Category: Club News

MLB pitcher is in town

MLB pitcher is in town

Baltimore Orioles minor league pitcher, Kyle Martin, is in London this month and Herts Baseball Club will be supporting him to continue his preparations for the 2022 baseball season during his visit.

The 23-year-old right handed pitcher was drafted by the MLB team in the fifteenth round of the 2019 Draft. So far in his professional career with the Orioles Single-A affiliates Aberdeen IronBirds and the Delmarva Shorebirds he has a 4-4 record with an ERA of 4.66.

As part of his pre-season training program, he will have two bullpen sessions while he is here in the United Kingdom.

He will be working with catcher Conner Brown who is also 23 years old and who came through the Herts youth baseball programme and went on to play for the Herts Falcons in the National Baseball League and for the Great Britain National Team.

This is a rare opportunity for Herts youth and adult team pitchers and catchers to observe a bullpen session of an MLB pitcher.

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.

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.

Growth

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

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.

Finances

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

Ballparks

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 office@azariahgrossphotography.co.uk)

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.

Events

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.

MLB

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.

Herts publishes AGM details

Herts publishes AGM details

AGM NOTICE

In accordance with the Club’s Constitution, this is a notice of the upcoming 25th Annual General Meeting of Herts Baseball Club.  The AGM will take place as follows:
 
DATE
Sunday, 5 December 2021

TIME
10:30am (AGM expected to end at around 12:30pm)

VENUE
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 2021 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 2021 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 in 2022.  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 2021 members. It will include information such as the AGM agenda, 2021 report, financial statements, election details and more. 
 
ELECTION OF 2022 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)

  • Treasurer (term ends 31st December 2024)
  • Club Secretary (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Shop Manager (term ends 31st December 2024)
  • Facilities Manager – Grovehill (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Welfare Officer (term ends 31st December 2024)
  • Manager NBL (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • 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 2024)
  • Manager Single-A or Double-A2 – NW London (term ends 31st December 2022)
  • Head of U15 Baseball – Hemel Hempstead (term ends 31st December 2024)
  • 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 2024)
  • Head of U13 Baseball – NW London (term ends 31st December 2024)
  • Head of Softball (term ends 31st December 2023)

Notes:

2 The leagues which our teams will enter in 2022 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 2022. 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 upcoming 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 25 November 2021, at the latest. You can find a copy of the Constitution on the club’s website (click to view).

Herts stalwart Hiche steps down

Herts stalwart Hiche steps down

One of the leading figures of the past decade for the Herts Falcons, Cris Hiche, has decided to step down as the manager of the team.

Hiche originally joined the Falcons ahead of the 2012 season, and helped to push them to unprecedented levels of success. The team reached the playoff finals that year, and lost in six games to the Harlow Nationals. His first four seasons with Herts proved to be among the best in the club’s history and included reaching the NBL playoffs in three out of these four seasons, and semi-finals in 2013 and 2015.

Hiche’s outstanding performances in this period were recognised with the award of the NBL Outfield Gold Glove in 2012 and 2013, when he did not commit a single error. In 2013 he was also the Falcons’ home run leader.

After a year playing in the Austrian league in 2016, Cris Hiche returned to Herts. By 2018 he had become the manager, and once again led the Falcons to success. An impressive post-season run – in which he was now a successful starting pitcher – saw the team return to the NBL finals against the Mets.

The London side swept the finals series, but there was another aspect to this achievement – Herts had qualified for Europe for the first time in their history. In the summer of 2019, Hiche’s Falcons played in Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria in the European Federations Cup. They secured a win against the Lithuanian side, Utenos Titanai, and indulged in a famous rain-soaked streak. Don’t worry, we won’t share pictures of Cris in his undercrackers.

The Chilean has also been instrumental off the field for Herts for many years. He joined the club’s executive board as the head of the Under-17 and Under-19 programmes. In 2013 he led the Herts Under-17 team to the National Final finishing as runners-up which is the club’s best position in that age group. He has also served in posts including facilities manager and overseen training programmes for all levels.

