Category: Featured

Going under cover

Going under cover

The phrases “if you build it” and “people will come” have a magic resonance in the world of baseball.

And so they must have drifted through the minds of two Herts baseball club veterans when they saw their vision of an indoor baseball and softball venue open at Brent Cross this past week. The 108 London is a first in the UK, and the biggest such centre in Europe.

Its creators, Mike Wakelam and Max Trautman, have been part of Herts for more years than we’d like to say. Their wisdom and enthusiasm – not to mention a little bit of skill – have left a lasting mark on the club. Together they oversaw the youth programme for a long time. Rifle through our photo archive on Flickr and they feature often.

Mike and Max overseeing a youth session in 2017

Now they have made a mark on the wider world of British baseball. The 108 is a purpose-built indoor venue with a neat, full-size infield. It had its gala opening this past week, with the backing of MLB, Barnet Council, and the developers of the Brent Cross Town project.

There are batting cages with computer technology which allows you to check your progress in detail. There are bullpens for pitchers and catchers to hone their craft. And there is a bar and barbecue, with games on TV screens.

Herts players have already been taking advantage of the facilities, with regular training sessions on a Thursday evening. Members of the Herts Cardinals, Herts Ravens — as well as the Herts Raptors who are based in Hemel Hempstead – are among those who have been there to work out.

Baseball Softball UK (BSUK), the development agency for the sports, has already made extensive use of the manicured indoor green fields. In England in January, going under cover is the best way to play. They hosted a two-day clinic for coaches this weekend, with World Series winner and current Miami Marlins coach Jon Jay among those sharing their expertise. And yes, Herts coaches were there.

Mike Wakelam told the BBC why he wanted to create the space: “I’ve been passionate about baseball and softball since I was a child, and I wanted somewhere people could enjoy the game and help it grow. The barbecue and bar is part of that, because you want the game to grow socially, and let people have a hit and have a drink with friends!”

Pic courtesy Barnet council

MLB Europe described the barbecue offerings at The 108 as “mouth-watering”. Batflips and Nerds, the premier British baseball podcast and website, called the whole facility “absolutely incredible”. Barnet’s council member for sports, Ammar Naqvi, said it provided an exciting, fun place for local residents to meet and new ways for people to get active.

Herts — which has its Basing Hill field close by – very much shares the aim of growing the game of baseball wherever we can.

Players are continuing sessions at The 108 in the coming weeks, and do get in touch with us if you want to know more. We are hopeful that the club can organise training there, too, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, a number of indoor sessions have been arranged at other venues:

Youth: Saturday 17th February and 9th March, 1-3pm, JFK Catholic School, Hemel Hempstead

Adults: Sunday 18th February and 10th March, 12-2pm, JFK Catholic School, Hemel Hempstead

Adults: Sunday 4th February, 12-2pm, Ark Elvin Academy, Wembley

We look forward to seeing you all soon to play baseball (under cover, it’s cold outside!). And before you know it the sunshine and the season will be here.

2023 Season Review

2023 Season Review

The following article was featured in Herts Baseball Club’s 2023 Annual Report distributed to club members ahead of its annual general meeting held on 26 November 2023.


It has been another record year for our club growing by 16% and we now have 248 adult and youth members. This has enabled us to have one or more teams at each of the four adult league tiers and in all four youth league age divisions. Substantial investment has gone into upgrading both ballparks and facilities and we are in a strong position to go further in the coming years after adding new revenue streams which increase our healthy cash reserves. MLB and other strategic partners have recognised us as an organisation they can work with and we hosted two MLB events – one in Hemel Hempstead and one in London. There are exciting opportunities on the horizon.

This would not be possible without the hard work, care and dedication of board and non-board staff, and the wider membership. We have been receiving very positive feedback from club members, parents and fans and I would like to join them in thanking you, the members, for your incredible contribution.

