the number of innings pitched by each of their pitchers during the day prior to the start of each game.

• No Mercy Rule will be in force.

• If the game is tied after completion of the final inning, each team is awarded half a win and half a loss in the standings.

The 2023 Hunlock Series Draft took place on Friday night.  See more details here.

If you have not signed up to play in the Hunlock Series, it is not too late. Contact Herts Baseball Club for details on how to sign up.

Bennett, Badenhorst, Dearing, Cresswell and Shinkawa are the first round picks.

Bennett, Badenhorst, Dearing, Cresswell and Shinkawa are the first round picks.

The 2023 Hunlock Series Draft was completed on Friday night. The managers of the teams had a plethora of talent to choose from with 82 players drafted over 17 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 Yellow Wizards had the first pick. Manager, Osvaldo Badia, selected Sean Bennett (pictured above) – a member of the Triple-A League Semi-Finalist, Herts Cardinals.

The Black Barracudas chose pitcher and infielder Josh Badenhorst with their first pick. He has been wearing the MK Bucks jersey this season and has previously played for the various Herts youth teams.

The Big Red Machine had the next pick. They selected Herts Cardinals player-manager Brian Dearing whose primary positions are starting pitcher and shortstop.

The defending Hunlock Series champions, Blue Buzzards, were next and they picked Herts Falcons first baseman and outfielder, Mike Cresswell.

Finally, Green Cheese Cutters manager, Callum Ferrier, selected Testuro Shinkawa with his first pick.

FREE AGENTS AND TRADES

The full team rosters determined at last night’s draft are shown here.

New players are sill regisering and they will be added to the teams as free agents.

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 09:40am at Basing Hill Ballpark in north west London. Admission is free. For complete Series schedule click here.

Hunlock Series managers announced. The Live Draft is on Friday night.

Hunlock Series managers announced. The Live Draft is on Friday night.

We are counting down to the 2023 Hunlock Series Live Draft which will take place this Friday, 22 September at 8:00pm.

For those who are new to the Hunlock Series, in the days leading up to the Draft, the 100+ Herts players (aged 14 and over) and newly registered players mark their availability for the three weeks of the Hunlock Series. The team managers then take turns picking players one by one over the twenty or so rounds of the Draft. It will be interesting to see which players will be picked in the first round and who will be the very first pick.  In previous years, that honour has gone primarily to Conner Brown.

Players and fans can follow the Draft picks here as they happen. Participants will also be able to interact and chat about the Draft in WhatsApp groups as the managers make their picks.

The team managers

Five teams go into this year’s competition. The managerial appointments have just been announced.

  • Black Barracudas – Duane Badenhorst
  • Blue Buzzards – Danny Preston
  • Green Cheese Cutters – Callum Ferrier
  • Big Red Machine – Nick Sanders
  • Yellow Wizards – Osvaldo Badia

Danny Preston led the Blue Buzzards to the Hunlock Series championship last year and he is back to defend the title this year.

Fans will see some new faces in the Hunlock Series this year who have joined the club in the last few weeks, so there will be an element of surprise in Friday’s Draft. Some of them may be new to Herts fans but they are not new to the game. The Hunlock Series could give us a glimpse at some of the new players who will be wearing the Herts uniform in 2024.

Historically the Herts adult league team managers have used the Hunlock Series games to evaluate current and new players in preparation for the new season, to populate their rosters and positions and to decide which leagues the Herts teams should go into in 2024.

How to regsiter

All Hunlock Series players will be drafted into teams. To be eligible for the Draft players will need to update their availability for all the Hunlock Series dates in the online Clubhouse by 7pm on Friday, 22 September. If you miss the deadline or the first one or two weeks of games, don’t worry. New players will still be eligible to play but will have to be assigned to teams as free agents after the Draft.

If you already have a Clubhouse account you can update availability by logging on with your existing username and password. Click here to go to the Clubhouse.

If you do not have a Clubhouse account but wish to play in the Hunlock Series, please register here and select “Play Hunlock Series” in the membership category list. After registering you can log on and mark your availability.

