Category: Raptors

Herts teams announce preliminary 2022 rosters for the HSL

Herts teams announce preliminary 2022 rosters for the HSL

The five Herts teams have announced their preliminary rosters for the 2022 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 2022 Opening Day rosters. The Eagles and Londoners rosters are combined for this reason and may split later in the HSL.

The HSL games commence on March 19th.

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 Cardinals (Triple-A)

  • Alexander Trautman
  • Andy Cornish
  • Arik Raviv
  • Brian Dearing
  • James Cavanagh
  • James Hicks
  • Javier  Cardenas Tomas
  • Joshua Pines
  • Michael Anunobi
  • Michael Wakelam
  • Nicolas Goetz
  • Osvaldo Badia Rivero
  • Paras Patravale
  • Robert Laflamme
  • Roberto  Hernandez
  • Sean Bennett
  • Tetsuro Shinkawa
  • Tyler Cote
  • Vytas Macenas
  • Will Davis
  • Yves Schwarzbart

Herts Hawks (Single-A)

  • Andy Cornish
  • Antonio Lourenco
  • Antony Lavender
  • Cameron Schultz
  • Charlie Obrien
  • Dale Hardwick
  • Danny Preston
  • Declan Carlean
  • Elroy Davis
  • Harry Ewen
  • Harry Mcmenamin
  • Jack Obrien
  • Jordon Fox
  • Kennet Pike
  • Laurence Currington
  • Luis Martins
  • Michael Cunningham
  • Nick Barnaby
  • Paul Le Guillou
  • Pedro Martins
  • Peter Hogg
  • Todd Neville

Herts Raptors (Single–A)

  • Adam Scales
  • Beth Wain
  • Billy Perry
  • Calum Thompson
  • Ellie Page
  • James Morrell
  • James Watson
  • Jamie Berlofsky
  • Jamie Wise
  • Joel Eden
  • John Kjorstad
  • Lauren Dutch
  • Marcus Wathew
  • Mantas Poderys
  • Max Farmbrough
  • Neil Chilton
  • Noah  Tabor
  • Paul Auchterlounie
  • Rory Vangundy
  • Simon Jackson-Turner
  • Thomas Browne
  • Tom Roker

Herts Eagles / Herts Londoners (Single-A)

  • Aishiek Mitra Nandy
  • Alexander Trautman
  • Andy Stratford
  • Arnold Longboy
  • Aspi Dimitrov
  • Brad Charalambous
  • Bryan Mencias
  • Cory English
  • Dan Taylor
  • Daniel Gipple
  • Gilberto Medina
  • Giorgio Ferroni
  • Greg Bochan
  • Henry Bell
  • Hunter Devine
  • Isabella Trautman
  • James Angelou
  • Jamie Lang-Richards
  • Jason Reynolds
  • Joe Gipple
  • Joseph  Field
  • Kenny Liao
  • Kumail Jaffer
  • Kwong yan Li
  • Luke Ward
  • Mark Lewinson
  • Matthew Bell
  • Max Trautman
  • Michael Green
  • Michael Wakelam
  • Mohamed Abdule
  • Nicolas Goetz
  • Norman Peng
  • Peter Wilson
  • Rob Jones
  • Saira Smith
  • Sammy English
  • Thomas Hill
  • Wei Chieh Wang
  • Yu Tsz Cheung
  • Zak Beller
  • Zephaniah Prime Mencias

Players, from beginners to advanced, are now registering for the 2022 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.

Countdown to HSL – first chance to see the teams ahead of the 2022 British baseball season

Countdown to HSL – first chance to see the teams ahead of the 2022 British baseball season

The biggest pre-season baseball competition in Britain is back. Commencing on March 19, the Herts Spring League (HSL) will see 19 teams compete over the 3 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.


The 19 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 on the two diamonds at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, the home of Herts Baseball Club.


Over the three weekends 40 games are scheduled to be played on the two diamonds. The competition begins on March 19 with a morning clash on Diamond 1 between the London Metros and the Essex Redbacks in the HSL NBL division. At the same time on Diamond 2, there is a Double-A clash between the Croydon Pirates and the London Musketeers.

The Herts Raptors are the first Herts team in action on that day as they meet the Mustangs. The first opportunity to see the Herts Cardinals’ first ever game will be on Sunday, 20 March, when they will meet ACS Cougars and the Sidewinders.

