Category: Ravens

All time greatest Herts starting lineup

All time greatest Herts starting lineup

Over the last few weeks Herts fans as well as those from the wider baseball community have been casting their votes to determine the all time greatest Herts starting lineup from players that have worn the Herts jersey since the club was founded 24 years ago.

When the club invited fans to nominate players for the nine fielding positions plus designated hitter, the intention was to have four nominees for each position, however the panel of experts struggled to narrow the list down to four per position and, instead of removing players, ended up expanding the shortlist. This forced the club to change the format and added a playoff semi-final round.

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There were some titanic clashes and some big names were eliminated including Darrin Ward, Mike Osborn and Jim Denison, among others. Round after round, fans were given a taste of just how difficult it is to be in the managerial hot seat and make these decisions.

Unlike the semi-final, each position was voted one after the other in the finals.  Some players made it to the final of more than one position and, if they accumulated the most votes for one position, they were removed from the final of any other positions. This meant that some big names that just missed out on the final re-entered the race, including Geoff Hare which set up a father-versus-son clash in the shortstop final. It also meant that we were not able to see the outcome of a head-to-head between Xavi Gonzalez and Robbie Unsell at shortstop.

Everyone who cast their vote applied their own criteria about who should be selected. Some may have put more weight on a player’s length of service and contribution to the club. Others simply went for what they thought would be the strongest team that could be fielded in a game 7 of a championship series.

When all the polls closed, the end result was a formidable starting lineup featuring national team players, and players decorated with multiple National Baseball League Most Valuable Player and Gold Glove Awards over the years.

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So, did the fans select ‘The Greatest” lineup from the hundreds of players they could cherry-pick and, if they did, does this mean that in the future we may as well dispense with team managers and simply run a poll to make managerial decisions?

We didn’t want to put current and former Herts managers on the spot but we are sure that they may disagree with some of the choices made by the fans and the batting order which was formulated without applying any scientific methodology.

There were some notable players such as Abelardo Salas, Dan Kerry, Darrin Ward, Gary Davison, Edwin Alcantara, Luis Goncalves, Matt Gilbert, Nic Goetz, Phil Clark, Roberto Almanzar and Ryan Hackel all of whom have received NBL awards over the years but who didn’t make the starting lineup and, surely, there must be a place in the batting lineup for Ryan Bird who leads the NBL in career batting (.508), on-base (.578) and slugging (.822) average in the British baseball modern era. Thankfully, in real life the team roster can include a lot more than the nine starting players.

Herts Baseball Club was founded in 1996 and is still in search of its first NBL championship title, but this lineup would certainly fancy its chances against any NBL champions over the previous 129 years of top-tier baseball in this country.

Herts 2013 MVPs and other awards announced

Herts members have been casting their votes and the club has just announced the MVPs (Most Valuable Players) of the five senior league teams as well as awards in the other categories.

The Herts Falcons MVP is shortstop, Xavier Gonzalez. In a team packed with superstars it says a lot about Xavi when his teammates recognise his outstanding debut season for the Falcons by voting for him. There aren’t many 5-tool players in the world and Gonzalez is one of them. His batting average was .411 and slugging average .712 with 3 home runs. Defensively he committed only 2 errors and was awarded a Gold Glove as the best shortstop in the NBL for 2013. We can add his speed to that with 13 stolen bases.


MVP, Xavier Gonzalez

Batting Champion, Ryan Bird (.549)

Infield Gold Glove, Dave House (F% .956 E2)

Outfield Gold Glove, Cristobal Hiche (F% 1.000 E0)

Best Pitcher, Robbie Unsell (W5 ERA 1.09)

Most Stolen Bases, Robbie Unsell (33)

Home Run Champion, Cristobal Hiche (3)

Home Run Champion, Xavier Gonzalez (3)

Most RBIs, Ryan Bird (31)

Coach’s Award, Jordan Farkas

Rookie of the Year, Conner Brown

Liam Green picks up the Ravens MVP. He also collected the Home Run Champion (1HR) and Most RBIs (14). He was also in the chase for the Best pitcher award with 2 wins, however Matt Spaulding, Louis Hare and Pete Kikel were slightly ahead of him overall.