To be eligible to play in the Hunlock Series, players must be 14 years of age or above on 31 December 2023.

Entry fee

2023 club members, including non-roster club members, do not have to pay an entry fee as the Hunlock Series is part of their membership package. If you don’t have a Hunlock Series team shirt, you can buy one before your first game. The price is £10. Many players already have Hunlock Series team shirts from previous years and, to keep costs down for players, an online group will be set up where they can exchange their shirt if they have been picked by a team wearing a different colour team shirt.

New players or players from other clubs can play by paying the £24 entry fee which includes a free Hunlock Series shirt of the team which has drafted them.

For more details about playing in the Hunlock Series, contact us.

Eagles celebrate big moment; Ravens, Cards get crucial wins

A win is a win, but some wins are bigger than others. For the Herts Eagles, the victory at the Essex Redbacks on Sunday was special. It was, they said, “epic”. For this was their first win this season, which has been a tough year in which a team made up of largely rookie players battled numbers, availability, and the baseball gods.

The first game of the double-header had ended in a 5-5 tie which was, in itself, a great step forward. Joseph Coulson struck out 7 in a complete game effort, and made a highlight reel catch in foul ground. The Eagles outhit the Redbacks, too.

But even better was to come in Game 2. Jake Spicer turned in a solid pitching performance, and he was backed with an offense which struck early and often. Neil Chilton and Pavan Sunkara delivered key hits in the first inning, Sammy English ran wild on the bases in the second, and the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

Defense, as always, was crucial too. A double play at first base, and a great catch down the left field line by Atena Barani, helped protect the lead. And when Spicer tired in the final inning, Chilton stepped in for the save. He secured the final out with a fielders’ choice at home plate, and Eagles took the game 9-6.

Manager Reece Crawley – who said he was “on cloud 9” after the win – had a long list of shout-outs to every member his squad for giving everything. “I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and dedication of a team that never gave up”, he said.

There was credit for George Llewellyn Thomas – for keeping the spirits high when energy was low — and to coach Sydney McCall – for helping everyone stay focused, and to move when they had to and stay when they needed to!

A team wins together, and the Eagles were able to celebrate together after a well-deserved victory.

The Herts Ravens took their win streak up to 15 games in their Single-A doubleheader at Grovehill against the Herts Raptors. The Ravens are leading their division, but the post-season rules mean every game is a must-win to be sure of a place and to secure seeding.

Zak Beller at bat

Eddie Wang took the win in Game 1, his sixth of the year. He didn’t perhaps have his best stuff and the Raptors offered stiff resistance, working walks and mustering 6 hits – Max Kuszewski with two of them. But Wang battled out of trouble and he was helped by the crucial batting power of Ravens’ lefty slugger Zak Beller. He went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a triple, and drove in 7. It ended 19-8.

Game 2 saw ace Nic Goetz deliver the goods again, striking out 7 to take the win. But again Raptors fought hard, with Jamie Wise and Natasha Romoff among the hits. For the Ravens, Jack Page got two hits to drive the offense. Sonam Lama also racked up his sixth walk and fifth run of the day, and helped nail down the 13-6 win.

On Grovehill’s other diamond, the Herts Hawks of the Double-A league were facing the MK Bucks, who are challenging for the playoffs.

While wins eluded the Hawks in both games, there were some outstanding performances. Jack O’Brien was excellent on the mound, striking out 7 and dominating the opposition in much of the first game. Kobby Darteh drove in a pair and both he and Seth Muirden — recently promoted from the junior leagues – put in huge and successful efforts to adapt to the senior leagues.

Game 2 saw tremendous defence from Harry McMenamin and from Max Farmborough, who put in an excellent shift at shortstop, out of his usual positions. He ended one inning with an impressive double play, making the catch and gunning out an aggressive runner trying to score. Manager Ken Pike felt his team were starting to show their mettle as they tightened their defense and got the bats going – “the Hawks may be newly promoted but they are starting to show that the step up, while it’s a challenge, is setting great groundwork to re-establishing a credible Herts Hemel Hempstead double A presence.”

