Category: Club News

Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding deadline extended

Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding deadline extended

The Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign deadline has been extended to July 21.

Herts Baseball Club suffered a setback in March when they learned that they narrowly missed out on funding from The Mayor of London‘s Make London Fund.

Since then the club has been in discussions with businesses and organisations and, although the campaign is still far from its fundraising target, it may receive a considerable boost if one or several of these discussions lead to a pledge.

The extension of the deadline gives the potential backers, who have expressed interest in the Basing Hill Ballpark project, additional time to consider whether they would like to make a pledge.

To date, the campaign has received pledges from 124 backers amounting to £12,528 which is 22% of the £55,804 target.

Businesses, sponsors and other backers who may be interested to support the project can contact the club to discuss ways in which this could be a good fit and beneficial for them. They would have the additional assurance from the fact that the club passed the project viability verification process carried out by the independent organisation Locality, which was a prerequisite to pitch to the Mayor of London.

Historic first for Herts is a highlight of Opening Day

Historic first for Herts is a highlight of Opening Day

The Herts Falcons chalked up an historic moment for the club on Sunday’s Opening Day, fielding two women players in the NBL side for the first time.

Jessica Vernon and Marianna Casal were on the team which took on the Essex Arrows at Grovehill to start the 2021 BBF season. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong end of two high-scoring defeats, but that couldn’t overshadow the importance of the moment.

Women’s baseball in the UK has made huge and sudden strides over the past 18 months, and Herts is delighted to be a part of that. The club is proud of its record in being open to all talents, and has featured several women players in its ranks over the years – but never at the top level. We are hopeful this can be another step forward, and our aim is to grow the game for all groups.

We think this might have been the first NBL team to feature two women players, and the first to have one of them pitch – but we can’t be certain of that. When Jess Vernon did take the mound, she was certainly highly effective – recording the only 1-2-3 inning for either side on the day.

Marianna Casal in action (pic: Tony Small)

Marianna Casal has been linked to Herts for many years through her family, as her father and brother have both played for the club. That deep connection runs from the first Herts Little League sides, where she was a singer, fan, mascot and then a player. She won a European Championship with the GB under-19 softball side in 2016.

Marianna as a junior Herts fan

Sharing the diamond with her brother and father on Sunday at Grovehill gave the day an extra-special element:

After so many years of being on the sidelines just watching how cool they are, I was excited that I’m a part of it now. They are such a huge part of why I am where I am now. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities that I am getting to progress in the sport that I love – and grateful to Falcons coach Cris Hiche for saying he wanted me on the team.”

In 2017, Jessica Vernon made her first appearance at Grovehill Ballpark. She played for Bracknell’s Single-A side against the Raptors. Since then she has had success in softball and competitive cheerleading, and back to baseball to become a leading light in the women’s game.

She is a founder member of Belles Baseball, who were the first women’s team to enter the Herts Spring League, and who will be part of the inaugural women’s league in 2021. The team was recently featured on BBC television and has been spreading the word about women’s baseball.

Jessica’s performance was rewarded with the BSUK Player of the Week award, which is based on nominations from the baseball community.

Jess Vernon pitching (pic: Tony Small)

The Falcons have seen a lot of change in the off-season and enter this year with fresh hopes. The games against the Arrows were competitive, but not perhaps classics of tight baseball. Game 1 ended 16-13 to the visitors, while game 2 stepped up another level into a football score, ending 24-23.

Marianna Casal said she had loved every single second of the experience, despite the results, and cannot wait for the rest of the season:

“Hearing men from the other team get surprised about what I can do was a lot of fun for me. It will be even more fun when no-one is surprised – when everyone just knows who they’re up against. I was shaking when I got on the field but after making my first play, I just reminded myself that I belong there.”

The new Herts recruits were welcomed by all their team mates. And huge credit goes to the visiting Essex Arrows too. Surprised as they might have been, witnesses at the ballpark say the Arrows offered the same respect to Casal and Vernon as to all the other players.

