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.
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!”
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.