Category: Club News

GB coach steps back from Herts role

Former GB coach steps back from Herts role

Last month Herts Baseball Club announced the creation of a partnership with Legends Baseball Club with a view to entering two teams in the National Baseball League (NBL) – Herts Falcons and Herts Legends – to coincide with the NBL Pilot Project which Herts will be implementing in 2023.

The president of Legends Baseball Club and GB U18 national team manager, Jonathan Rodriguez, was appointed as the manager of the Herts Legends. One of the objectives of the partnership was to provide an opportunity for players from the GB U18 team and other GB age groups to play together in Britain’s top league.

In the last few days it has been confirmed that the Great Britain national team programme has decided to make changes in its coaching staff and a new GB U18 head coach will be appointed in Jonathan Rodriguez’s place.

After careful consideration of how this would affect his role and one of his key objectives of the partnership, Jonathan Rodriguez has had to make the difficult decision to step down as manager of the Herts Legends NBL team.

Herts Baseball Club president, Aspi Dimitrov, said, “On behalf of the entire club, I want to express our gratitude to Jonathan for all his contribution and support over the last twelve months, from the clinics he ran with the Herts youth teams last year to the launch of the NBL Pilot Project. Since we unveiled it last month, the Project has generated the momentum we were aiming for and Jonathan has played a key role in this. His contribution has put the club in a strong position going into the pilot project which has the potential to create a path to making the leap from amateur to semi-professional status.”

With over 40 players expressing interest in the NBL tryouts with Herts, our club is keen to assess whether it would be possible to keep to the original plan of entering two Herts teams in the NBL and is currently considering candidates for manager of the second NBL team. The decision on this is expected to be announced shortly after the 31 January deadline for BBF league entries.

Hiche is back as Herts Falcons manager

Hiche is back as Herts Falcons manager

Herts Baseball Club has announced the appointment of Cris Hiche as manager of the Herts Falcons who are preparing to make a return to the National Baseball League (NBL) this year.

This is a very timely homecoming for him as Falcons manager and looks to be a perfect fit given the fact that he played with the London Legends last season and last month Herts and Legends merged their NBL operations. This puts him in an excellent position to build a strong team made up of returning Falcons players alongside 2022 Legends players and new arrivals.

“It’s an honour to be back home so to speak and what better way than by not leaving Legends, the organisation I played for last year,” Hiche commented “It’s going to be an exciting season and I have a feeling, and hope, Herts fans might be in for further nice surprises in the upcoming weeks”.

This news comes a day after the club introduced financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches.

Herts president, Aspi Dimitrov, said, “Everyone at the club is delighted to see Cris back in charge of the Falcons in what is going to be a pivotal year for the club. Every game will be crucial not only to rebuild the team’s position in Britain’s top league but also to find a way into the NBL playoff race as the club aims to grow its fan base and bring spectators to the ballpark as part of the NBL Pilot Project launched last month. Cris already has a strong connection with Herts baseball fans which is another essential component for this project.”

Cris Hiche first joined the Falcons ahead of the 2012 season and it is not a coincidence that the next four seasons proved to be among the best in the club’s history as the team qualified for the NBL playoffs in three out of those four seasons. That included finishing as NBL runner-up in 2012 and reaching the NBL Playoff semi-finals in 2013 and 2015. That success elevated the team into 38th place of the European ranking.

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

Hiche also played a key role in the club’s youth baseball department as the head of the U17 and U19 programmes. In 2013 he led the Herts U17 team to the National Final finishing as runners-up which is the club’s highest position in that age group.

In 2016 Hiche signed a professional contract with the Dornbirn Indians in the Austrian top league. He had the third best batting average in the team (.314) with a slugging average of .412 and on-base average of .455. He committed only 2 errors that entire season ending with a fielding average of .979.

In 2017 he returned to the UK and was back in a Herts uniform. In 2018 he became Falcons manager. During that season the team exceeded all expectations qualifying for the playoffs and shocking the NBL by eliminating first the Southampton Mustangs and then the London Capitals.