The Hawks defensive aces

The Cardinals faced Bournemouth Bears at Basing Hill in Triple-A, and needed to get a result if they were to stay in the playoff hunt. The Bears took the win 7-2 in Game 1, despite a solid outing by Tyler Cote and three hits by Osvaldo Badia.

But the big win came in Game 2. Early exchanges were tight, but then the Cardinals went ahead for good. RBIs by Badia, Cote and Mike Cresswell gave the home side a 5-3 lead. They extended it in the fourth, courtesy of Naohiko Kumagai and Hiroki Fujimoto, who both enjoyed multi-hit games.

Brian Dearing took the 9-3 victory on the mound, surrendering just 3 runs in five innings of work. Stephen Wong recorded the save and the Cardinals stay in the postseason race.

The Ducks were swept by Sidewinders in their doubleheader in Double-A, while the Herts Falcons went out with a bang as they were finally eliminated from playoff contention in the NBL. They pushed the London Capitals all the way, even going to extras in Game 2. But they came away empty handed, and because rained out games against Sheffield can’t be rescheduled they are out of the race.

There was a welcome treat for Falcons fans – and British baseball fans more generally – as the games were streamed online. Viewers checked in from around the world to see the drama, and to see how well the Falcons closed their first season back in the top flight.

Around the Herts diamonds July 29/30

The Herts Ravens extended their winning streak in Single-A to 11 games, with a dominant sweep of their double-header against the Herts Eagles.

Eddie Wang took the pitching win in Game 1, striking out 3 in a complete game effort. He was only denied a shutout in the final stages. The offense gave him consistent backing, with Matt Jackson going 2-for-3 and Hang Li driving in 3 runs.

Game 2 saw ace Nic Goetz deliver the goods for the Ravens. 10 strikeouts to just one walk shows how in control he stayed. Pavan Sunkar and Michael Green were responsible for the the home side’s 2 hits. The games ended 15-1 and 19-0.

The Herts Raptors were looking to stay in the race for the division when they hosted the Essex Redbacks at Grovehill. They led after three innings, keyed by an Adam Scales double. But the visitors managed to impose themselves late, and a Herts rally fell just short It ended 14-8. Game 2 was rained out.

There was praise for the Raptors’ Danny Preston and Jamie Berlofsky for stepping into unfamiliar roles – as pitcher and catcher respectively – and putting in outstanding performances. Jack Burkett was also said to have put in “one hell of a shift” in the outfield.

Herts Raptors in action

The Herts Hawks travelled to the Essex Archers in the Double-A league. They out-hit their hosts in Game 1 – with spark-plug Harry McMenamin going 3-for-4 with two doubles, and Declan Carlean going 2-for-4. Ken Pike struck out four, but Essex were always able to keep their nose in front and won 9-4. The Archers were able to repeat the feat in Game 2, taking a 13-4 win with their pitchers combining for 8 Ks.

Harry McMenamin had made an impact on Saturday, too, when he made a guest appearance for the Herts Ducks in Double-A. They were at home to the London Musketeers and endured a tough day, but coaches were impressed with McMenamin’s “heart and hustle”. The Ducks lost 29-3 and 18-2, with the bright spots from Game 2 two strong innings from Prime Mencias, and RBIs for Jake Spicer and Bradley Charalambous.

The Herts Cardinals were having a good day in their Triple-A matchup against the Kent Buccaneers. They won Game 1 by a score of 15-5 behind the pitching of Brian Dearing and Osvaldo Badia’s home run and 5 RBIs. But rain washed out Game 2, so that will have to be picked up at a later date.

In the NBL, the Herts Falcons were resting, but other results did go their way. Both the East London Latin Boys and the Sheffield Bruins lost their games, and Herts remain fifth in the standings, hoping for a chance at the last playoff berth.

Herts Ducks at bat
Herts teams announce preliminary 2023 rosters for the HSL

Herts teams announce preliminary 2023 rosters for the HSL

The seven Herts teams have announced their preliminary rosters for the 2023 Herts Spring League.

