Category: Featured

Club members elect five new board members

Club elects five new board members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo by Bianca Quarte)

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

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

Prime Minister unveils plan to come out of the Covid lockdown

Prime Minister unveils plan to come out of the Covid lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herts publishes AGM details

Herts publishes AGM details

AGM NOTICE

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

Provisional 2021 HSL dates

Provisional 2021 HSL dates

Over the last few weeks, Herts Baseball Club has been in discussions with the British Baseball Federation to co-ordinate the best way to approach the scheduling of the 2021 Herts Spring League.

Prior to the government’s announcement of the current national lockdown, the BBF indicated that, subject to Covid restrictions, the Opening Day of the 2021 BBF league season is likely to be Sunday, 11 April, and that this date would be revised, if and when required.

Monday’s announcement by the Prime Minister has added further uncertainty. 22 February was mentioned as a date when the government may review the current lockdown guidance, but the outcome of that review is not certain.

Herts has confirmed that, if the relevant regions move to Tier 3 or lower by early March and if the Covid-secure protocol for playing baseball games outdoors is reactivated, they will be looking to stage the Herts Spring League on the provisional dates listed below.

DATEEVENTVENUE
Sat, 27-Mar-21Herts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Herts
Sun, 28-Mar-21Herts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Herts
Sat, 03-Apr-21Herts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Herts
Sun, 04-Apr-21Herts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Herts

These dates may be revised if the BBF changes its Opening Day plans or if there are Covid or other constraints. The HSL is usually played over three weeks, but it is likely to be reduced to two weeks this year due to Covid.

Players now registering for the 2021 baseball season

Players now registering for the 2021 baseball season

Player registration for the 2021 season has commenced.

2020 was a difficult year for everyone but yesterday’s announcement that the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been approved has given us a reason to look ahead to Spring with increasing optimism that we will be able to play a full baseball season in 2021.

Despite the pandemic, last year the club welcomed 59 new members which could see the club go into 2021 even stronger than the year before.

As members start to register for the 2021 season, they would want to know whether the club has measures in place in the event that Covid-19 disrupts the league schedule and how that would affect membership fees. In July 2020, the UK government approved a Covid-secure protocol to allow baseball games to be played. Despite this, some events in 2021 may be affected if the government imposes stricter Covid restrictions in which case the club will do its best to minimize its own costs and pass the savings back to club members in the form of reduced membership fees. For example, when the 2020 league season was scaled down, membership fees were reduced to £20 for adult league play. In view of the effect of Covid-19 on the economy and on the finances of many families, the club has already reduced its 2021 membership fees by around 12% by removing many peripheral costs and focusing spending on the core elements of the membership packages.

ADULT BASEBALL LEAGUES

How many teams will represent Herts in 2021? The next few weeks will be crucial as the number of players registering will determine how many teams will be entered before the league entry deadline; how many will play in Hemel Hempstead and how many will play in London; which leagues the teams will play in.

KEY DATES – ADULT TEAMS

(events and dates are subject to change depending on Covid-19 restrictions)

  • 7 February – players report for Spring Training
  • 27-28 March – Start of the 2021 Herts Spring League (subject to confirmation of the BBF League Opening Day)*
  • March-April – Great Britain National Team Tryouts (senior and youth teams)*
  • 11 April – BBF League Opening Day (subject to confirmation)*
  • May – Midweek Evening Baseball commences
  • August-September* – BBF Postseason Playoffs and National Championships
  • September-October – Hunlock Series

* – these are preliminary dates. The BBF will be making its official announcements in due course.

Click here for more details of the 2021 membership packages

YOUTH BASEBALL LEAGUES

As reported earlier today (click to view article), in the coming weeks, we are expecting announcements regarding developments in the club’s youth baseball department and, in particular, details about plans for a new regional youth baseball league which will feature teams from both Herts branches in Hemel Hempstead and in North West London with a regular season schedule of around 12 games for each team. The proposal covers the U15, U13 and U11 age groups, while the Under-17 players will play their regular season as part of the Herts teams in the adult leagues. Around 75% of the regular season games of this proposed new youth league will be at home, with only 2 or 3 away games within a 30-minute drive from the home ballpark.

KEY DATES – YOUTH TEAMS

(events and dates are subject to change depending on Covid-19 restrictions)

  • March – players report for Spring Training
  • March-April – Great Britain National Team Tryouts (senior and youth teams)*
  • May – Start of the new regional youth baseball league season
  • May-July – Midweek afternoon/evening baseball sessions
  • June – UK Little League Qualifiers
  • July – European Little League Qualifiers
  • mid-July – Playoffs and Finals of the new regional youth baseball league
  • September – BBF Postseason Playoffs and National Championships
  • September – Herts Futures Tournament

Click here for more details of the 2021 membership packages

WHICH BALLPARK WILL YOU PLAY YOUR HOME LEAGUE GAMES AT?