MVP, Liam Green

Batting Champion, Gilberto Medina (.340)

Infield Gold Glove, Pete Kikel (F% .833)

Outfield Gold Glove, Seth Lipstock (F% .846)

Best Pitcher, Louis Hare (ERA 3.86 W3)

Most Stolen Bases, Jon Lewys (9)

Home Run Champion, Liam Green (1)

Most RBIs, Liam Green (14)


Hunter Devine is the 2013 Hawks MVP. He has grown up in the Herts organisation joining as a youngster and working his way up the leagues. In 2013 he earned the name “Mr. Clutch”. Whenever a Hawks game was in the balance, Devine delivered the big hits including the walk-off hit in the final game of the regular season against Kent.

2013 was the best season in Raptors history and Zack Longboy played a key role in the team’s success. His teammates have voted him as this season’s MVP. He led the team in batting average (.482), slugging (.625), wins (tied with Will Zucker and Brodie Caress all on 2 wins), and ERA (5.40).


MVP, Zack Longboy

Batting Champion, Arnie Longboy (.482)

Infield Gold Glove, Jeff Witter

Outfield Gold Glove, Brodie Caress

Best Pitcher, Zack Longboy (W2 ERA 5.40)

Most Stolen Bases, Ken Pike (42)

Home Run Champion, Jim Arnott (1)

Home Run Champion, Ben Marques (2)

Most RBIs, Jeff Witter (31)

Rookie of the Year, Andy Bartram


Duncan Hoyle has put so much into the Eagles over the last few years and it is very fitting that he has been voted as the team’s MVP. This is not just a recognition of his hard work off the field as the team manager. He had an outstanding season leading in several categories including Best Pitcher (W2), Most Stolen Bases, Batting Champion (.591), Home Run Champion (1) and Most RBIs (23).


MVP, Duncan Hoyle

Batting Champion, Duncan Hoyle (.591)

Infield Gold Glove, Tomasz Kosak

Outfield Gold Glove, Adam Landau-Smithers

Best Pitcher, Duncan Hoyle (W2)

Most Stolen Bases, Duncan Hoyle

Home Run Champion, Duncan Hoyle (1)

Most RBIs, Duncan Hoyle (23)

Rookie of the Year, Manny Banson

Coach’s Award, Joseph Osborne-Brade

Coach’s Award, Manny Banson


Club members also voted for the 2013 Play of the Year. There were two clear favourites. It is very rare to see back-to-back no-hitters at any level but Ryan Bird did it in the NBL. It is also very rare to see two grand slam home runs in the same game and Ben Marques managed to do it against the Guildford Mavericks. The voting was close and at the end both ended up tied and are both confirmed as the 2013 Herts Plays of the Year.


The dreaded Nob-Out award is usually awarded to a player or member of staff, however for a second consecutive year it has been awarded to a team. In 2012 the Hawks picked it up for celebrating their playoff-clinching win at the Daws Hill Spitfires extravagantly on the field only to be told by the umpire that there is one more inning left to be played. It seems that there is a real issue with keeping track of innings and outs for the Hawks squad as they have won the Nob-Out again. This time Hunter Devine, Ben Marques and John Kjorstad turned a 6-4-3 double play against the Kent Mariners and the team started to celebrate walking off the field, but it was too late when they realized that there are only 2 outs as the supposedly stranded Kent runner came in to score with no fielders around. This 6-4-3 double-play was also nominated for Play of the Year but it will now be recorded in the history books as a Nob-Out winner instead. The Hawks better introduce some kind of system to help them keep track of the game in 2014 and cut down on those premature celebrations.


Herts Ravens vs London Mets AAA League Game Cancelled due to flooded field

The heavy and prolonged rain on Saturday and Sunday morning has flooded Grovehill Ballpark and today’s AAA League game between the Herts Ravens and the London Mets II has been cancelled.