In a turbulent week for British baseball, these were the good memories and positive images people want to take forward. Amy Trask, who played for the Bracknell Blazers a decade ago in the NBL, said: “It’s great to see women in baseball doing amazing things, and all the support it’s getting.”

The highlight of the weekend elsewhere for Herts came at the first derby game of the year in Single A, where the Londoners were hosting the Eagles at Basing Hill. The visitors’ Alex Plehn – who joined the club last year but has never before played in a BBF league game — hit two home runs. The second of them, a 3-run homer, was key to a 6-5 victory in the second game. Rookie Tom Hill also delivered with his debut on the pitching mound before turning the game over to veteran Mike Wakelam.

The star of the first game, apart from that Plehn home run, was the fielding of Greg Bochan. The former Hawks boss was now manning the hot corner of third base for the Londoners, and made two quality plays before capping it all with a web gem, diving to his left to snare a hard hit ball before somehow making the throw across the diamond too. Londoners won this one 13-5.

The other Single A team, the Raptors, travelled to the Redbacks. Despite some strong performances, the team of mainly novices could not overcome Essex who won 15-6 and 16-8. The Hawks lost 14-8 and 10-8 in Oxford in the Double A league.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article, including Jess, Marianna, Tony Small, Amy Trask and Lee Manning.

Herts Spring League kicks off 2021 season in style

Herts Spring League kicks off 2021 season in style

Like everything else at the moment, the 2021 Herts Spring League was a bit different. It was quick as a flash. It was more knock-out blow than drawn-out battle.

The usual three weeks of competition were condensed into one weekend on the baseball diamonds of Grovehill. The impact of the pandemic had cut short the time available for pre-season.

One of the other points that made it different this year was the arrival of the first women’s team in the history of the tournament. Belles Baseball made a big noise and splash in the Single-A competition, bringing a lot of energy to the event.

The Herts Spring League provides a great opportunity for teams to finalise their preparations for the upcoming British baseball season. This year, it saw 22 teams play 21 games on 2 diamonds over 2 days. Single-A and Double-A were on Saturday, Triple-A and NBL on the Sunday.

The sun shone gloriously for both days, which we have decided must be a good omen for the season ahead. Yes, it was on the cool side but, hey, it’s the Spring.

Let’s start with the Belles, who opened their HSL account against a Herts side, the Eagles. The visiting team fell behind early on, but fought back with some patient at-bats and aggressive stealing to make it 9-5. The Eagles ran out winners, and the Belles then took on the London Mustangs. Another tight contest ended 9-7 to London.

Top slot in the league was shared by the MK Bucks 2, and the Londoners — who were undefeated. The Eagles, Raptors, Mustangs and Bracknell Inferno each took a split from their weekend. Minotaurs fought hard and scored well but couldn’t secure a W.

If the Belles Baseball were something new, the presence of the Croydon Pirates in the Double-A division was a blast from the past. The team is a revival of what was a stalwart of British baseball a few years back. They won 8-2 over Sidewinders, and then defeated London Musketeers 9-2 to claim the title. London had beaten the Hawks 10-2, and Hawks went down by the same score to Sidewinders in the third place playoff.

Sunday saw the Triple-A action first, with Essex Redbacks finally breaking open a tight contest against the London Mammoths to win 7-2. It was a game with several double plays stifling an offensive threat. All the games were tight in this division. London Marauders took the title with one-run wins over BC Vetra and the MK Bucks.

London Mets dominated the NBL tournament, putting down a marker they intend to defend their title again. They opened their account with a 3-2 win over the Essex Arrows, as the London Capitals saw off the Herts Falcons 10-2. In the second round of rubbers the Mets beat the Caps, while Falcons secured a split on their weekend with a victory over Essex.

The BBF league schedule starts this coming weekend, so the HSL gave a last chance to hone strategies and test players under game conditions. Everyone will have come out of the weekend with a greater sense of what they need to do for success.

Signs are good that the summer of 2021 will see plenty of baseball. Herts thanks all the players who came down and took part, and everyone who made it happen.

It’s game on for 2021.