Alongside the deciding HSL games on the final day (April 3), Grovehill Ballpark will host the NBL Opening Day doubleheader between the Lancashire Legends and newly promoted BC Vetra who won the Triple-A National Championship last year.

Click to view full 2022 HSL schedule

Youth Baseball Open Days

In addition to the games, there will be three Youth Baseball Open Sessions for any boys and girls aged 6 to 14 who are not members of a baseball club at the moment. This is a good opportunity for them to try baseball at no cost. Each session is 2 hours long.

For more details and to book a place, please complete this form.

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 with the minor league teams? 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

Players, from beginners to advanced, are now registering for the 2022 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.

19 teams will signal the arrival of Spring in the 2022 HSL

19 teams will signal the arrival of Spring in the 2022 HSL

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed that 19 teams have entered this year’s Herts Spring League (HSL). The teams come from all British baseball leagues including the National Baseball League (NBL), Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A Leagues.

The HSL teams will be divided into three divisions as follows:

HSL (NBL) Teams
HSL (Double-A) Teams
HSL (Single-A) Teams

Schedule and Format

The HSL will be played over three weeks commencing on the weekend of 19-20 March and ending on 2-3 April. The HSL format and games schedule are expected to be announced shortly and will bring this and all other HSL news as they happen.

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.

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)

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.


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

Board appointments at Herts. Falcons manager news expected soon.

Board appointments at Herts. Falcons manager news expected soon.

Herts Baseball Club confirmed the following board appointments from the club’s elections at its annual general meeting.

  • Treasurer – Aspi Dimitrov
  • Shop Manager – Matt Bell
  • Welfare Officer – Mark Caress
  • Facilities Manager (Grovehill Ballpark) – Aspi Dimitrov

Following the elections, the board has also co-opted several members to fill vacant board positions.

Single-A team managers

Matt Bell and Aspi Dimitrov have been co-opted as co-managers of one of the Single-A league teams based at the club’s ballpark in London. Last year the team was managed by Arnie Longboy and Aspi Dimitrov but Longboy has today been appointed to a different board position, more details of which are included below.

In the next week or so the club also expects to appoint the manager of the second Single-A team in Hemel Hempstead.  Ken Pike continues as manager of the first Single-A team at Grovehill Ballpark.

General Manager

As part of the plans for the Herts Falcons in the NBL and revamping the club’s overall commercial structure,  the club has introduced a new board position of General Manager and has co-opted Arnie Longboy and Aspi Dimitrov as joint GMs. Both of them bring years of professional experience in business and sports management. The role of the GM varies in different industries, but over the years has become an integral part of north American sports.

Herts Falcons Manager

Rebuilding the Herts Falcons roster and making the team competitive in the National Baseball League (NBL) in the coming years is a key element of the club’s short and long term plans and the next step which is of the highest priority for this project is the appointment of the new Falcons manager. The club hopes to have news on this shortly.

Players can express interest in playing for the Falcons in the NBL by completing this online form.

Adult and youth league players now registering for the 2022 baseball season

Adult and youth league players now registering for the 2022 baseball season

Player registration for the 2022 season has commenced.

In 2021 Herts Baseball Club grew by 44% introducing many newcomers to the game of baseball. The goal for 2022 is to bring performance levels of all Herts adult and youth league teams up and to move up the league standings.


How many teams will represent Herts in 2022? 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; how many will play in Hemel Hempstead and how many will play in London; which leagues the teams will play in.


(events and dates are subject to change depending on Covid-19 restrictions)

  • 30 January – players report for Spring Training
  • 19-20 March – Start of the 2022 Herts Spring League (subject to confirmation of the BBF League Opening Day)*
  • March-April – Great Britain National Team Tryouts (senior and youth teams)*
  • 3 or 10 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


Last year saw the first season of the Herts Youth Baseball League. The number of registered youth players rose from 21 in 2020 to 75 in 2021 which is the highest in the club’s history. 2021 was just the starting point. In 2022 and subsequent years the club will aim to enhance and develop the programme further to make Herts one of the leading clubs for youth players.


(events and dates are subject to change depending on Covid-19 restrictions)

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

Click here for more details of the membership packages


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.


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 2022 and the membership packages click here or contact us.