The heavy rain claimed casualties even among the multi-million dollar football venues such as Charlton Athletic’s home game versus Doncaster Rovers yesterday, so it looks like the baseball schedule is likely to be affected today across the UK.  We are awaiting news about the baseball diamond in Enfield where the Herts Hawks play their first round playoff game versus Sidewinders. At the time of writing this article that game is still on. That playoff game has a later start time of 1:30pm.

Herts players thrown in at the deep end come through with flying colours

Another solid outing on the mound for Tom Everex-Armstrong

The Herts Ravens went into the game with second-placed Cambridge Royals knowing that they are out of the playoff race. In such circumstances MLB teams would usually sell their highly-paid star players and bring in younger talent from their lower league teams with a view to building for the future. In many ways the Ravens have adopted a similar approach from the very first pitch of the season back in April, but against the Royals this was even more obvious with four of the nine players in the starting line-up being call-ups from the club’s Single-A and Double-A League teams. Furthermore, three of the other five starting players were between 14 and 17 years of age.

This was the most difficult test possible and it is games like these that reveal the most about players. They have the easy option of letting their heads drop and accept defeat or alternatively they can fight for every inch. The Herts Ravens chose the latter and fans of Herts can be safe in the knowledge that players with very good potential and a lot of character are coming through the ranks.

They faced Royals’ starting pitcher Matt Maitland who has had 9 seasons in the National Baseball League with the Bracknell Blazers. Maitland was never going to allow many runs so the Ravens had to match him defensively if they were to stay in the game. That task fell largely on the shoulders of 14-year-old starting pitcher, Tom Everex-Armstrong, but he was also able to rely on the support of his teammates who conceded only 3 errors, which is a good number compared to the team’s average this season and given the fact that 4 of the 9 players were making their Triple-A League debut.

Everex-Armstrong was effective limiting the Royals to 2 runs on 4 hits through the first 5 innings. He was completing innings with around 15 pitches per inning and that allowed him to go deep into the game. In the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2, Cambridge had their leadoff batter on third base with one out representing the go-ahead run. Up stepped Doug Grabowski who apart from making the headlines with his pitching has also shown that he is a major threat with the bat having hit a home run in their previous game at Finsbury Park against the London Mets II. The Ravens decided to walk him intentionally. Everex-Armstrong needed to get the next batter out, ideally with a strikeout. He did his job and got the strikeout, but one of his pitches bounced on the ground going all the way to the backstop allowing the go-ahead run to come in. That was Everex-Armstrong’s last batter as he reached his 95th pitch which is a league limit for players under the age of 17. The Royals scored one more run in that inning to take a 4-2 lead.

It came down to the final inning. The Ravens needed 2 runs to tie the game and take it into extra innings, or 3 to win it. The lightning-fast Sony Lama beat out a ground ball to reach first. Two quick outs followed, but a double by Liam Green drove Lama home to make the score 4-3. With the powerful clean-up bat of John Kjorstad coming up next for Herts and the speedy Liam Green in scoring position, suddenly there was hope that they can cause a major upset. The Royals had to act and they did, bringing in Doug Grabowski and his 0.00 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 19 innings for the season. He closed the game with four pitches (fastball, fastball, changeup, fastball) striking out Kjorstad.

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Game two was not as tense, largely due to the Ravens defence which committed 7 errors. Herts kept pace in the first 3 innings when the score was 5-3, but disastrous fourth and fifth innings proved costly for Herts. The 19-4 score line was not pleasant to look at but that should not take away from the character shown by the team in the first game which had everyone on the edge of their seats right to the final pitch by Doug Grabowski.

The Ravens will end their 2013 season on Sunday, 25 August, with a home doubleheader against playoff contenders, London Mets II.

(Game 1) Cambridge Royals 4 Herts Ravens 3 (click to view box scores)

(Game 2) Cambridge Royals 18 Herts Ravens 4 (click to view box scores)

Herts almost pull-off the great escape in a wild game versus Oxford

Carlos Velasco-Carus was red-hot going 5-for-8 with 4 RBIs

Herts fans enjoyed the Home Run Derby on Saturday and it seemed like the hit-fest continued 24 hours later in the AAA League matchup between the Herts Ravens and the Oxford Kings. Oxford’s Jorge Machado hit two home runs over the two games of the doubleheader in a 7-for-9 day with an amazing 13 RBIs.