In the NBL final they lost to the London Mets but being runner-up meant that the team had booked a place in the 2019 European Federations Cup qualifier for the first time in the club’s history. They came up against tough opponents from Sweden, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria but held their own.

2021 proved to be a difficult season for the Falcons. Cris Hiche had to go back to Chile for most of the year due to family bereavement. The team’s roster was seriously depleted and the club had to make the painful decision of withdrawing the team from the 2022 NBL season.

Prior to joining Herts, Hiche developed in the USA where he played at the high school, college and semi-professional league level as well as on the international stage playing for the Chile U12, U16 and the senior national teams. Between 2008 and 2010 he played for the Sahuaripas in the Mesa Semi-Pro League alongside former or injured Minor League players trying to work their way back into the pros, as well as former MLB players such as former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Omar Daal.

The Falcons are back in the NBL now and Cris Hiche’s attention is firmly on preparing the team for a challenging but exciting season in the NBL.

Players can express interest in trying out for the 2023 NBL season by completing this form.

Herts introduces financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches

Herts introduces financial incentives for its NBL players and coaches

Last month Herts Baseball Club launched its NBL Pilot Project and today confirmed the introduction of financial incentives for NBL players and coaches for the upcoming 2023 NBL season as part of that project.

The level of compensation will be on a sliding scale based on player and team performances and achieving specific goals such as winning percentage, playoff qualification and the number of fans attending home games.

The amounts are set at a level in line with the scale of the project in this experimental first year.

The NBL Pilot Project aims to test a new business model designed to grow the fan base, attract spectators to its National Baseball League (NBL) games, generate revenue and build highly competitive teams by financially rewarding coaches and players.

This is not a new concept in sports and British baseball did have a professional league attracting up to 10,000 spectators in the golden era of the 1930s. But it has not been  achieved in the modern era, so this is an exciting challenge to see if it is viable and if there is sufficient demand in the market.

If the experiment is successful, it will set the path for the club and the sport to the next level.

Players can express interest in trying out for the 2023 NBL season by completing this form.

The project will create a number of new off-field positions  which will need to be filled and more details of these will be published in due course but, those with experience in events, marketing, media, fan engagement, ballpark operations and food and beverage who are interested in getting involved in the project can contact us.

Britain’s Liam Carroll appointed as Boston Red Sox MiLB team manager

Britain’s Liam Carroll appointed as Boston Red Sox MiLB team manager

Yesterday, members of Herts Baseball Club were delighted to see the breaking news that former GB Baseball National Team Head Coach, Liam Carroll, has been appointed by the Boston Red Sox as an MiLB team manager.

Over the last 16 years Liam has supported Herts not only as a coach but in various other capacities on and off the field including the launch of the Herts youth baseball programme in 2007 (pcitured above, top row, first from right to left, wearing red) and the combined GB and Herts youth baseball exhibition event at Grovehill Ballpark in 2008, pictured below.

Herts members and fans have been posting their best wishes to Liam in this exciting next chapter in his amazing career.

We look forward to following Liam’s Red Sox MiLB team when the 2023 season commences in April.

Herts launches NBL Pilot Project

Herts launches NBL Pilot Project

Herts Baseball Club is launching a project hoping to take the club and the sport to the next level. A new business model is designed to grow the fan base, attracting spectators to its National Baseball League (NBL) games, generating revenue and building highly competitive teams by financially rewarding coaches and players.

This is not a new concept in sports and British baseball did have a professional league attracting up to 10,000 spectators in the golden era of the 1930s. But it has not been  achieved in the modern era, so this is an exciting challenge to see if it is viable and if there is demand in the market.

Herts Falcons applauding fans after the final NBL regular season game in 2013 finishing top with Win-Loss % of .857

Herts has grown from having one adult team with 19 members playing on one diamond in 2004 to an organisation with over 200 adult and youth players today with three diamonds – two in Hemel Hempstead and one in NW London. The size of the club is not far from some of the clubs in the German Bundesliga which feature players who are paid to play.