Outcome of Disciplinary case

Outcome of Disciplinary Case

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed the outcome of an investigation into a complaint made about the conduct of the Falcons manager, Cris Hiche.

As set out in section 12.1 of the club’s constitution, a Disciplinary Panel was convened to consider the case. It received written submissions from the relevant parties. As detailed in the club’s complaints procedure, the Panel had a range of options to consider.

It recommended that Cris Hiche be warned as to his future conduct. Specifically, it advised that he should be more careful and measured in his language, particularly when acting as a representative of Herts baseball club in any way.

The Panel said: “The Codes of Conduct published by both Herts and the BBF demand that members “support a positive culture and climate”, and all interactions should abide by this. It is important that clubs and individuals in British baseball work together to discuss, agree and implement a way forward to grow the sport. When we do not agree, we must show respect and put forward positive arguments.

“It remains vital, though, that people within the baseball community are able to challenge and question those in authority, to ensure transparency and accountability.”

The 14-day period for any appeal has now passed.

Ballparks are starting to take shape ahead of 2021 Opening Day

Diamonds starting to take shape ahead of 2021 Opening Day

At Herts Baseball Club’s annual general meeting in January, it was reported that the club has put a more comprehensive field maintenance programme for Grovehill Ballpark in order to preserve it as one of the best baseball venues in the United Kingdom.

On 29 March Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed that outdoor activities for organised sports can resume. A few days later the first event for Herts was its annual field maintenance day. Since the end of the 2019 baseball season it has been difficult to carry out any significant work at the ballpark due to the pandemic.

The focus on Saturday, 3 April, was to remove weeds and grass which had grown into the infield clay areas. The club hired specialised machinery for this and it delivered visible improvements on both diamonds in Hemel Hempstead. A day later players from the five Herts adult teams were back for their first Spring Training session of the year and that included some field maintenance work which everyone contributed to.

Two days later the project continued with aeration and light rolling of the turf which is expected to improve the surface not only in the short run, but over the medium term as water and nutrients will be able to reach the grass roots, resulting in healthier, stronger growth and a denser grass surface.

The club’s branch in North West London is also being prepared for the new season with rolling implemented in March. Of course that venue is at a very early stage of development and the more significant upgrade of the facility will come as part of the larger Basing Hill Project which the club is currently crowdfunding for.

Crowdfunding campaign continues for Basing Hill Ballpark despite setback

Crowdfunding campaign continues for Basing Hill Ballpark despite setback

It has been a hotly anticipated few weeks as Herts Baseball Club rallied support for the Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign on Spacehive. Facing steep competition, the club hoped to be one of the projects to receive financial backing from the Mayor of London as part of the Make London Fund. Results were announced earlier this week and sadly Basing Hill Ballpark did not succeed in its pitch for mayoral funding. Despite the setback, perhaps there is some comfort in the fact that Herts Baseball Club only narrowly missed out.

The Make London Fund had two tiers: Tier 1 for projects up to £5,000 and Tier 2 for projects over £5,000. With a target of £55,804, Basing Hill Ballpark was placed in Tier 2. Of the 35 projects that were successful in their campaigns for the Mayor’s fund, around fifteen were in Tier 2. Shortly before the results were announced, Herts Baseball Club had 120 backers which ranked it 17th out of a total 98 projects.  Although the decision is not based entirely on the number of backers, it must have been very close.

And let us not forget the very worthy projects we were up against, from cookery schools supporting social integration, which received a pledge from the Duchess of Sussex, to projects tackling loneliness and homelessness. Club President, Aspi Dimitrov, congratulated all the other projects and said that, “although this is a setback, we are determined to build this baseball venue. Apart from the Mayor of London, we have pitched to several other organisations such as the London Borough of Barnet and are continuing to approach other potential backers as part of our crowdfunding campaign”.

There is no denying that missing out on the Make London Fund, with its potential to back up to 50% of the project, was a blow. But the club has not given up. Although holding considerably smaller funds, backing from the London Borough of Barnet is still a potential source of financial support, and with 53 days left to reach its crowdfunding target, Herts are doing everything they can to reach out to other organisations and potential backers.