Adult Baseball

In 2022 we saw the unusual scenario of having one team in the Triple-A League and our other four teams all in Single-A. This year, the number of teams increased from five to seven and the allocation of teams was more balanced – one team in the NBL, one in Triple-A, two in Double-A and three in Single-A. From previous years we know that moving up the leagues is not an easy step to take. It became even more difficult when, after submitting the league entries in January, the Hawks lost five or six players from their strong 2022 roster and a similar number of new experienced players who were expected to strengthen the Ducks, withdrew their club registration shortly after registering due to change of circumstances. That had a significant effect on the competitiveness of those two teams in Double-A.

photo by Henry Bell

Despite this being an expansion season, the Cardinals, Raptors and Ravens achieved a considerable improvement with a combined record of 42 wins and 30 losses (.583) compared to 29 wins and 49 losses (.372) in 2022.

photo by Tony Small

Cardinals and Ravens qualified for the Triple-A and Single-A postseason, respectively, reaching the semi-final stage which is an outstanding feat.

Falcons and the NBL Pilot Project

After a one year absence, the Herts Falcons were back in Britain’s top league. In addition to the return of a number of former Falcons players, we saw a large number of talented young players with international experience with the various Great Britain national teams.

There were games when the team showed that they can compete against the best NBL teams, but at the end we have to give credit to our opponents and accept that the Falcons did not do enough to stay in the playoff race.

But there is no doubt about the enormous potential of this group of young players not only to close the gap on the leading NBL teams but to overtake them in the coming years.

There was a recognition of this when Falcons third baseman, Jack Warrington, was selected as the only British player among the top 90 young European prospects to take part in the MLB Development Tournament during the MLB London Series in front of the MLB scouts.

The return of the Falcons to the NBL was in conjunction with the club’s Pilot Project which had the aim to increase the number of fans and provide a more immersive game day experience.

Despite operating on a limited budget, we sold a total of 284 tickets for the four NBL home games. The total included a number of complimentary tickets given to local primary schools and an organisation which supports people in Dacorum facing homelessness or social exclusion.

The department made a small profit. It would have been interesting to see what the results would have been if the team’s win-loss percentage was higher and had avoided some of the blow-out losses.

The project achieved most of the goals which were set, including:

  • Falcons’ return to the NBL
  • Grow the club’s fan base
  • Increase attendances at home NBL games
  • Increase publicity and media coverage
  • Raise the club’s profile
  • Inspire more children and adults to play baseball and join Herts

Youth Baseball

The Herts youth baseball programme grew again this year setting another record high.

photo by Richard Williams

The club was represented in all four age brackets of the national youth baseball championships picking up a silver at U19 level and two bronze medals for the U16s and U11s.

There is still a gap between our youth teams and the leading youth programme, but that gap is getting smaller every year.

photo by Marcus Grant

The coaching staff deserve a lot of praise for raising the standard further and providing more playing opportunities, some of which were added extras on top of the membership packages.

Coach Lee Manning once again ran the midweek youth baseball sessions in Hemel Hempstead and coach Stephen Wong added ten summer holiday sessions and four April half-term sessions. The Basing Hill branch also added twelve midweek evening sessions to the calendar.

U13 players also had the opportunity to work with coach Monte Brooks from The Master’s University, California who have seen a number of their players play in MLB.

Like any organisation, there will be hurdles that we need to overcome. This year, a large number of U11 players in Hemel Hempstead made the transition to U13 leaving a lower number of players in that U11 group. That made it difficult for U11 coaches to run regular season games. Although the size of our programme is at a record high, we are still slightly short of the level needed to run local league play in every age group on our own. Disproportionate fluctuations in numbers from one year to the next can leave one or more age groups vulnerable so we need to keep pushing for growth to reach the scale which will ensure stable regular season game schedule.

This year it was very satisfying to see the work of the youth baseball staff in the previous three years show results with many Herts youth players starting their transition to adult league baseball with the Hawks and in the Hunlock Series.

photo by Richard Williams

I must give a special mention to the parents. They see that the club is looking to build something special and provide children with lifelong memories and they have become very involved supporting all aspects on and off the field, from coaching and umpiring to concessions and field maintenance.

Financials

The club continues to be in a healthy financial position.  We were able to avoid any major increases in membership fees this year. However, we are operating in difficult economic conditions with high inflation.  We need to do our best to keep baseball affordable while continuing our prudent management of the club’s finances. There will be some cost pressures which we will not be able to avoid and club members also will have to adapt to the new membership fee structure which the BBF is about to announce for 2024.