We understand that these rosters are not fixed and it is likely that there may be movement between teams over the course of the HSL. Some players may play for more than one team as managers look to evaluate them ahead of the announcement of the 2023 Opening Day rosters.

The HSL games commence on April 1st.

New players are registering every week, therefore some new names may be added to the rosters over the course of the HSL and throughout the league season.

Herts Falcons (National Baseball League)

  • Alex Deacon
  • Alexander Paterson
  • Ben Morris
  • Ben Moruzzi
  • Benjamin  Sporleder
  • Cole Nakazawa
  • Daniel Moran
  • Dylan  Lawler
  • Eli Belizaire
  • Fraser Duggan
  • Harry Quixley
  • Jack Mccarthy
  • Jack Warrington
  • Kaden Horwood
  • Leo  Nakazawa
  • Leon Gutowski
  • Matthew Moran
  • Max Manoff
  • Michael Cresswell
  • Nathan  Simmons
  • Nicholas Effingham
  • Rene Torcato
  • Samuel Sporleder
  • Tasuku Ishihara
  • Tetsuro Shinkawa
  • Will Clayton

Herts Cardinals (Triple-A)

  • Andy Cornish
  • Arik Raviv
  • Brian Dearing
  • Chun Hung Wong
  • Erik Gustafson
  • Giorgio Ferroni
  • Hiroki Fujimoto
  • James Cavanagh
  • James Hicks
  • Javier Tomas
  • Joshua Pines
  • Naohiko Kumagai
  • Osvaldo Badia Rivero
  • Robert Laflamme
  • Roberto  Hernandez
  • Sean Bennett
  • Tyler Cote
  • Vytas Macenas
  • Will Davis

Herts Ducks (Double-A)

  • Alexander Trautman
  • Bradley Charalambous
  • Bryan Mencias
  • Danilo Machado
  • David Mas
  • Evan Robins
  • Hang Li
  • Jake Spicer
  • John Del Riccio
  • Kumail Jaffer
  • Max Trautman
  • Miguel Gibson
  • Mohamed Abdule
  • Paras Patravale
  • Prime Mencias
  • Sebastian Cheng
  • Taysir Barakat

Herts Hawks (Double-A)

  • Antonio Lourenco
  • Callum Ferrier
  • Cameron Schultz
  • Declan Carlean
  • Gerrod Taylor
  • Giuseppe Basilea
  • Harry Ewen
  • Harry Mcmenamin
  • Jack Obrien
  • Kennet Pike
  • Michael Johnson
  • Noah  Tabor
  • Peter Hogg
  • Thomas Hill
  • Todd Neville

Herts Eagles (Single-A)

  • Ahmed Hassan
  • Boran Sahin
  • Daniel Gipple
  • Eleni Xintaras
  • Francesco Meduri
  • George Llewelyn Thomas
  • James Tappenden
  • Jamie Lang-Richards
  • Joe Gipple
  • Joseph Flores
  • Mark Vidler-Connaughton
  • Michael Green
  • Neil Chilton
  • Peter Wilson
  • Reece Crawley
  • Reece  Williamson-White
  • Saira Smith

Herts Raptors (Single–A)

  • Abdul Elhamri
  • Adam Scales
  • Billy Perry
  • Danny Preston
  • David Howard
  • Hamza Chowdhree
  • Jack Burkett
  • Jamie Berlofsky
  • Jamie Wise
  • John Kjorstad
  • Jordon Fox
  • Lauren Dutch
  • Lee Dunn
  • Lewis Auchterlounie
  • Martin Kuszewski
  • Max Farmbrough
  • Maxymus Kuszewski
  • Michael Cunningham
  • Nicholas Hine
  • Paul Auchterlounie
  • Rufus Lloyd
  • Steve Kis
  • Swar Panchal
  • Thomas Browne

Herts Ravens (Single-A)

  • Andrew Slater
  • Arnold Longboy
  • Cory English
  • Dan Taylor
  • Ed Moore
  • Eric Ferng
  • Gilberto Medina
  • Greg Bochan
  • Henry Bell
  • Hunter Devine
  • Jack Page
  • Joseph  Field
  • Matthew Bell
  • Matthew Jackson
  • Nicolas Goetz
  • Norman Peng
  • Rob Jones
  • Sonam Lama
  • Wei Chieh Wang
  • Zak Beller

Players, from beginners to advanced, are continuing to register for the 2023 baseball season. For more details about how to join the Herts baseball teams in Hemel Hempstead and in NW London or for more details about the HSL or if you are interested to give baseball a try in this competition contact Herts Baseball Club.