At its 2022 Annual General Meeting in November, Herts Baseball Club members considered a draft proposal, and asked the club’s executive board to make the final decision on it. The board assessed the project, the costs and the benefits and voted to give it the go-ahead. The eleven members of the board were unanimously in favour of going ahead, saying it deserved the full commitment of the club.

This comes after last week’s announcement that Herts and Legends have created a partnership with a view to entering two NBL teams in 2023 and the pilot project will play an integral part.

Baseball fans at the 2019 MLB London Series

Herts Baseball Club president, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “In 2023 you will hear us talk a lot about fan experience, game day product, attendance levels and off-field operations but this project won’t succeed unless we offer attractive and competitive baseball on the field – so we have a lot to do on and off the field between now and Opening Day in April 2023. This is a very challenging project and the odds may be against us but, if we succeed, this would take the club to another level. We want to share what we learn with the rest of the NBL, so that Britain can close the gap on the leading European baseball leagues. If this experiment is successful, it is expected to inspire more children and adults to play baseball and join the club with the additional motivation of being paid to play. The club hopes to create a game day atmosphere which players will revel in. The feeling of playing in front of large audiences is something which very few have the chance to experience in their lives and we want to give this opportunity to our members.”

Herts baseball fans at the 2017 MLB Battlegrounds event in Hyde Park

Players can express interest in trying out with the Herts Falcons and Herts Legends by completing this form.

The project will create a number of new off-field positions  which will need to be filled and more details of these will be published in due course but, those with experience in events, marketing, media, fan engagement, ballpark operations and food and beverage who are interested in getting involved in the project can contact us. This would also be a good opportunity for university students and aspiring entrepreneurs to gain firsthand experience.

Herts and Legends announce partnership ahead of the 2023 NBL season

Herts and Legends announce partnership ahead of the 2023 NBL season

Herts Baseball Club and Legends Baseball Club have announced that they will link up with a view to entering two teams in the National Baseball League (NBL) which is Britain’s highest league.

The  teams  will be known as  the Herts Legends and the Herts Falcons. Both teams will be affiliated with Herts Baseball Club. 

The two clubs worked closely together during the 2022 season. There were two Legends teams in the NBL – Lancashire Legends and London Legends – which were both hosted by Herts at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead. Herts had decided to withdraw its flagship team, the Herts Falcons, from the NBL after a difficult 2021 season.

The two organisations are delighted to now be working even closer together.

The Herts Legends will be managed by Great Britain U18 national team manager and president of Legends Baseball Club, Jonathan Rodriguez. Under his leadership, Legends have had more players selected by GB teams than any club in the country since 2020. Their mission statement is to give players a pathway to compete at the highest levels in the UK and Europe.

Candidates for head coach of the Herts Falcons are being considered at the moment and it is not too late for other candidates to put themselves forward and be added to the shortlist. To express interest in the Herts Falcons head coach position, contact us.

The coaching staff of both the Herts Legends and the Herts Falcons will be evaluating players and planning their rosters when Spring Training commences.  Apart from returning 2022 Lancashire Legends and London Legends players, we expect to see Herts and other players from around the UK and overseas try out for a place on these two NBL rosters. To express interest in trying out with the Herts Falcons and Herts Legends click here.

In 2022 the two  Legends rosters featured twelve players who have played for Herts in previous years so they will find themselves in familiar surroundings in 2023.

Legends President, Jonathan Rodriguez, said: “After reflecting on the past three years, it seemed like a no-brainer to merge with Herts Baseball Club. Working together, Herts and the Legends will be in a much stronger position to get to the next level. We hope the strong infrastructure Herts has built over the years will facilitate and grow the Legends project, which is to provide young baseball players in Great Britain a place to develop into national team, college or professional baseball players. We are excited to see what the future has in store for us.”