Ballparks

In 2022 the club was awarded £2,851 match-funding from the BSUK Facilities Fund to be invested in improvements at Grovehill Ballpark with a total cost of £5,851.  The first stage of the work involving the installation of mound clay blocks for both pitching mounds at Grovehill was completed in 2022.  The main part of the project involved verti-draining, overseeding, top dressing and other procedures to improve the playing surface on both diamonds. It was scheduled for Spring 2023. 

Our contractors struggled to time the project due to heavy flooding in the Spring followed by a very dry spell which made the ground too hard for the spikes to penetrate the soil. As a result, it was implemented in September 2023 and grooves of newly grown grass could be seen during the Hunlock Series games in October (see photo above). 

We had wonderful support from Dacorum Borough Council who assigned two additional rooms to us.

They also re-painted all our rooms and installed new female and male toilets and washing facilities.

The club also acquired a new paint-based line-marking machine for Grovehill.

We completed the second phase of the Basing Hill Ballpark project with the installation of the infield perimeter fence.

photo by Rob Jones

Thanks to the Brent Cross Town Community Fund £2,632 award we were able to fund the purchase of a baseball pitching machine for Basing Hill which means that now both ballparks have one.

It is important that we increase awareness about ballpark and facilities operational and maintenance procedures and train the designated team supervisors so that we can ensure that our ballparks are kept at the highest standard year after year.

Media and IT

Our media operations continue to be among the best in British baseball, with the club and its members featured by various media organisations and publications.

The number of followers of our various media channels continues to grow at a good rate.

We saw an increase in quality and volume of video content on our YouTube channel which members and other followers enjoyed this year.

As always, our IT Director, Greg Bochan, was hard at work keeping the club’s IT infrastructure running, integrating all of its separate components to work smoothly with each other and enabling us to do things which would be impossible without this technology.

Events

photo by Rob Jones

Our club’s reputation for having some of the best ballparks in the UK and being able to host high profile events is paying off as we had the honour of hosting two MLB events around the MLB London Series. The first was the MLBPAA Youth Clinic featuring World Series winners, David Eckstein and Jake Arrieta, running a clinic with 60 kids from British baseball clubs around the UK.

The second was the MLB First Pitch event at Grovehill for around 200 pupils from local primary schools.

There was no Herts Futures Tournament in 2020 and 2021 but it is starting to regain momentum with the number of teams increasing from eight in 2022 to twelve this year.

The season would not be complete without the Hunlock Series. It also gave us an opportunity for all our adult teams to remember club member Dan Gipple who passed away this year.

British Baseball

Momentum is continuing to gather for baseball in the UK. The Great Britain National Team overcame the odds at the World Baseball Classic and secured a place in the next edition in 2026 without having to go through the qualifying stage.  

British coach Liam Carroll was appointed as the manager of the Boston Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate.

The MLB London Series was back. In 2024 we will welcome the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

2024

I expect to have a number of personal commitments coming up as we go into 2024. Although I will still be able to perform office-based roles such as Treasurer and Secretary, this will affect my ability to cover some of my other roles such as events and facilities manager.  I am also mindful of the fact that I have been a board member of the club since 2004 and it may be appropriate for club members and the board to have the opportunity, periodically, to consider whether they wish to appoint different persons in the roles which I am covering at present. The last time I stepped down from my roles was in 2015 and perhaps now is a good time to do that again.

If no candidates are appointed at the upcoming AGM and if the board decides not to co-opt others to these roles, I would be very happy to be co-opted again to roles which I am able to perform in 2024, if the board decides that this is in the club’s best interest. Whatever the decision of club members and the board, I will of course be very keen to ensure the best possible transition and hand-over of roles which are assigned to others in 2024.

We have grown from having one adult team with 19 members playing on one diamond in 2004 to an organisation with around 250 adult and youth players today and three diamonds – two in Hemel Hempstead and one in NW London.

These are exciting times for our club and its members and there is enormous potential and opportunities to continue growing and developing the club as we strive to get to the next level. 

Aspi Dimitrov

President

Dennis Grogan (1971-2023)

Dennis Grogan (1971-2023)

Our club is very sad to hear the news that former Herts Falcons player, Dennis Grogan, has passed away.