2023 BBF league lineups and schedules released. Tough Opening Day opponents for the 7 Herts teams.

2023 BBF league lineups and schedules released. Tough Opening Day opponents for the 7 Herts teams.

The British Baseball Federation has published the 2023 line-ups and schedules for the four league tiers.

National Baseball League

The Herts Falcons are making their return to the NBL which will feature seven teams this season. Arrows, Bruins, Capitals, Falcons, Mets, Vetra and the East London Latin Boys who are the other new team to enter the NBL following their promotion as the Triple-A national champions last year.

Each team will play 24 games in the regular season – 12 doubleheaders – facing each of the other six teams home and away. The postseason format and playoff qualification has not been announced yet but it is expected that the top four teams in the regular season standings will qualify for the playoff semi-finals on August 20th with the winners meeting in the NBL championship best-of-3 series on 26 and 27 August.

The Falcons will make the long trip to Sheffield on Opening Day to face the Bruins on Sunday, April 16th. Their home opener is a week later on Saturday, 22 April, when they host the reigning NBL champions, London Mets.

We understand the Falcons and the Latin Boys have submitted a request to the BBF to switch their series from June 18th to Sunday July 23rd at Grovehill Ballpark to enable the Latin Boys to take part in the Croydon Tournament. If the BBF approves this request, Herts plans to make this a special event. There are no games in any of the four BBF leagues on that weekend and Herts current and former club members and fans are advised to save the date – Sunday, 23 July.

As announced back in December, the 2023 NBL season will feel very different for Herts Falcons players and fans as the club is running the NBL Pilot Project and all their home games will be ticketed. Now that the game schedule has been published, ticket sales will be launched in the coming days.

The Herts Falcons go into the season as the rank outsiders but it is difficult to make any predictions at this stage as the roster has not been announced. We may have more information about their chances after we see the team in action for the first time in the HSL next week.

Triple-A League

Similar to the Falcons, the Herts Cardinals start the season by making the longest trip of the year away at the Bristol Badgers on Sunday, 16 April. Their first home game of the season is on April 30th when they welcome their cross-town rivals, the London Metros.

Last year the Triple-A league consisted of two pools. This year it has been merged into one pool of eight teams. The Croydon Pirates are the new addition after they won the Double-A national championship last year.

Each team will face their opponents home and away in a regular season with a total of fourteen doubleheaders which will continue all the way into September.

Double-A League

Herts Baseball Club was not represented in the Double-A league last year. This year they will have two teams in that league.  The Herts Hawks have been promoted after reaching the Single-A national semi-final last year.  They will be joined by the club’s expansion team – the Herts Ducks – who will play their home games at the club’s Basing Hill branch in north west London.

The offseason saw a surge of teams moving up from Single-A to Double-A and some moved down from Triple-A to Double-A so there will be four Double-A pools this year.

The Herts Hawks are in the “Central & East” pool alongside the Cambridge Lancers, Essex Archers, Milton Keynes Bucks and the Norwich Iceni. The Herts Ducks are in the “South” pool where they will compete against the Latin Boys (AA), Formosa Islanders, London Musketeers, London Meteors and the Sidewinders.

The Hawks open their season away at the Archers on 23 April while the Ducks are at home on 16 April against the Meteors. There will be no inter-pool matchups in Double-A so there will not be a Herts derby between the Ducks and the Hawks but they can hope to meet in the postseason.