Herts president, Aspi Dimitrov, said: “We look forward to welcoming the Legends coaches and players to Herts as well as new players who decide to join us in this exciting project further details of which will be announced over the coming weeks. Our task as a club is to provide a professional environment for the teams to work and develop in and see a ripple effect across the entire club, including the Herts youth baseball teams.”

About Legends Baseball Club: The Legends Baseball Club was founded in 2012 by Jonathan Rodriguez. Today it comprises two teams in California, United States, and two teams in the United Kingdom. The Club has helped produce 17 MLB Draft selections. Jonathan Rodriguez currently serves as the Great Britain U18 National Team Manager and as an assistant coach for the Great Britain  U23 national team.  He also works for Burnley Football Club, is a lecturer in Sport Coaching & Leadership at the University of South Wales and is head coach of the University of Central Lancashire baseball team. For more information visit the Legends Baseball Club website.

About Herts Baseball Club: Herts Baseball Club was founded in 1996 in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and has grown into one of the largest baseball clubs in the UK.  Its nine teams play in the various adult and youth leagues of the British Baseball Federation. Over the years, the club has invested into the expansion and upgrade of Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead and in 2019 the club opened a branch in north west London where they built Basing Hill Ballpark. Herts has featured  on BBC and other television channels and is frequently heard on several radio stations. For more information visit the Herts Baseball Club website.

Another record year for Herts Baseball Club after a 7% growth and improved performance on the field

Another record year for Herts Baseball Club after a 7% growth and improved performance on the field

Herts Baseball Club’s 26th Annual General Meeting was held on Sunday, 27 November, and it provided an analysis of the 2022 season, the club’s current position on and off the field and plans for 2023 and beyond.

Growth

It was confirmed that the club grew by 7% this year and currently has 214 adult and youth members.  This is a new high in the club’s history which means the club has now recorded new highs in three of the last four years.

Competitiveness

At the previous AGM, competitiveness on the field of play was identified as an area which the club needed to improve after its five adult league teams had a combined record of 31 wins and 105 losses (W-L% .228).  There was a marked improvement this year with a combined regular season record of 56 wins and 72 losses (W-L% .438). The Hawks and the Londoners had a W-L% well above the .500 mark and both teams qualified for the postseason playoffs.

The AGM saw a lively discussion on the subject of how best to allocate Herts teams across the different league tiers of the BBF.

Finances

Off the field the club continues to be in a healthy financial position with a record level of net assets. It was noted that the club is preparing to operate in difficult economic conditions in 2023 as the Cost of Living Crisis will affect everyone and the challenge will be to keep baseball affordable while continuing the prudent management of the club’s finances.

Ballparks

Generous donations from club members and the wider community combined with grants from Sport England and Barnet Council enabled the club to implement most of the second phase of the Basing Hill Ballpark project comprising the installation of the backstop, infield cutout areas and pitcher’s mound. Although the crowdfunding campaign reached its target successfully, by the time that campaign was completed, the prices quoted by contractors for the installation of the backstop and infield perimeter fencing had gone up by around 30% as a result of the inflation affecting the entire world at the moment. The club went ahead with the installation of the backstop but the infield perimeter fence was put on hold while the club explores ways to fund the resulting shortfall of around £2,500.

Herts was also awarded £2,851 match-funding from the BSUK Facilities Fund to be invested in procedures to improve the Grovehill Ballpark playing surface.  The first stage of the work has already been completed with the installation of mound clay blocks for both pitching mounds at Grovehill. The remaining funding raised for investment into Grovehill Ballpark and Basing Hill Ballpark will be put into action in 2023.

Events

The three high-profile Herts events – the HSL, the HFT and the Hunlock Series – were back in full swing after being disrupted by Covid in the previous two years. 

BBF news

Club members were updated about news coming out of the BBF AGM which took place a week earlier. The outstanding achievements of the GB U12, U15, U18, Women’s and the Senior teams were highlighted and for the first time we will see GB in the World Baseball Classic. They have been drawn in a pool with the USA and Canada who will feature some of the biggest MLB stars. Games will be played at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Qualification means that GB has already earned a very large sum in prize money and that amount goes up the further they progress in the competition. A large portion of these funds are expected to be invested into British baseball.