To put 13 RBIs into perspective, Jorge had more RBIs in these two games than any of the Ravens players this season (18 games) before the start of the day. Herts youngster Liam Green responded with a home run of his own over the left-centerfield wall.

Game 1: Oxford Kings 14 Herts Ravens 12 (click to view box scores)

Both games started with the Kings taking control early and seemingly cruising to a victory, but Herts came close to pulling off two amazing comebacks. In the first game they came back from 10-3 down to bring the game to 14-12 with the tying run at the plate, but pitcher Masahara held on for the complete game win.

Game 2: Oxford Kings 14 Herts Ravens 12 (click to view box scores)

The comeback in game two was just as dramatic. The Kings were leading 6-0 in the fifth inning but Herts responded again making it 12-11 leaving the tying run stranded in scoring position.

The wins keep the Kings in the playoff race, but they need other games to go in their favour if they are going to finish in the playoff zone. The Ravens are out of the postseason race, but they have shown their future potential with many young players who will be dominating the AAA League and maybe even the NBL in the coming seasons.


The top game of the weekend switched to Hemel Hempstead

It has just been announced that Sunday’s high-profile game between the Harlow Nationals and the London Mets will be played at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, the home of their rival, the Herts Falcons.

The reigning champions, Harlow, are the designated home team for this game, but issues with their home field mean that the game will now be played at Herts.

This means that it will be a busy day at Grovehill Ballpark with 5 league games scheduled, including a difficult game for the Herts Ravens against Oxford and a key game in the AA playoff race for the Herts Hawks as they host the Southampton Mustangs II.


12:00pm AAA League, (Game 1) Oxford Kings @ Herts Ravens (7 innings)

14:30pm AAA League, (Game 1) Oxford Kings @ Herts Ravens (7 innings)

Umpire: Dave Smith


11:00am AA League, Southampton Mustangs @ Herts Hawks (9 innings)

Umpire: Marty Cullen


2:00pm* NBL (Game 1), London Mets @ Harlow Nationals (7 innings)

4:30pm NBL (Game 2), London Mets @ Harlow Nationals (7 innings)

Umpire(s): TBC

*-starts as soon as Hawks vs Mustangs ends


Ravens unable to stop impressive Metros

The Herts Ravens were not able to upset the odds and lost both games of their doubleheader with the AAA League leaders.

AAA League (Game 1) London Metros 17 Herts Ravens 5 (click to view box scores)

The London Metros produced an impressive hitting display in the first game outhitting the Ravens 16-4. Ten of their 16 hits came in the top of the first inning which produced 13 runs. Herts did well to recover after that, scoring 5 and conceding 4 runs from the second inning onwards, but the early deficit was too much to come back from.

Johan Villanueva hit one of three homeruns for the Metros, but it was lefty centerfielder, Andrew Vargas, who stood out for them batting 4-for-5, with 2 home runs and a double, just missing out on the cycle. His two home runs went deep over the right-centerfield wall falling on the new diamond and interrupting the NBL game between the Falcons and Dbacks which was being played at the same time. Given the power which he displayed on the day, it is surprising to see that he does not have any other home runs so far this season and has only 2 extra base hits over the course of the season. On today’s display he is certainly worth a call up to the London Mets NBL team.

AAA League (Game 2) London Metros 10 Herts Ravens 6 (click to view box scores)

In the second game Herts turned the table on the Londoners taking an early 1-run lead. They were still holding on to a 1-run lead going into the fifth inning. Liam Green was in control on the mound for Herts allowing only 3 hits through the first 4 innings, but in the fifth the Metros produced another devastating inning scoring 5 runs. Herts stayed in touch right to the end with debutants JP Prouty and Matt Bucher contributing both defensively and offensively. London reliever, Johan Villanueva came in to pitch very effective sixth and seventh inning to close the game for the save.