2021 MVP vote results are in

2021 MVP vote results are in

The Most Valuable Players (MVP) of the ten Herts adult and youth 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.

The Falcons voted for Will Zucker who led the team not only as a player but also stepped in as interim co-manager alongside Mike Cresswell in what was a very challenging year for the team. Jack O’Brien has made big strides over the last few years and this has been recognised as he was voted the Hawks MVP. 14-year-old Harry McMenamin was the Raptors MVP in what was his debut year in the BBF senior leagues. There could be no question about the Eagles MVP where Mike Wakelam led not just the team but the entire league with 9 home runs.  He also led the team with a .667 batting average and 1.444 slugging average. Cory English was the Londoners MVP. He made his BBF league debut with Herts this year and in just a few months has become one of the most popular players around the league, not to mention his spectacular fielding which produced multiple nominations for Play of the Year.

The Herts U18 team voted Josh Badenhorst as the MVP after his outstanding pitching performance in the Semi-Final of the U18 National Championships. That game was suspended halfway through and is expected to resume in the Spring so he has some unfinished business. Harry McMenamin was the U15 MVP while Lucas Hao was the U13 MVP after a dominant display which almost gave Herts a win over LS.  The Herts U11 league home run leader Connor O’Neill-Thompson was voted Herts Falcons U11 MVP and Cosmo English of the Herts Londoners U11 became the second member of his family to be voted MVP this year.

Dale Hardwick’s canon throw from centerfield was voted Play of the Year in a close race with Connor O’Neill-Thompson and Rory Graham and Cosmo English and Simon Painvin who turned a triple play in the U11 national championships group stages.

The winner of the not-so-coveted Nob-Out Award was Mike Cresswell who managed to fall on his face while being filmed by a high-tech 2-man camera crew and a microphone attached to him for a promotional video. The club is trying to obtain the video from the tv crew.

The club doesn’t have a personality of the year award but, if it did, it surely would have gone to 6-year-old Mason Barnaby. He was already recognised during the trophy presentation at the end of the Herts Youth Baseball League season for an outstanding act of sportsmanship. During one of the championships-deciding games he asked the umpire for time in order to run to the team bench area to encourage his teammate Owen Ridgway to rejoin the game after he had picked up a knock earlier in the day. He is one of the youngest members from the new generation of players who joined the Herts youth baseball programme this year and after the end of the season he has been involved in raising awareness of diabetes. He was on BBC radio to talk about diabetes and playing baseball. (Click to listen on BBC Sounds)

Herts AGM – club grows by 44% and aims to move up the league standings in 2022

Herts AGM – club grows by 44% and aims to move up the league standings in 2022

Herts Baseball Club’s 25th Annual General Meeting was held on Sunday, 5 December, and it provided an analysis of the 2021 season, the club’s current position on and off the field and plans for 2022 and beyond.


It was confirmed that the club grew by 44% this year and has reached the milestone of 200 adult and youth members. The club managed to reverse the decline in its youth programme and it is bigger now than at any time in its 15-year history growing from 21 members in 2020 to 75 this year. Co-Director of Youth Baseball, Aspi Dimitrov, pointed out the key role that the parents played in ensuring that the club had the capacity to welcome so many new boys and girls to the club. He emphasised that: “This is only Year One of this project and there are many more components that we need to add and enhance.”


Competitiveness on the field of play was a hot topic as the five Herts teams struggled to compete in the BBF senior leagues this year, particularly in the NBL and Double-A. While the issue with the Herts Hawks can be addressed next year by moving the team to the Single-A League, for the Falcons the solution is more complex (see a separate article with more detailed analysis on the subject of competitiveness).

Aspi Dimitrov updated members about the project to rebuild the Falcons roster.  The club is currently in discussions with candidates to become Herts Falcons manager. Excluding players who played for the Falcons this season, so far 25 players have completed the online form to express interest in playing for Herts in the National Baseball League in 2022. Among them are players who have played in America, Australia, Japan and for the Great Britain National Teams.  The recruitment process continues and players and coaches can express interest in playing or managing in the NBL with Herts in 2022 by completing this form.

Although the three Herts Single-A league teams ended up with a much better win-loss record than in 2019, they did not qualify for the playoffs. The club presented the results of its end of season survey of members and one of the questions was whether to build one of the two Single-A teams at each branch to compete for a place in the playoffs while the other to develop new players.  The majority felt that this would be a better approach, but the final decision will of course be at the discretion of the team managers who have the flexibility to fine-tune the extent to which this approach is adopted.


