Category: Headlines

Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding deadline extended

Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding deadline extended

The Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign deadline has been extended to July 21.

Herts Baseball Club suffered a setback in March when they learned that they narrowly missed out on funding from The Mayor of London‘s Make London Fund.

Since then the club has been in discussions with businesses and organisations and, although the campaign is still far from its fundraising target, it may receive a considerable boost if one or several of these discussions lead to a pledge.

The extension of the deadline gives the potential backers, who have expressed interest in the Basing Hill Ballpark project, additional time to consider whether they would like to make a pledge.

To date, the campaign has received pledges from 124 backers amounting to £12,528 which is 22% of the £55,804 target.

Businesses, sponsors and other backers who may be interested to support the project can contact the club to discuss ways in which this could be a good fit and beneficial for them. They would have the additional assurance from the fact that the club passed the project viability verification process carried out by the independent organisation Locality, which was a prerequisite to pitch to the Mayor of London.

Historic first for Herts is a highlight of Opening Day

Historic first for Herts is a highlight of Opening Day

The Herts Falcons chalked up an historic moment for the club on Sunday’s Opening Day, fielding two women players in the NBL side for the first time.

Jessica Vernon and Marianna Casal were on the team which took on the Essex Arrows at Grovehill to start the 2021 BBF season. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong end of two high-scoring defeats, but that couldn’t overshadow the importance of the moment.

Women’s baseball in the UK has made huge and sudden strides over the past 18 months, and Herts is delighted to be a part of that. The club is proud of its record in being open to all talents, and has featured several women players in its ranks over the years – but never at the top level. We are hopeful this can be another step forward, and our aim is to grow the game for all groups.

We think this might have been the first NBL team to feature two women players, and the first to have one of them pitch – but we can’t be certain of that. When Jess Vernon did take the mound, she was certainly highly effective – recording the only 1-2-3 inning for either side on the day.

Marianna Casal in action (pic: Tony Small)

Marianna Casal has been linked to Herts for many years through her family, as her father and brother have both played for the club. That deep connection runs from the first Herts Little League sides, where she was a singer, fan, mascot and then a player. She won a European Championship with the GB under-19 softball side in 2016.

Marianna as a junior Herts fan

Sharing the diamond with her brother and father on Sunday at Grovehill gave the day an extra-special element:

After so many years of being on the sidelines just watching how cool they are, I was excited that I’m a part of it now. They are such a huge part of why I am where I am now. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities that I am getting to progress in the sport that I love – and grateful to Falcons coach Cris Hiche for saying he wanted me on the team.”

In 2017, Jessica Vernon made her first appearance at Grovehill Ballpark. She played for Bracknell’s Single-A side against the Raptors. Since then she has had success in softball and competitive cheerleading, and back to baseball to become a leading light in the women’s game.

She is a founder member of Belles Baseball, who were the first women’s team to enter the Herts Spring League, and who will be part of the inaugural women’s league in 2021. The team was recently featured on BBC television and has been spreading the word about women’s baseball.

Jessica’s performance was rewarded with the BSUK Player of the Week award, which is based on nominations from the baseball community.

Jess Vernon pitching (pic: Tony Small)

The Falcons have seen a lot of change in the off-season and enter this year with fresh hopes. The games against the Arrows were competitive, but not perhaps classics of tight baseball. Game 1 ended 16-13 to the visitors, while game 2 stepped up another level into a football score, ending 24-23.

Marianna Casal said she had loved every single second of the experience, despite the results, and cannot wait for the rest of the season:

“Hearing men from the other team get surprised about what I can do was a lot of fun for me. It will be even more fun when no-one is surprised – when everyone just knows who they’re up against. I was shaking when I got on the field but after making my first play, I just reminded myself that I belong there.”

The new Herts recruits were welcomed by all their team mates. And huge credit goes to the visiting Essex Arrows too. Surprised as they might have been, witnesses at the ballpark say the Arrows offered the same respect to Casal and Vernon as to all the other players.

In a turbulent week for British baseball, these were the good memories and positive images people want to take forward. Amy Trask, who played for the Bracknell Blazers a decade ago in the NBL, said: “It’s great to see women in baseball doing amazing things, and all the support it’s getting.”

The highlight of the weekend elsewhere for Herts came at the first derby game of the year in Single A, where the Londoners were hosting the Eagles at Basing Hill. The visitors’ Alex Plehn – who joined the club last year but has never before played in a BBF league game — hit two home runs. The second of them, a 3-run homer, was key to a 6-5 victory in the second game. Rookie Tom Hill also delivered with his debut on the pitching mound before turning the game over to veteran Mike Wakelam.

The star of the first game, apart from that Plehn home run, was the fielding of Greg Bochan. The former Hawks boss was now manning the hot corner of third base for the Londoners, and made two quality plays before capping it all with a web gem, diving to his left to snare a hard hit ball before somehow making the throw across the diamond too. Londoners won this one 13-5.

The other Single A team, the Raptors, travelled to the Redbacks. Despite some strong performances, the team of mainly novices could not overcome Essex who won 15-6 and 16-8. The Hawks lost 14-8 and 10-8 in Oxford in the Double A league.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article, including Jess, Marianna, Tony Small, Amy Trask and Lee Manning.

2021 Opening Day – British baseball teams have waited 20 months for this

2021 Opening Day – British baseball teams have waited 20 months for this

The last British baseball league game was played twenty months ago. The wait is finally over as baseball teams up and down the country are gearing up for the Opening Day of the 2021 baseball season this Sunday.