He spent only one season with Herts but it didn’t take him long to become an integral member of the club and he had the respect of everyone. He contributed on and off the field but what we will miss most is his friendship and company.

The thoughts of everyone at Herts Baseball Club are with his family.

2023 MVP vote results are in

2023 MVP vote results are in

The Most Valuable Players (MVP) of the seven Herts adult league 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.

Herts Falcons (NBL)

The 2023 Herts Falcons MVP is player-manager, Cris Hiche. With a batting average of .397, slugging average of .638 and 3 home runs, Hiche was a consistent contributor to the team’s offence. Defensively, he produced a series of web gems including a Play of the Year candidate in the game away at the Capitals which was streamed live (see video above).

(photo by Tony Small)

Herts Cardinals (Triple-A)

For a second consecutive year, the Herts Cardinals chose Tyler Cote as the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was the team’s “go-to” pitcher including in the Playoff Semi-Final. He had the team’s best ERA (.366) and led the pitching staff in strikeouts (36) and wins (3) tied with three other pitchers. Offensively, he led in RBIs (21), stolen bases (18) and had the third best batting average (.400).

photo by Will Baxter

Herts Hawks (Double-A)

Harry McMenamin is the Herts Hawks MVP. This was his third season playing in the BBF senior leagues and he has been voted as the Hawks MVP in each of these three seasons.  His batting average was .552, slugging average was .845 which is almost identical to his numbers last year, despite the fact that his team is playing in a higher league tier this season. His contribution was in all aspects of the game, as a pitcher, with the glove in the infield and with his speed, stealing 27 bases.

photo by Rob Jones

Herts Ducks (Double-A)

The Herts Ducks MVP is Taysir Barakat. His teammates recognised his contribution on and off the field in a diffiuclt first season for the Ducks in the Double-A League when the team needed a lot of lifting. He had a batting average of .349, led in stolen bases (14) and his team relied on his pitching with the most innnings pitched (24).

photo by Tony Small

Herts Ravens (Single-A)

Zak Beller won the MVP vote among the Herts Ravens. He was a key player in a very successful season for the team going all the way to the Playoff semi-final. He led the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (40), was third in batting average (.686) and stolen bases (38). We should mention that pitcher and infielder Nic Goetz was a close second in the MVP vote. He had another exceptional season with an ERA of 2.45, 8 wins , no losses and 61 strikeouts. He also led the team with a .778 batting average.

Herts Raptors (Single-A)

Among the seven Herts senior league teams, the Herts Raptors recorded the biggest improvement in their winning average from .038 in 2022 to .348 this season. The players determined that pitcher Lee Dunn played a vital part in this and voted him as the Raptors 2023 MVP. He had the best ERA and the lowest opponent batting average. He also led the team with 3 home runs. This is only his first season with the club so we look forard to seeing what 2024 will bring for him and the Raptors.

Herts Eagles (Single-A)

The Herts Eagles MVP is George Llewelyn Thomas. He may not have been at the top of the offensive and defensive categories, but the fact that his teammates voted for him speaks volumes about the role he played in the team, bringing everyone together and leading by example. The team made enormous progress over the course of the season and they are already preparing for 2024.

Apart from being 2023 Ravens MVP, Zak Beller also won the Play of the Year with his 3 home runs in a game. Close behind him in the vote were Lee Dunn for his 2-home-run-game and Ben Sporleder for his fearless catch in centerfield smashing into the outfield wall.

There was a tie in the Nob-Out Award category between Tyler Cote and Lewis Auchterlounie for the most spectacular mishap of the season. Tyler Cote caused a delay in the start of the game away at Bristol when he lost his wedding rind requiring an urgent search party where both the home and away players had to comb the field on their knees. The ring was found successfully.

Lewis Auchterlounie shares the Nob-Out Award with Tyler Cote. He was one of the fans who came down to watch the Herts Falcons NBL game and decided to enter the 200m fan race during the 5th inning stretch. The prize for the winner was a hot dog so there was a lot on the line. One furlong into the race Lewis went down after pulling a hamstring.