Off the field the club continues to be in a healthy financial position with a good level of cash reserves.


The £8,174 project to repair the vandalised fencing at Grovehill Ballpark was completed in April and the club made further investments in Hemel Hempstead with the purchase of 10 tons of higher grade infield clay mix and implementing aeration of the turf (see video above) which produced a visibly better grass playing surface. The club plans to make the aeration process a permanent element of the annual maintenance plan at Grovehill. 

Aerial view of the first phase of the Basing Hill Ballpark project (photo by

Thanks to the incredible generosity from club members and the wider community who donated to the Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding project, the club implemented the first phase of the project to level and resurface the playing field with new grass. It is now exploring grant and other funding options for the next phase of the project which includes installation of the backstop, the infield cut-out areas and pitching mound.


After the winter lockdown was lifted in April the club saw a record 22 teams play in the Herts Spring League. Grovehill Ballpark also hosted the BBF Triple-A and Single-A League Playoffs, the U13 and U11 National Championships, Women’s GB Team events and the filming of a children’s television programme about baseball which aired on Channel 5 in September featuring Herts youth team players. The Hunlock Series was back too.

BBF news

Club members were updated about news coming out of the BBF AGM which took place a week earlier. It was reported that over the last few months the interim board encountered many obstacles while implementing the transition process after several board members stepped down in May.

Tom Thornhill who is a member of the Norwich Iceni has now been elected as the new President of the BBF. It was also announced that the Triple-A National Champions BC Vetra will be promoted to the NBL in 2022.

Beyond 2022

The meeting presented details of two large upcoming developments – Hemel Garden Communities and Brent Cross Town – which will create thousands of new homes, jobs, transport and other infrastructure within a few hundred metres of the two ballparks. These are expected to make both Grovehill Ballpark and Basing Hill Ballpark even more valuable in the coming years with an even larger number of potential new adult and youth players and fans on the club’s doorstep.


Finally, the club analysed the various news and statements by the Mayor of London on tv and in the newspapers  which suggest that MLB will return to London in the next one or two years having cancelled the 2020 London Series due to Covid-19. The timing of this would coincide very well with the club’s ambitious expansion plans over the next few years.

Board elections

With the AGM being held on Zoom, members will receive an email with details how to cast their votes over the next two weeks by email as it is not possible for members to vote anonymously on Zoom. A number of Board positions are up for election either as part of the annual retirement of a third of the Board positions or because they are vacant.

Finding a way to win on and off the field.

Finding a way to win on and off the field.

This article was written by Aspi Dimitrov

One of the central topics of discussion among members of Herts Baseball Club, not just this year but over the years, has been competitiveness on the field. It will be covered at the upcoming Annual General Meeting and this article aims to outline the obstacles that we face and the way forward.

2021 was a difficult season particularly for the Falcons in the National Baseball League (NBL) and the Hawks in the Double-A League. 

The Hawks found themselves in the awkward position of having to decide which league to enter before the newly appointed manager had the opportunity to see the players and assess the roster because the BBF league entry deadline came while we were still in lockdown and before players reported back for Spring Training.  Playing in the Double-A League was asking too much of that roster and we should make sure that we prevent this from happening in the future as it resulted in an unsatisfactory experience for the members of the team. Next year, if the Hawks roster is of similar strength, they can address the problem by playing in the Single-A League where they would be in a much better position to compete and develop players. Of course there is a lot more involved in building a baseball team, but placing it in the most suitable league will provide the right environment for the players and the coaching staff to work in.

We now have the advantage of potentially having four Single-A teams – two in Hemel Hempstead and two in NW London. This opens up the option for the Single-A managers to build one of those rosters to compete for the championship and the other to develop new players. Whether the teams adopt this approach is for the team managers to determine but club members will be able to discuss this at the upcoming AGM.

For the Falcons the solution is more complex. The last BBF season prior to this year was 2019. The roster at the time was made up of 24 players. Only two of those 24 players are still with the team today.  This decline in numbers was not due to Covid. Herts saw growth in its other adult baseball teams both in 2020 and in 2021. Other British clubs also recorded growth between 2019 and 2021 with two brand new NBL teams appearing on the map. So many Herts players are now playing for other teams in the NBL and in other leagues. Some would say that other clubs have unfairly stolen our players. I look at it differently. If we lose players we should look at ourselves. Did we offer the best baseball experience and product? What did these players find at other clubs that was missing at Herts?