Cris had to step away from managing in 2021 for family reasons, and has now decided not to return in 2022. Herts wishes him all the best for what comes next, and we still hope to see him return to the club to drive more success in years to come.

Outcome of disciplinary proceedings

The club received a complaint alleging that a post in a team WhatsApp group was inappropriate.  As per the club’s procedures, a disciplinary panel was convened to consider all of the details. It concluded that the mis-spelling of a player’s name was a genuine error, and was not done with any malicious intent. The complaint was not upheld.

The club is very keen to protect its diverse and inclusive culture where everyone feels that they belong and can thrive and encourages club members not to hesitate to report any concerns that they may have so that the club can ensure that this continues to be the case. All cases will be investigated thoroughly and appropriate action will be taken in the event of a violation of codes of conduct or other disciplinary infringements.

Outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed that, in accordance with its constitution and club regulations, it investigated complaints related to conduct during the Herts Hawks home Double-A League game with the Essex Archers played on 27 June 2021. A disciplinary panel considered the evidence and imposed a £60 fine on, Carlos Casal Sr, for misconduct and for bringing the club into disrepute.  The fine was suspended for 24 months. Casal Sr would not be required to pay the £60 fine, however the fine will become payable in the event that he commits a disciplinary offence in the next 24 months.

The above disciplinary decision was appealed. The appeals panel considered the appeal and upheld and confirmed the findings of the original disciplinary panel. The appeal was therefore rejected.

The club reiterated that, over the years it has had very few disciplinary matters to deal with but, it is still important to increase awareness among its members about observing the club and BBF codes of conduct especially when emotions run high.

Basing Hill Ballpark project to commence this week

Basing Hill Ballpark project to commence this week

Earlier today Herts Baseball Club confirmed that they have appointed Inscapes as the contractor for the Basing Hill Ballpark project. They are a company with extensive experience in this industry and among their clients are some high profile venues such as The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (video below), Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Gleneagles Golf Course, Hampton Court Palace among others.

Inscapes Millennium Stadium Pitch Construction

They are scheduled to commence work at Basing Hill this Friday, 10 September.  The project is almost identical to Herts’ 2009-2010 project of building Diamond One at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead.

They will first spray off the playing area and a week or two later will cultivate, re-grade and level the field before they plant the new grass seeds.

It is expected that the new grass playing surface will be ready for its first baseball league games in May 2022 in time for the new season.

Below are images from some of the projects implemented by Inscapes.

We have 14 days to make the Basing Hill Ballpark project a reality

We have 14 days to make the Basing Hill Ballpark project a reality

The Basing Hill Ballpark project has been given a lifeline in the campaign to secure funding but the odds are still stacked heavily against it with the deadline looming.

In March, Herts Baseball Club came very close but missed out on receiving funding from the Mayor of London for the project.  Despite securing pledges from 125 other backers, the original crowdfunding target of £55,000 was just too far to reach without the support from the Mayor. 

That campaign’s deadline passed last week so it has now ended. All 125 pledges have been cancelled and no money will be taken from the bank accounts of those who made a pledge.

Over the last few weeks the club has been exploring ways to keep to the original timeline so that the playing field can be re-graded, levelled and the grass seeds can be planted this September, while the later stages of the project can be implemented when the club secures the required funding. If this cannot be done in time for the September grass-growing season, the project would be delayed by at least 12 months which means that the growing number of adult and youth baseball teams would have to play one more year on the same grass surface which is not fit for purpose.

The club has now launched a scaled down crowdfunding campaign on Spacehive with a target of £21,409 which covers this first phase of the project. 

It has pitched to the London Borough of Barnet who have just made a £4,000 pledge which has given the project a lifeline.

It is now up to the club to mobilize its members and fans as well as the community and businesses around Basing Hill to see if they can reach the target in the limited time that remains.

If the club succeeds, 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 for the whole community in a Covid-secure environment.

The campaign must reach the target by 16 August 2021.  The money pledged 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 September and the resurfaced playing field and the new grass should be ready in time for the 2022 baseball season.

For more information about the campaign and to make a pledge, go to the Basing Hill Ballpark (Phase 1) project on Spacehive.