With 2023 award-winners confirmed, attention is turning to preparations for the 2024 season. What will the new year bring? How many Herts teams will we see and which leagues will they play in? Which players will be challenging to move up the leagues and will a Herts team bring a national championship trophy home?

Barracudas are the 2023 Hunlock Series champions

Barracudas are the 2023 Hunlock Series champions

The Black Barracudas finished top during the league stage of the Hunlock Series and went into the Postseason as the favourites so it was no surprise when they beat the Big Red Machine in the Final late on Sunday evening as the sun was going down on the final game day of the 2023 season.

photo by Herman Ng

The Postseason started with a do or die encounter between the Cheese Cutters and the Wizards who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. It proved to be an epic best-of-7 series which went the distance and the Wizards won by 4 games to 3.  They had to face the third-placed Buzzards next. Wizards eventually ran out of pitching arms and, despite putting up a good fight, lost the series.

photo by Herman Ng

The second seeded Big Red Machine upset the odds with a 3-1 series win against the Barracudas after another good outing on the mound for Erik Gustafson. That secured a place in the final for them while the Barracudas had to face the Buzzards in a best-of-3 semi-final series.

The Barracudas won that series 2.5-0.5 to book their place in the Final where they met the Red Machine for a second time of the day which gave them a chance to redeem themselves after losing to them earlier in the day.

Despite a strong performance by the Big Red Machine, which included a Play of the Year-nominated diving catch by Andy Cornish, the Barracudas won the Championship Series 3-1.

Hunlock Series Scoreboard

This year’s Hunlock Series saw around 100 players play 63 one-inning games. Many of the players were new to Herts and the club hopes to see them wearing the Herts jersey when the 2024 British baseball season commences.

These were the final games of the 2023 baseball season. The players now take a break over the winter but Spring Training is not too far away and planning for the 2024 season has already began.

If you are not a member of the club yet, the best way to keep up-to-date is to be added to the club’s mailing list. Contact us for more details about joining the club for 2024 or to subscribe to the mailing list.

Barracudas in pole position going into Hunlock Series Playoffs.

Barracudas in pole position going into Hunlock Series Playoffs.

The 16-game Hunlock Series regular season was completed on Sunday.  The Barracudas and the Big Red Machine were neck-and-neck going into the final game. The Barracudas won it to leave the two teams tied with identical win-loss record in first place but that was enough to clinch first place on the tie-break rule as that win gave them a superior head-to-head record.

The top two teams in the standings will have a considerable advantage in the playoffs.

The defending champions Blue Buzzards finished third, two and a half games back on the leaders, but they should not be written off.

View final standings

The Cheese Cutters and the Wizards find themselves in deep trouble occupying fourth and fifth place respectively. The unforgiving postseason format means that they will have to win four series in a row and they will have no room for error.

The two teams will get the Playoffs underway when they meet each other on Sunday morning. First pitch is at 9:30am. The loser will be eliminated. The winner would then meet the third placed Buzzards.  The loser of that series will be eliminated. The winner would then come up against the loser of the Barracudas versus Big Red Machine series. The winners of these two series will meet in the final.

Some of the series are best-of-7 format, others are best-of-5 or best-of-3 so it will be a marathon day for the lower seeded teams if the series go the distance.

It would take something special for the Cheese Cutters and the Wizards to reach the final, but it is not impossible. Paradoxically, the Wizards are bottom of the league standings but they have the best offence in the league. They have driven in 30 runs over the 16 games. However, their defence has been struggling and is the worst in the league. The Cheese Cutters have the worst run difference with minus 17. The scene is set perfectly for one of these two teams to cause a major upset.

The teams will receive a boost if they win their first two Playoff series as the 9-out daily limit on their pitchers will be reset for their third series of the day.

View Hunlock Series Postseason schedule

We have had glorious weather so far and Sunday is forecast to be another dry day so fans should get set for what could be a dramatic day of baseball to end the 2023 baseball season.

Herts Baseball Club celebrate the opening of Basing Hill Ballpark

Herts Baseball Club celebrate the opening of Basing Hill Ballpark

The Basing Hill Ballpark project was completed on June 20th but, with a busy schedule of league games and events, it wasn’t until last Sunday, October 1st, that the club found an available date in the calendar to mark the occasion.