This year was a record year for the club. We reached the milestone of 200 adult and youth club members, a 44% increase from the 139 members in the previous year. Although we have been extremely successful at growing and introducing new players to the game of baseball, we have not been as good at attracting and retaining the more advanced players. We have become a feeder club for other NBL teams. The British baseball landscape is evolving rapidly and perhaps we didn’t recognise the changes around us but we have to be honest with ourselves and accept that we have not been offering what is demanded by players who are aspiring to develop and reach the next level.

Maikel Azcuy (top left), Conner Brown (top right), Cris Hiche (bottom left), Xavi Gonzalez (bottom right)

Between 2013 and 2017 we were a feeder club for the advanced European clubs.  Xavi Gonzalez (Stuttgart Reds, Germany), Maikel Azcuy (Berlin Flamingos, Germany), Cris Hiche (Dornbirn Indians, Austria) and Conner Brown (Cologne Cardinals, Germany) all signed semi-professional contracts with those respective clubs.  Since then, under the positive influence of the GB programme, the NBL teams around us have stepped up their efforts and have overtaken us.

Players will always aspire to realize their full potential and play at a higher level, but we want to progress from being a feeder club for British teams to being a club where we not only close the gap on the European teams but we overtake them and they become feeder clubs for us. It means players can play with Herts knowing that they do not have to go through Europe to have a shot at playing in America or other leading baseball countries.

This will not happen overnight. It is a gradual process which started this month. With Cris Hiche stepping down, the first and very important step is to appoint a new team manager. It needs to be someone who can see through the noise and recognise the enormous opportunities and potential of our club. Someone who can put the right structure in place to enable players to develop through the system. To succeed, all of our teams need to work closely together, from the NBL team and the lower league teams to, very importantly, the youth programme.

Winning off the field

But it will take a lot more than this. While our team managers focus on finding a way to win on the field and developing players to their full potential, my focus will be on off-field operations. I am exploring ways of generating additional revenue streams for the club which we can re-invest into club facilities and improving the product which we are offering to adult and youth members. I hope, in time, that we can reach the stage where we generate enough additional revenue to be able to offer semi-professional contracts to players.

From my perspective, the final scores will be just as important as the number of people that come to Grovehill for the seven NBL home games that the Falcons will play each season. The aim is for the Falcons to attract, and play in front of, the largest audience in the NBL. Of course, people will not come to the ballpark if the Falcons struggle on the field as they did this year.

In 2012 MLB players came to London to run clinics for British boys and girls. If our plans come to fruition, Herts youth players will be able to work with high standard players and coaches much more regularly.

Our club does not have a billionaire investor. One or two NBL teams have explored the option of paying an import player and we have seen a big club like the Southampton Mustangs go bankrupt and they no longer exist. We must not gamble with the club’s future. We have to maintain our financial discipline and make sure that our team departments balance their budgets. But if we manage to generate these additional revenue-streams we can start to explore the option of bringing in high-calibre players not just to play but also to coach the youth programme and the other adult teams. There are many factors and moving pieces so there are no guarantees about the level of additional revenue which we will manage to generate, but it will be interesting to see if we can do it.

The bigger picture

Of course this focus on competitiveness does not mean that the club will neglect beginners who join the club.  In football and other mainstream sports the tendency is to select those who can compete at the highest level and say goodbye to the rest. Our club has a completely different approach and ethos. We welcome everybody and everyone plays. We have to put in the hard work to help players to develop. This will enable us to increase the competiveness of our teams as a whole and in such a way that every player has a role to play which is fulfilling and contributes on the way to the playoffs.  We have seen Herts players progress from Single-A to the NBL in just a few years. It is not easy to achieve, but it is not impossible.

Many join the club because they enjoy the social side of the game and the family atmosphere around the club and we must never lose this. This applies equally to our adult and to our youth teams.

It is important to emphasise that the goals that are being set will not be reached overnight. We will be trying a new model and there will be many setbacks before we get there, but the work has started already and club members will play a key role in this.  The coming years will certainly be interesting for everyone connected with the club.