To date, the campaign has received pledges amounting to £12,123 which is 21% of the £55,804 target. If the campaign fails to reach the target by the deadline all of the pledges will be cancelled and no payments will be taken. The club hopes it does not come to this and will continue to promote the unique and exciting project that Basing Hill Ballpark is. It is also becoming more necessary. One development which emphasises the importance of the project is this week’s launch of the club’s brand new youth baseball league. This will see boys and girls aged between 6 and 14 playing games in Basing Hill Park and at the club’s existing Grovehill Ballpark baseball complex in Hemel Hempstead.

Businesses, sponsors and other backers who may be interested to support the project can contact the club to discuss ways in which this could be a good fit and beneficial for them. They would have the additional assurance from the fact that the club passed the project viability verification process carried out by the independent organisation Locality, which was a prerequisite to pitch to the Mayor of London.

Club members elect five new board members

Club elects five new board members

The results from the 2021 board elections of Herts Baseball Club have been published confirming that five new members have joined the board.

Ken Pike (pictured above) returns to the board as manager of one of the adult league teams based at Grovehill Ballpark.  The identity of his team and which league it will enter in 2021 will be confirmed in the coming days. The most likely scenario is that he will be managing the Single-A League Herts Raptors taking over from Mantas Poderys who did an outstanding job with the team last year and who the club hopes will be back in managerial capacity as soon as his personal circumstances allow him to. Ken has extensive experience in the British baseball league, having previously managed the Raptors.

Adam Collins (pictured above) and Jamie Lang-Richards played for the Herts Eagles over the last two seasons and in 2021 they will have the added responsibility of being co-managers of one of the Herts adult teams based at the club’s north west London branch. The identity of the team and the league which it will play in will be announced soon. Their induction into the role is expected to be very smooth as both have been an integral part of the Herts adult teams in NW London.

Jamie Lang-Richards has played at Double-A and Single-A league level but which league will he be player-manager in? (photo by Rob Jones)

Will Zucker has been elected co-Director of Youth Baseball alongside Aspi Dimitrov who served in that role between 2012 and 2014. Zucker is a product of the Herts youth baseball programme. He went on to become the co-founder of the very successful Durham University Baseball programme and his work was recognised when he received the BSUK Young Coach of the Year Award in 2017.

Will Zucker wearing the Great Britain U19 national team uniform in 2016

He currently plays in Britain’s top league with the Herts Falcons and has also been selected by the Great Britain Under-19 and Under-23 National Teams.

In the coming weeks, Dimitrov and Zucker will be providing more details of their plans for the new regional youth baseball league which will feature teams from both Herts branches – in Hemel Hempstead and in North West London.

(Photo by Bianca Quarte)

The club’s youth baseball department has been strengthened further with the election of Cory English (pictured above). He will be heading either the Under-13 or the Under-11 programme, or possibly both. He is a member of the Herts Londoners and played a key role last year in the very successful launch of the youth baseball programme at Basing Hill Ballpark. Originating from New York, he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge which is already starting to be reflected in the baseball product which is being offered to boys and girls playing at Herts.

In addition to these five new board members, Greg Bochan, Rob Jones and Aspi Dimitrov were re-elected in their board positions as IT Director, Communications Director and Facilities Manager for Basing Hill Ballpark, respectively.

Prime Minister unveils plan to come out of the Covid lockdown

Prime Minister unveils plan to come out of the Covid lockdown

On Monday, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, unveiled a new four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown which could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, if strict conditions are met.

It was good to see that organised sport will be one of the first sectors which will be allowed to resume outdoor activities. As a sport which had a Covid-secure protocol approved by the government in July 2020, baseball clubs up and down the country are expected to restart activities from 29 March onwards. Of course, the dates may be adjusted depending on the Covid data which the government will be monitoring, but this announcement means that our club can begin to plan with that timetable in mind.

The club has already started the process of adjusting the 2021 event and game schedule and adult and youth teams will receive an udate on this in the coming days.

