Category: Legends

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.

Herts Baseball Club adds more board members ahead of the 2023 season

Herts Baseball Club adds more board members ahead of the 2023 season

The club has confirmed that the number of executive board members has increased to fifteen after the results of last month’s elections were announced along with the appointment of several additional board members who have been co-opted.

As part of the announcement of the partnership between Herts and Legends last month, it was already confirmed that the Herts Legends NBL team will be managed by Great Britain U18 national team manager and president of Legends Baseball Club, Jonathan Rodriguez. Today’s announcement confirms that he has now been appointed as a member of the club board. 

In addition to his role as Herts Legends manager, he has also been appointed as co-General Manager alongside the two other co-GMs, Arnold Longboy (pictured right) and Aspi Dimitrov, who have also been co-opted having served in that role over the previous twelve months. Rodriguez will cover the on-field aspects of the GM role, while Longboy and Dimitrov will focus on operations off the field.

Ken Pike and Sean Bennett have been re-elected as board member as Herts Hawks manager and Herts Cardinals representative, respectively.

Matt Bell has also been re-elected as co-manager of the Herts Londoners and he will be working alongside Andrew Slater who returns to the board having previously co-managed the Herts Hawks in 2016 when the team became Single-A League national champion winning every regular season and postseason game they played that year.

Ken Pike and Andrew Slater have already had the sweet taste of becoming national champions in 2016. Can they do it again in 2023 as managers of the Herts Hawks and co-manager of the Herts Londoners, respectively?

Mike Cunningham has been elected to the board as the new Herts Raptors manager. The team finished far from the playoff places in 2022 but has a wealth of young talented players who are progressing rapidly and are expected to start imposing themselves on the league in the next few years.

The club’s hopes of adding a Double-A League team at its Basing Hill branch was a hot topic at the annual general meeting and the club has made a statement of intent by co-opting Miguel Gibson as manager of that proposed Double-A team. In 2022 he was a member of the Croydon Pirates who became Double-A national champions. The race is now on to see if the club will be able to put together a roster to add that missing piece at Basing Hill. 

Players have started registering for the 2023 season and Herts team managers will shortly be assessing what the rosters might look like in 2023 in order to decide how many teams to enter this year and in which BBF leagues. The deadline for league entries is 31 January.

The Herts youth baseball programme has also been strengthened with the election of Stephen Wong as head of the Hemel Hempstead under-13 department. He gave the programme an huge boost when he joined the youth coaching staff last year.

Aspi Dimitrov has also been re-elected as president and facilities manager for Grovehill Ballpark.

Link to the full list of 2023 board members.  More members are expected to be added between now and Opening Day.

As part of the vote, club members approved the amendment of article 9.4 of the constitution related to the deadline for board nominations.

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.