The BBF also informed clubs of changes expected in 2023 such as the mandatory scoring of league games at all four league levels, stricter disciplinary procedures to tackle the abuse of umpires, adding the BBF Summer Cup to the calendar and exploring the option to move NBL and Triple-A games to Saturdays as there aren’t enough diamonds in the UK to fit all league games on Sundays.

A positive development has been the return of BSUK to the BBF AGM and the hope is that the BBF and BSUK will expand the level of collaboration which should give a boost to the growth of baseball in the UK.

For the first time ever, the BBF AGM was attended by representatives of MLB and they presented details of the work done so far and their future plans and strategy for the growth of the game in Europe and in the UK in particular as we prepare for the return of the MLB London Series in 2023.  This time it will be the St Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.

Pilot Project

The AGM also considered a proposal for the club to run a pilot project to explore the viability of taking the club to the next level. Club members shared their views on the proposal and agreed to hand the decision to the executive board.

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 via 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.

Outcome of disciplinary proceedings

Outcome of disciplinary proceedings

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed that, in accordance with its constitution and club regulations, it investigated an umpire report related to player conduct during a Hunlock Series game on 9 October 2022.

A disciplinary panel considered the report and imposed a ban on Mike Wakelam for failing to respect the decisions of the game official and engaging in public criticism of the official. The ban means that Mike Wakelam had to miss the remaining Hunlock Series games and will also be banned for the first two BBF regular season games of the 2023 season.

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.

Herts publishes AGM details

Herts publishes AGM details

AGM NOTICE

In accordance with the Club’s Constitution, this is a notice of the upcoming 26th Annual General Meeting of Herts Baseball Club.  The AGM will take place as follows:
 
DATE
Sunday, 27 November 2022

TIME
10:30am (AGM expected to end at around 12:30pm-1:00pm)

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 2022 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 2022 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 2023.  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 2022 members. It will include information such as the AGM agenda, 2022 annual report, election details and more. 
 
ELECTION OF 2023 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 term in brackets)

  • President (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Secretary (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Facilities Manager – Grovehill (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Manager (NBL)2 Falcons (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Manager (Triple-A)2 Cardinals (term ends 31.10.2024)
  • Manager (Single-A)2 Hawks (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Manager (Single-A)2 Raptors (term ends 31.10.2023)
  • Manager (Single-A)2 Londoners (term ends 31.10.2024)
  • Manager (Single-A)2 Eagles (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Head of U15-Hemel (term ends 31.10.2024)
  • Head of U13-Hemel (term ends 31.10.2023)
  • Head of U11-Hemel (term ends 31.10.2025)
  • Head of U15-London (term ends 31.10.2024)
  • Head of U13-London (term ends 31.10.2024)
  • Head of Softball (term ends 31.10.2023)

Notes:

2 The leagues which Herts teams will enter in 2023 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 2023. 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. 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. 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 17 November 2022, at the latest. You can find a copy of the Constitution on the club’s website (click to view).

Watford Sun-Rockets founder has passed away

Watford Sun-Rockets founder has passed away

We are sad to hear that the founder of the Watford Sun-Rockets, Peter Ash, passed away recently. 

He led the team to a national championship win in 1969 over the Liverpool Trojans – 8-7 after extra innings. This was the only Hertfordshire team to reach the NBL final until 2012 when the Herts Falcons lost in the final to the Harlow Nationals 6-3.  

Peter Ash was also selected by the Great Britain National Team and went on to win a silver medal in the 1967 European Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Herts Baseball Club was informed about the sad news by his granddaughter who saw this article from 2012. She is trying to find out as much as possible about him and his club. 

If any of our readers happen to have any further information about the baseball career of Peter Ash and the Watford Sun-Rockets, please contact us and we will forward it to his family.