Now that the club has two ballparks, the online registration form will ask players to indicate whether they prefer to play their home league games in Hemel Hempstead or in NW London, or whether they would be happy with either. This will provide important information to club management when they configure the adult and youth team rosters for the new season.

HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 2021 HERTS BASEBALL SEASON

Those who already have a Herts Online Clubhouse account will be prompted to register when they log on next time (click here to go to the Herts online Clubhouse and log on with your existing username and password). Those who are new to Herts Baseball Club and do not have an online account can register as members by completing this form. For more details about joining our teams in 2021 and the membership packages click here or contact us.

Changes expected in the Herts youth baseball department for 2021

Changes expected in the Herts youth baseball department for 2021

Herts Baseball Club is looking to unveil plans for the launch of a new regional youth baseball league for 2021.  The pandemic disrupted the youth baseball season last year and the club is determined not only to turn things around but to put in place a model which has good potential to develop and grow in the coming years.

Director of Youth Baseball, Lee Manning, has been heading the department since 2018 but, due to a change in his circumstances, the club is inviting candidates for the role ahead of the board elections at its annual general meeting on Sunday, 31 January 2021.

Two candidates have already expressed interest. Aspi Dimitrov and Will Zucker have indicated that they intend to put themselves forward as joint candidates for the role. The club would also welcome other candidates.

Dimitrov served in that role between 2012 and 2014 and has been a board member since 2004. Zucker was the co-founder of the very successful Durham University Baseball programme and his work was recognised when he received the BSUK Young Coach of the Year Award in 2017. He currently plays in Britain’s top league with the Herts Falcons and has also been selected by the Great Britain Under-19 and Under-23 National Teams. 

In the coming weeks, Dimitrov and Zucker will be providing more details of their plans for the new regional youth baseball league but we understand that the league aims to include teams from both Herts branches – in Hemel Hempstead and in North West London – with a regular season schedule of around 12 games for each team. It covers the U15, U13 and U11 age groups, while the Under-17 players will play their regular season as part of the Herts teams in the adult leagues. Around 75% of the regular season games of this proposed new youth league are expected to be at home, with only 2 or 3 away games within a 30-minute drive from the home ballpark.

The club has just launched its 2021 player registration and the youth membership package is based on this new model proposed by Dimitrov and Zucker. This gives club members the opportunity to vote on it and on proposals which other candidates may put forward ahead of the AGM.

There are several other board positions in the youth department which the club will be looking to fill, including heads of the different age groups at the Hemel Hempstead and the North West London branches. We understand that Cory English plans to put himself forward for the role of Head of Under-11 for the NW London branch. He is a member of the Herts Londoners and played a key role last year in the very successful launch of the youth baseball programme at Basing Hill Ballpark. We also understand that Cory English has been involved in the process of developing the new regional league model which Aspi Dimitrov and Will Zucker will be proposing.

Candidates interested in these and other board and non-board positions in Hemel Hempstead and in NW London can contact the club for more details.

Details of the 2021 membership packages for adult and youth members and how to register for the upcoming season can be found here.

Baseball is the winner in a time of Covid

Baseball is the winner in a time of Covid

Four teams. Six weeks of games. One winner. And, perhaps fittingly, the name on the trophy after the first ever Herts Baseball Development League is the Raptors.

The League was the creation of the Raptors’ manager Mantas Poderys, when baseball received clearance to restart games after the coronavirus lockdown. The aim was to give the swelling ranks of rookie and inexperienced Herts players a taste of competition without the pressure of a formal BBF league.

Raptors B facing Londoners

Mantas split his roster in two – sharing out specialists such as pitchers and catchers – and teams from the London branch of the club enthusiastically came on board to join the league. So a schedule was created in which Raptors A and B would face the Eagles and Londoners in a round robin, then a medal series.

A series of new safety measures was drawn up and adopted, and everyone was ready to go.

The opening weekend of games in August was under baking sun at Grovehill. Raptors A got out to the best start with 2 wins. New recruits got their first taste of game action, and stars started to emerge. Cory English of the Londoners showed his slick skills, and Raptor rookie Declan Carlean made a great play from deep in the hole at shortstop.

After a rained out week, games resumed with Raptors B now taking strides forward. Ken Pike, a former manager and a champion at Single-A as a player, was one of the club veterans who returned for the HBDL. He was leading the Blues with typical gusto.