The Herts Ravens will be looking to return to winning ways next Sunday, 28 July, when they welcome the Oxford Kings (first pitch 12pm).

Herts pick up Tournament Bronze Cup. Attention firmly on upcoming league games.


Herts players prepare to face the Midlands All Stars (photo by Rob Jones)

Similar to the All-Star Week in America, British clubs had their traditional midsummer break at the weekend taking part in the International London Tournament. Herts was represented at the event by a team made up of players from its various squads of the four tiers of the British baseball leagues. They had a difficult start losing their first two games to the Milton Keynes Bucks and the Midlands All Stars. Herts bounced back on Sunday with wins over the Milton Keynes Coyotes and the South London Pirates to claim the Tournament’s Bronze Cup. Sunday’s games saw Herts Falcons pitcher, Darrin Ward, hit two homeruns.

Tom Everex-Armstrong was one of many Herts players who wore the Great Britain National Team jerseys this weekend (photo by Rob Jones)

The various Great Britain National Baseball Teams, from Under-16 to Under-23, were also involved and they featured a large number of Herts players.

The focus now turns back on the all important league games as we enter the final 6 weeks of the regular season which will determine who will play in the postseason playoffs to decide the national champions in the four senior and two youth league tiers.

The Herts Falcons will host the Lakenheath Diamondbacks this Sunday, 21 July, in a doubleheader. They cannot afford to slip up. Anything less than two wins and the chasing London Mets and Southampton Mustangs could leap over them into first place. The game starts at 12:00 at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead (free admission).

On the same day the Herts Ravens will face the Triple-A League-leaders, London Metros. This game will also start at 12:00pm at Grovehill Ballpark.

The Herts Hawks currently occupy the last playoff spot in the Double-A league, which is the third league tier of British Baseball. This Sunday they will travel to Richmond to face the Dragons, who are just outside the playoff zone and will see this as their golden opportunity to overtake the Herts Hawks. The Herts Raptors and Herts Eagles travel to Guildford and Essex, respectively, in the Single-A League. The Raptors have already secured a playoff spot, but need to keep their winning run going for a higher playoff seeding.


British League braces itself for the Grabowski factor

It would be fascinating to see how Doug Grabowski would compare to some of the top pitchers in the NBL like Herts Falcons' Robbie Unsell (pictured), Michael Osborn, Jordan Farkas, Ryan Bird and Darrin Ward among others (photo by Richard Lee

The Herts Ravens travelled to the Cambridge Royals upbeat after a good run of 5 wins and 1 loss in the last six games put them back in the playoff race. They knew they were about to face one of the favourites for the AAA title, but they were not aware that just a week ago Cambridge had made a player signing which could turn the league on its head.

Doug Grabowski arrived from America on duty with the nearby US air bases. He is around 6 feet and 5 inches in height and has the physical attributes which have become the standard for the pitching staff of MLB teams. Similar to Roy Hobbs in the movie “The Natural”, there is little information about his career on the internet, but we understand he has played at the college level back in America.

AAA League (Game 1): Herts Ravens 0 Cambridge Royals 10 (click to view box scores)

His fastball overwhelmed the Ravens. Perhaps they would have had some success after a few innings of getting the timing on their swings right, but that became impossible when he introduced his knee-buckling curveball and changeup. Grabowski is certainly the best pitcher in the AAA League and Herts Ravens Manager, Carlos Casal, went a step further. “He is probably the best pitcher in any of the British Leagues today. We didn’t have a radar gun on hand but it probably reached 85-90mph.” said Casal.

From the 20 plate appearances made by Herts batters only 5 resulted in the ball being put in play. The remainder were 12 strikeouts and 3 walks giving Doug Grabowski a complete game shutout no-hitter on his British baseball league debut. He also proved to be a class act quietly shaking the hands of every Herts player during the break between the two games. Players like him are a rarity and his presence can have a very positive effect on efforts to promote baseball and the league. The British Baseball Federation should not miss the opportunity to publicise outstanding players like him.

In this first game of the day the Ravens were not able to keep up despite good pitching from Petar Kikel.