Barnet Councillors, Anne Clarke, Giulia Innocenti and Nigel Young were the guests of honour and they threw out the ceremonial first pitch during the opening games of the 2023 Hunlock Series. During the ceremony the club expressed its gratitude to club members, the wider British and international baseball community, local residents and the many who contributed in various capacities – from grounds crew volunteers to architects.

The club highlighted the fantastic support of London Borough of Barnet councillors and members of staff from various departments. Councillor Peter Zinkin was overseas and wasn’t able to attend. He played a key part sponsoring the club’s Area Committee funding application.

The first phase of the project was to level and resurface the playing field with new grass.  That was implemented in September and October 2021 by the contractor Inscapes and it was time to move to phase two.

The club, with the help of Sport England, club members and the wider community successfully reached the £20,068 crowdfunding target in April 2022 and the London Borough of Barnet planning department granted the planning permission for the second phase of the project to commence.

In the summer of 2022 the club secured the services of several fantastic contractors. Galldris Group, who have been busy across the street with the huge Brent Cross Town development, implemented the excavation of the infield cutout areas around the bases and the pitcher’s mound.

Working on a very tight budget, the club relied on its own members and volunteers to do the heavy lifting of laying the 20 tonnes of sub-base and 40 tonnes of infield mix onto the cutout areas.

They somehow managed to avoid disruption to the youth and adult league schedules by squeezing all of this work into the five days between two weekends packed with games.

The first games on the new infield was the Triple-A League clash between the Herts Cardinals and the Cambridge Monarchs on 26 June, pictured above.

The mound clay blocks were installed on the pitcher’s mound and the batters’ and catcher’s boxes a week later.

The installation of the baseball backstop was completed by contractors Tate and Tonbridge Fencing in August 2022.

The last remaining step was the installation of the spectator rails on the first and third base side of the infield. With steel and fuel prices rising, the cost of this increased by 30% which delayed this final stage of the project.

It was completed successfully on 20 June 2023, just in time for an MLB Youth Baseball Clinic which Basing Hill Ballpark was selected to host.

It featured MLB stars, David Eckstein and Jake Arrieta – both World Series winners with St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, respectively. This was part of the 2023 MLB London Series events which culminated with the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Cardinals playing two official league games at the London Stadium on that weekend.

It will be interesting to see how this purpose-built baseball venue will develop in the coming years. Will there be more upgrades? With so many new players joining every year there already are four league teams playing at Basing Hill Ballpark so the venue will reach full capacity in the next few years. The club may need to replicate this project to avoid having to put new players on a waiting list.

Teams from Essex and Cambridge are the 2023 Herts Futures Tournament champions

Teams from Essex and Cambridge are the 2023 Herts Futures Tournament champions

The Essex Redbacks won the U15 and U11 divisions of the Herts Futures Tournament while the Cambridge Lancers won the U13 bracket but all the teams played their part in making this another successful edition of this competition.

photo by Rob Jones

The number of entries was up from 7 last year to 14 this year so it is good to see British baseball gradually recovering after a difficult 2020 Covid year.

The day started with the traditional opening ceremony introducing the teams and umpires. With Great Britain national team preparing to play in the European Championships final against Spain on the following day, this was a perfect opportunity for the players and fans to show their support. 

photo by Richard Williams

The first U15 division featured three teams and Essex Redbacks dominated from start to finish. The Essex Redbacks also won the U11 division.

photo by Marcus Grant

The U13 bracket went right down to the wire. The Buccaneers U13 were in pole position to win it with an unbeaten record but in their final game the Herts Hawks U13 proved to be too strong.

photo by Richard Williams

That gave the Herts team 3 wins and 1 loss which which proved to be just short as the Cambridge Lancers U13 had a marginally better record of 3 wins and 1 tied game against the Buccaneers U13 which reached the time limit with a score of 0-0 so it was not possible to determine the winner on the “roll-back” rule.

View the HFT scoreboard and final standings.

Since its creation in 2008, the Herts Futures Tournament has been a great day for the youth baseball community to get together at the end of the year. The club was delighted to see so many players, parents and coaches come along to enjoy it once again.