We are excited by the prospect that baseball could return from March 29th. We will work closely with the sport’s authorities, and put in whatever work is necessary, to get everyone back in action safely as soon as possible.

Herts Baseball Club pitches to the Mayor of London as part of its Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign

Herts Baseball Club pitches to the Mayor of London as part of its Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign

Herts Baseball Club has launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a baseball venue at Basing Hill Park in North West London and hopes that the Mayor of London will also back the project.

Herts adult and youth teams began playing baseball in Basing Hill Park in 2019, but there were significant challenges to this. Their baseball infrastructure was very basic. The playing field surface was in a derelict state, to such an extent that football teams stopped playing there more than ten years ago. The park suffered further damage when it was used to train police horses.

The club is now looking to raise over £55,000 to create a high quality baseball venue. This money will be used to level and resurface the playing field with new grass, install a permanent backstop, create an infield, team benches and other baseball elements. The project will also bring the park cafe back to life, a building which has been stagnant for over ten years.

If the club hits its crowdfunding target, Basing Hill Ballpark will not only bring baseball and softball into the heart of the community but will also revitalise this small, but cherished, outdoor space. The park will become a family oriented setting with organised events, outdoor cinema and a newly restored cafe, providing for the whole community in a Covid-secure environment.

The club has already submitted its pitch to the Mayor of London, who will be following the campaign closely over the next few weeks. If the project shows that it has support from the community, the Mayor could pledge as much as 50% of the total project cost.

This type of project is not new to Herts Baseball Club. In 2009 they delivered a very similar project when they constructed a second baseball diamond at their branch in Hemel Hempstead to accommodate the increasing number of players. 

A large proportion of the club’s members are based in NW London and there are many more who want to play baseball but are unable to make the journey to Hemel Hempstead. 

Baseball was in the spotlight when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees came to London to play MLB games in 2019 in front of a 60,000 sell-out crowd. This led to a further increase in the number of enquiries from kids and adults who wanted to play baseball. Basing Hill Ballpark is in a densely populated part of London with good transport connections which makes it an excellent venue to meet that demand.

Herts is competing with 80 other projects for the Mayor’s support and its club president, Aspi Dimitrov, emphasised that “it will be a big challenge to reach the crowdfunding target, especially as so many have been affected by the Covid pandemic but, if we achieve it, we will create something very special for the community”. He added that “every pledge, large or small, will play a vital role in this campaign and supporters can pledge as little as £2”.

Individuals, businesses and other organisations can make a pledge on the Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding page on Spacehive, which is working closely with the Mayor of London and other local authorities to help fund community-led projects. The campaign must reach the target by 11 May 2021.  The money raised will be received by the club only if the project hits the target.  If it doesn’t, all pledges will be cancelled.

If the target is reached, work on the project is expected to commence in August and the aim is to unveil the new ballpark in time for the 2022 baseball season.

For more information and to make a pledge, go to the Basing Hill Ballpark project page on Spacehive.

Herts publishes AGM details

Herts publishes AGM details

AGM NOTICE

In accordance with the Club’s Constitution, this is a notice of the upcoming 24th Annual General Meeting of Herts Baseball Club.  The AGM will take place as follows:
 
DATE
Sunday, 31 January 2021

TIME
10:30am (meeting room opens at 10:15am, AGM expected to end at around 2:30pm)

VENUE
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s AGM will be held online via Zoom. Club members will receive an email with details how to join the Zoom call.

JUNIOR MEMBERS
Under the Club’s Constitution, members under the age of 14 on 31 December 2020 are classified as Junior Members and do not have voting rights at General Meetings. Regardless of this, if you are under the age of 14, you and your parents are very much invited to attend the AGM, especially as so many of the parents of our youth members are involved as players, coaches, volunteers and members of staff.
 
POTENTIAL NEW MEMBERS
Although only 2020 paying club members have the right to vote at this AGM, the meeting is very much open to potential new members who are considering joining the club or who have already registered for 2021 as club members.  This is a good opportunity for new players, volunteers and members of staff to learn more about the club and meet its members.  If you fall into this category and wish to attend the AGM, please contact the club.
 