For the Londoners, Andrew Slater was the old hand with the magic, returning to the pitching mound with great results. He ended with several wins to his name.

Although there were a lot of laughs in these games, as friends got the chance to compete against each other in a relaxed setting, there was plenty of intensity too.

New Londoners recruit Kevin Abioye took a knee to the jaw as he desperately tried to reach first base on an infield hit, while Raptor B’s Laurence Currington took a tumble as he raced into the collision to help save the game for his team. (Everyone was fine afterwards, with maybe a bruise or two).

Collision! (Photo by Tony Small)

These games were also packed with dramatic walk-offs. In the third round of games, Londoners secured an 8-7 win over Raptors B when a run-down between third and home went awry and what looked like a terrible base-running decision turned into a victory moment.

The best of five championship series was between the Raptors B and the Londoners, as they finished in the top two slots of the League. The Eagles and Raptors A would play a best of three to decide the bronze medal.

The Blues took a 2-0 lead in the first week of playoffs, with the Eagles starting with a win. All to play for on the final Sunday.

Wily veteran pitcher Greg Bochan led the Londoners to a win in the first game on the last day, keeping the series alive. In Game Four, the Londoners took a 6-4 lead into the final frame. Great fielding plays from Matt Jackson and Rob Gibson had helped keep the Blues in check. The Londoners tacked on 3 more runs – surely the game was safe?

But Raptors B had other ideas. Manager Ken Pike had pitched the game, and delivered with the bat too. Once on base, he represented the winning run. In a match up of veteran pitcher (Nic Goetz) and rookie hitter (Pedro Martins) the youngster came through. He drove in Pike for a 10-9 win and plenty of celebrations.

Eagles v Londoners in August (pic: Tony Small)

In game 2 of the bronze medal series, the Eagles took a lead into the final stages. But again there was a dramatic Raptor rally. Raptors A scored a clutch of runs to tie it up.

And again, the final act was old hand against young star. Declan Carlean on the mound, Rob Jones at bat. This one was won by the veteran, with a hit to centre field clinching the 2-0 series win.

The idea of keeping the tournament in-house had been to keep the players as safe as possible at a time when travelling and mixing were both officially discouraged – but also to give the best chance for fun and competitive baseball. It succeeded on both counts.

Mantas Poderys said he was focused not on the victories for his players, but on their spirit and their development – and that, on that basis, all games were wins. They responded with equal warmth, praising his hard work, support and the welcome he gave players, some of whom had not even played organised sport, let alone baseball.

Mantas Poderys in action

While this League was going on, other elements of Herts were also staying active. The Falcons of the NBL held regular practices and scrimmage games, and also traveled to the Kent Buccaneers for a game which they won.

Youth training sessions resumed at Grovehill in July and continued throughout the summer. Coaches Lee and Colin kept as many age groups as possible active, and open sessions also received a great response when they began at Basing Hill in northwest London in August.

Some of the Herts youth players have been taking part in a Fall League organised by LYBL on the diamonds at Farnham Park, so their season looks to stretch into October. The club now turns its attentions to the winter and to preparing for what 2021 might bring.

The Raptors, meanwhile, polish their trophy!

Thanks to all who took part and helped the club through all aspects of a most extraordinary year. Coaches, officials, parents, fans and players all had a huge role to play. Herts is a family and we stay committed to each other, and to baseball.

The victorious Raptors B

First rainout of 2020

First rainout of 2020

All five games involving Herts baseball teams tomorrow, Sunday, 16 August, have been cancelled due to waterlogged diamonds.

The fields were desparate for water but the sheer volume of rain over the last few days has saturated the ground causing drainage complications.

All five Herts teams will be back in action next Sunday, 23 August, with another round of games in the Herts Development League while the Herts Falcons will travel to Kent for an exhibition game with the Buccaneers. See next week’s games schedule below.

Players, from beginners to advanced, can come and try baseball this month (with social distancing). Contact us for more details.

Government approves Covid-secure return of baseball

Government approves Covid-secure return of baseball

The UK government has confirmed that they have approved the British Baseball Federation and BSUK guidance for the return of baseball games.

The guidance complies with the requirements outlined in the government advice for team sports and enables games for up to 30 participants to resume in England.

The number of participants in baseball training sessions can also increase from 6 to 30 while continuing to follow social distancing and the other Covid-19 measures.

Herts Baseball Club will shortly be announcing the format and schedule for the league and other games for the Herts adult teams which will be played in August and September.

Adult and youth baseball training sessions are continuing. Any adult or youth players who are interested to try baseball can contact us for details.