AAA League (Game 2): Herts Ravens 3 Cambridge Royals 13 (click to view box scores)

The Ravens were eager to see the back of Doug Grabowski and face a different pitcher in the second game of the doubleheader. Levandowski seemed a much more hittable pitcher, but despite a much slower fastball Herts only managed 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks. The hits came from Conner Brown, Gilberto Medina and Liam Green. The 3 runs were not enough and the Ravens went down 13-3.

The Herts Ravens had to face the Royals without ace pitcher Louis Hare who fractured his left elbow in a football game at the end of June. They need him back if they are to stand a chance of somehow getting back in the playoff race especially as the club will be losing Seth Lipstock in the coming weeks as he flies back to America.

It will be interesting to see how the introduction of Doug Grabowski will affect the AAA League as we enter the deciding final third of the season.

Our visit to Cambridge gave us a lot of food for thought. The Royals team includes a large number of players from the US air bases. With the news of the their neighbours, Lakenheath Diamondbacks, struggling this Sunday in their NBL game at Southampton, the door is open for the two clubs to consider a merger in 2014. While Lakenheath have American Air Force players, they appear to lack the administrative infrastructure and community activities of the Cambridge Royals. Bringing the two teams together would create a very strong multi-team organisation which would have the potential to become a major force in British Baseball. Lakenheath or Cambridge club officials reading this article may want to schedule a meeting in October to secure a merger deal.


Herts Ravens keep playoff hopes alive

Mike Cattermole had a good game for the Ravens pitching a complete game without any earned runs (photo by Will Baxter)

The Herts Ravens have kept their hopes of qualifying for the AAA League playoffs alive after splitting their doubleheader with the Richmond Knights.

BBF AAA League (Game1): Herts Ravens 7 Richmond Knights 6 (click to view box scores)

The Ravens went into the game looking to extend their 4-game winning streak. Manager Carlos Casal was on the DL and Louis Hare was once again in charge of the team. He led by example producing yet another outstanding pitching performance, but Richmond made it difficult putting together 5 hits and scoring 5 runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-2 lead. It seemed like the game was out of reach for Herts but they somehow managed to reproduce the incredible comeback from the game at Oxford 7 days ago. Dace Westfallen, Jonathon Lewys, Gilberto Medina and Aspi Dimitrov each came through with a hit to put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, but there were two outs and all the pressure fell on the young shoulders of first baseman, Kyle Lloyd-Jones. The Great Britain Under-19 National Team player drove a bullet through the infield to bring in two runs giving the Ravens a 7-6 lead. He went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI in that game.

Louis Hare kept his composure and closed the game in the bottom of the final inning in a dramatic come-from-behind win for Herts.

BBF AAA League (Game2): Herts Ravens 5 Richmond Knights 2 (click to view box scores)

The Ravens were unable to keep the momentum going in the second game. Richmond pitcher, Julio Malpica, had an outstanding game allowing only 2 runs on 3 hits. Matt Spaulding had two of those hits and Kal Dimitrov had the other for Herts.

2 runs could have been enough for the Ravens as Mie Cattermole pitched a gem of a game. He allowed only 6 hits and no earned runs. It was only the defensively shaky third and fourth inning which cost Herts dearly.

The two runs in the sixth inning reduced Richmond’s lead to 5-2 and the stage was set for another dramatic Ravens comeback, but it wasn’t to be. Malpica held on for the win.

After this round of games, the Ravens are in sixth place. The odds are against them but their good run has given them a hope of reaching the playoffs. They are 4 games back on the playoff places with 12 games to play. They will need to win 2 out of every 3 games between now and the end of the regular season to stand a chance. They have won 6 of the last 10 so they are more less on track, but need to maintain that momentum.

Update: 24 hours after the game the Ravens received the bad news that pitcher Louis Hare has fractured his elbow in two places playing football. It is uncertain how long it would take for him to return to action. Initial estimates suggest between 3 and 6 weeks as a minimum, but could be as long as 3 months. The one positive is that it is not his throwing arm so he may be able to return as a pitcher with another batter batting for him as a designated hitter.