OBSERVERS
The meeting is also open to observers who are not members of the Club. If you fall into this category and wish to attend the AGM please contact the club.
 
AGM PACK
Ahead of the meeting, the AGM Information Pack will be sent out to 2020 members. It will include information such as the AGM agenda, 2020 report, financial statements, election details and more. 
 
2021 ELECTION OF BOARD MEMBERS
In accordance with the Constitution, a number of Board positions will be up for election at the upcoming AGM either as part of the annual retirement of a third of the Board positions or because they are vacant.
 
The club is now inviting nominations for the following Board positions:  
BOARD POSITIONS (appointment duration in brackets)

  • Club Secretary (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Communications Director (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Shop Manager1 (term ends 31st December 2021)
  • IT Director (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Facilities Manager – Basing Hill (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Manager Single-A or Double-A2 – Hemel Hempstead (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Manager Single-A or Double-A2 – NW London (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Director of Youth Baseball (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Head of U15 Baseball – Hemel Hempstead (term ends 31st December 2021)
  • Head of U13 Baseball – Hemel Hempstead (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Head of U11 Baseball – Hemel Hempstead (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Head of U15 Baseball – NW London (term ends 31st December 2021)
  • Head of U13 Baseball – NW London (term ends 31st December 2021)
  • Head of U11 Baseball – NW London (term ends 31st December 2023)
  • Head of Softball (term ends 31st December 2023)

Notes:

1 Current Shop Manager, Mark Caress, is happy to continue in his role, but also happy to make way if a new candidate wishes to put themselves forward.

2 The leagues which our teams will enter in 2021 will not be known until after the AGM. The Club may also decide to add or remove teams from the BBF leagues depending on the number of players registering for 2021. If the club enters fewer teams than expected, one or more of these board positions may be removed after the AGM.
 
Current Board members are eligible to stand for re-election. All members are invited to consider any of the Board positions and put their names forward for one or several of them. 
 
Being a Board Member is an excellent opportunity to be involved in shaping the future of Herts Baseball Club. If you are considering applying for any of the positions, but are unsure about it, you can get in touch with current or past Board members who can give you more information about what the role involves and what to expect if elected. If you require more information about any of the above Board positions please contact the club.
 
HOW TO CONFIRM YOUR CANDIDACY
If you decide to run for any of these Board positions please confirm your candidacy by posting a message in the Herts Baseball Online Forum (Click here to view). If you have difficulties accessing the forum with your username and password please contact the club.
 
NOMINATION PROCESS
Nominations require two votes – nomination and second.  Nominations of Board members can be received at any time, including during the AGM. Nominations can only be accepted from persons eligible to vote at the AGM. If you are concerned about the nomination process, members of the current Board would be happy to consider supporting your nomination and giving you the necessary two votes to be able to stand for election, so feel free to get in touch with current Board members. To nominate or to second a candidate, post in the Herts Baseball online Forum.
 
BOARD AND STAFF MEMBER REBATE
Ahead of the Board elections, a reminder that, in consideration of the time and effort which Board members give in performing their Board roles and which effectively means that they are unable to enjoy the full benefit of their membership, they will be entitled to a membership fee rebate. The Board reviews the rebate system from time to time. Here is an example of how it is likely to be applied during the 2021 season:

  •  members of the Board are expected to be entitled to a rebate of around 50% or more of the respective membership fee payable by them during the year. 
  • if one Board role is held by two or more individuals, such individuals can share the rebate between them as the burden of performing the role is shared between them.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
In accordance with article 14.3 of the Club’s Constitution “Additions to, or alterations of the constitution shall be submitted to the Secretary not less than 10 (ten) days before the date of the meeting. No resolution involving an amendment to the constitution may be proposed or amended from the floor of a meeting.” If any members wish to propose a constitutional amendment please send it by contacting the club by 23:59 on 21 January 2021, at the latest. You can find a copy of the Constitution on the club’s website (click to view).