Our three photo albums from the day can be seen on our Flickr page – please feel free to find yourself!

Album 1

Album 2

Album 3

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

Hunlock Series starts this Sunday. League and playoff games will adopt the 9th Inning game format.

The game schedule for the 2023 Hunlock Series has been published and it has been confirmed that the “9th Inning” game format is in force which means that all games will be decided over a single inning only. This format was first adopted in the 2017 Hunlock Series. It recreates the tension and drama of the ninth inning.

The Green Cheese Cutters open the competition with a 4-game series against the Black Barracudas at 09:40am at Basing Hill Ballpark, followed by four more of these 4-game series with the day ending at around 5:30pm.

Opening Ceremony

There will be an opening ceremony at 12:30pm for the annual group photo of all the teams. This event will also see a ceremony to officially mark the opening of Basing Hill Ballpark after the completion of Phase 2 in June. Five local Councillors will throw out the ceremonial first pitch as the guests of honour.

Tournament rules

The following regulations will apply to the “9th Inning” format.

• The batting order of each team remains unchanged for the duration of the day unless a substitution is made.

• A substituted player cannot re-enter the same game, however that player can re-enter a subsequent game.

• The batter who was next to bat upon completion of the previous game will be the first batter in the next game with the rest of the batting lineup coming up to bat in order.

What is also noticeable from the schedule is that the home team alternates over the course of the 4-game series which implies that the fielding team in the bottom of the inning will remain in the field in the top of the inning of the subsequent game. This scheduling approach was adopted in previous years and it sped-up the games enormously as that halved the number of times teams go in and out of the field. There even was no need for warm-up pitches as the pitchers were ready. The downside is that a pitcher will need to stay on the mound for 6 outs without a break as opposed to the usual 3 outs, which could mean twice as many pitches thrown in an inning. This is where the defence can really help pitchers, by minimising errors and not adding to the pitcher’s pitch count.

League and Playoff Format

The first two weeks of the Series will see a league format where each team will play a total of 16 games, 4 games against each of their opponents.

The postseason playoff will be played on 15 October. Those games will also adopt the one-inning game format. See playoff tournament tree above.

Other rules

The other rules which differ from what teams are used to in the BBF leagues are:

• Pitching Restrictions. A player can appear as a pitcher in one, two or more games per day, but no player shall accumulate more than 3 innings (9 outs) as a pitcher over the course of the day. It is the responsibility of the opposing team to inform the umpire when a pitcher reaches the limit. Managers must inform opponents of the number of innings pitched by each of their pitchers during the day prior to the start of each game.

• No Mercy Rule will be in force.

• If the game is tied after completion of the final inning, each team is awarded half a win and half a loss in the standings.

The 2023 Hunlock Series Draft took place on Friday night.  See more details here.

If you have not signed up to play in the Hunlock Series, it is not too late. Contact Herts Baseball Club for details on how to sign up.

Herts Futures Tournament this Saturday.

Herts Futures Tournament this Saturday.

Ten teams will be in action at the 2023 Herts Futures Tournament (HFT) which will take place this Saturday, 30 September 2023. The number of entries is up from 7 last year so it is good to see British baseball gradually recovering after a difficult 2020 Covid year.

U15 Division

  • Essex Redbacks (U15)
  • Herts Falcons (U15)

U13 Division

  • Brighton Fireballs U13
  • Buccaneers  U13
  • Cambridge Lancers U13
  • Herts Hawks U13
  • Herts Raptors U13

U11 Division

  • Herts Londoners U11
  • Northants Centurions U11
  • Sheffield Cubs U11

The opening ceremony will take place at 10:30am. The first games begin at 11:15am.

To view the games schedule click here.

photo by Rob Jones

“Herts Baseball Club welcomes new players at any time of the year” said the club’s co-Director of Youth Baseball, Aspi Dimitrov. “Any children aged between 6 and 15 who are interested to give baseball a try can contact the club. It is not too late to play in these games, regardless of whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced player.”

The HFT was first held in 2008 and is now a permanent fixture in the British baseball calendar. It brings together youth teams from across the country for a day of baseball at one of the best baseball venues in the United Kingdom.

For more information about the event visit the Herts Futures Tournament homepage.