Single-A League

With the Hawks promoted to Double-A, Herts will have three teams in the Single-A league this year.  The BBF has chosen to minimize travel for teams and has allocated all three Herts teams in the same pool where they are joined by the Essex Redbacks (A) and the Milton Keynes Bucks (A). Surprisingly, the BBF has also decided to remove the inter-pool games from the regular season schedule which will reduce the variety of opponents in favour of less travel.

The Herts Eagles open their season away at the Bucks on 23 April. Raptors’ first game is on 7 May at home against the Eagles while the Herts Ravens will have to wait until 14 May to get their season underway at the MK Bucks.

With three Herts teams in the same pool, there will be nine Herts derbies to look forward to. We have to wait until the postseason format is announced to see whether having three Herts teams in the same pool will reduce the probability of seeing Herts teams in the playoffs.

HSL

But before the BBF league season commences, we will have the opportunity to see 17 of the teams play their first games of the year in the 2023 Herts Spring League which is played over two weeks starting on 1 and 2 April (see HSL preview article).

New players

New players are still able to join six of the seven Herts teams. A waiting list system is in effect for the Herts Raptors, but players can be assigned to the other Herts teams while they are on the Raptors waiting list. For more details, contact us.

Countdown to HSL – first chance to see the teams ahead of the 2023 British baseball season

Countdown to HSL – first chance to see the teams ahead of the 2023 British baseball season

The biggest pre-season baseball competition in Britain is back. Commencing on April 1, the Herts Spring League (HSL) will see 17 teams compete over the two weeks of the HSL. Organised by Herts Baseball Club, it is Britain’s version of MLB’s Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues currently under way in the US, and it signals that the season is just around the corner.

Format

The 17 teams will be entered into three HSL tiers – NBL, Double-A and Single-A.

The organisers considered the possibility of a tournament format, but ultimately adopted a league format in the same way as the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in MLB. “The objective of the HSL is to enable the teams to prepare for the new season and we have noticed that teams are increasingly starting to approach the HSL in the same way as MLB teams approach the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues” said HSL Commissioner, Aspi Dimitrov. He added “we have taken this into account when formulating the schedule putting greater emphasis on the preferences and preparatory requirements of the teams over the format of the competition”.

The teams finishing at the top of their respective division will be the HSL champions.

The Venue

The action will take place at both Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, and Basing Hill Ballpark in north west London.

Schedule

Over the two weekends 27 games are scheduled to be played on the three diamonds. The competition begins on April 1 with a morning clash between the Herts Hawks and the Single-A national champions, Bracknell Inferno. Both teams have been promoted to Single-A this year. At the same time on Diamond 2, there is a HSL Single-A match-up between the Herts Ravens and the Formosa Islanders.

The HSL NBL division teams play their frst games on Sunday, 2 April. This will be the first opportunity to see the Herts Falcons as they prepare to make their return to the NBL. There will be many new faces for Herts fans to meet for the first time as well as some fan favorites from previous NBL seasons. The preliminary Herts Falcons roster for the HSL will be announced later this month.

Some of the HSL NBL and Double-A games will be played at Basing Hill Ballpark, starting with the Herts Cardinals encounter with the Essex Redbacks who merged with the Essex Arrows earlier this year to create a much larger club with three diamonds in three different Essex towns which is expected to make them a major force in British baseball.

Click to view full 2023 HSL schedule

Excitement building up

The Herts Spring League adds a competitive edge to Spring training. It’s the time for managers to work out their winning formula going into the BBF league season. It is an opportunity to evaluate existing and newly recruited players. Which players will earn a spot in the pitching rotation and who will be batting where in the batting order? Who will make the first team and who will have to work their way up through the minor league system? Not forgetting, it’s a chance to size up your rivals for the year ahead. It’s the first big challenge and the first big excitement of the baseball year. Don’t miss it.

Get in the Game

Adult and youth players, from beginners to advanced, are now registering for the 2023 baseball season. For more details about how to join the Herts baseball teams in Hemel Hempstead and in NW London or for more details about the HSL or if you are interested to give baseball a try in this competition contact Herts Baseball Club.