2021 Opening Day Schedule

DateHomeTime/ResultsAwayLeagueField
Single-A (Central)
Basing Hill Ballpark
National Baseball League
Grovehill Ballpark
Single-A (Central)
Forest Glade
Single-A (Central)
Basing Hill Ballpark
Double-A (Central)
Horspath Athletics Ground

The league schedules produced some enticing matchups for the five Herts teams. The Herts Falcons open the season at home against the Essex Arrows. The two teams in fact faced each other this last weekend as part of the Herts Spring League. The Falcons came out on top with a 7-6 win but the pre-season games are not always a good predictor for the season ahead as managers often use these Spring League games to evaluate new players in different roles.

In the Double-A League, the Herts Hawks start their campaign on the road against the Oxford Kings. This will be manager Tetsuro Shinkawa’s (pictured above) first official league game as a manager at Herts and his roster is expected to feature many players who will be making their first appearance in the third tier of British baseball.

The Herts Raptors are also away this Sunday.  They face the Essex Redbacks who finished above them in 2019 and new Raptors manager Ken Pike will want to get off to a good start in the race for the Single-A playoffs.

The Raptors are one of the three Herts teams in the Single-A Central division.  The other two are the Herts Eagles and Herts Londoners who will face each other at Basing Hill Ballpark in the first of many Herts derbies this season. In fact there will be at least one Herts derby in each month of the regular season from May until August, but two dates stand out in particular. On May 30 and August 8 all three Herts teams will be playing at the same venue in back-to-back games which are expected to attract bumper crowds, with social distancing of course.

The season is about to begin but new players are still registering to play and the managers have deliberately left room in the rosters at all league levels, in order to be able to welcome new players, from beginners to advanced, throughout the year.  For more details about joining the Herts adult and youth league teams or to try baseball at a free open session, contact us.

Photos by photograher Tony Small

Herts Spring League kicks off 2021 season in style

Herts Spring League kicks off 2021 season in style

Like everything else at the moment, the 2021 Herts Spring League was a bit different. It was quick as a flash. It was more knock-out blow than drawn-out battle.

The usual three weeks of competition were condensed into one weekend on the baseball diamonds of Grovehill. The impact of the pandemic had cut short the time available for pre-season.

One of the other points that made it different this year was the arrival of the first women’s team in the history of the tournament. Belles Baseball made a big noise and splash in the Single-A competition, bringing a lot of energy to the event.

The Herts Spring League provides a great opportunity for teams to finalise their preparations for the upcoming British baseball season. This year, it saw 22 teams play 21 games on 2 diamonds over 2 days. Single-A and Double-A were on Saturday, Triple-A and NBL on the Sunday.

The sun shone gloriously for both days, which we have decided must be a good omen for the season ahead. Yes, it was on the cool side but, hey, it’s the Spring.

Let’s start with the Belles, who opened their HSL account against a Herts side, the Eagles. The visiting team fell behind early on, but fought back with some patient at-bats and aggressive stealing to make it 9-5. The Eagles ran out winners, and the Belles then took on the London Mustangs. Another tight contest ended 9-7 to London.

Top slot in the league was shared by the MK Bucks 2, and the Londoners — who were undefeated. The Eagles, Raptors, Mustangs and Bracknell Inferno each took a split from their weekend. Minotaurs fought hard and scored well but couldn’t secure a W.

If the Belles Baseball were something new, the presence of the Croydon Pirates in the Double-A division was a blast from the past. The team is a revival of what was a stalwart of British baseball a few years back. They won 8-2 over Sidewinders, and then defeated London Musketeers 9-2 to claim the title. London had beaten the Hawks 10-2, and Hawks went down by the same score to Sidewinders in the third place playoff.

Sunday saw the Triple-A action first, with Essex Redbacks finally breaking open a tight contest against the London Mammoths to win 7-2. It was a game with several double plays stifling an offensive threat. All the games were tight in this division. London Marauders took the title with one-run wins over BC Vetra and the MK Bucks.

London Mets dominated the NBL tournament, putting down a marker they intend to defend their title again. They opened their account with a 3-2 win over the Essex Arrows, as the London Capitals saw off the Herts Falcons 10-2. In the second round of rubbers the Mets beat the Caps, while Falcons secured a split on their weekend with a victory over Essex.

The BBF league schedule starts this coming weekend, so the HSL gave a last chance to hone strategies and test players under game conditions. Everyone will have come out of the weekend with a greater sense of what they need to do for success.

Signs are good that the summer of 2021 will see plenty of baseball. Herts thanks all the players who came down and took part, and everyone who made it happen.

It’s game on for 2021.

Ballparks are starting to take shape ahead of 2021 Opening Day

Diamonds starting to take shape ahead of 2021 Opening Day

At Herts Baseball Club’s annual general meeting in January, it was reported that the club has put a more comprehensive field maintenance programme for Grovehill Ballpark in order to preserve it as one of the best baseball venues in the United Kingdom.

On 29 March Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed that outdoor activities for organised sports can resume. A few days later the first event for Herts was its annual field maintenance day. Since the end of the 2019 baseball season it has been difficult to carry out any significant work at the ballpark due to the pandemic.

The focus on Saturday, 3 April, was to remove weeds and grass which had grown into the infield clay areas. The club hired specialised machinery for this and it delivered visible improvements on both diamonds in Hemel Hempstead. A day later players from the five Herts adult teams were back for their first Spring Training session of the year and that included some field maintenance work which everyone contributed to.

Two days later the project continued with aeration and light rolling of the turf which is expected to improve the surface not only in the short run, but over the medium term as water and nutrients will be able to reach the grass roots, resulting in healthier, stronger growth and a denser grass surface.

The club’s branch in North West London is also being prepared for the new season with rolling implemented in March. Of course that venue is at a very early stage of development and the more significant upgrade of the facility will come as part of the larger Basing Hill Project which the club is currently crowdfunding for.

22 teams enter the 2021 HSL

22 teams enter the 2021 HSL

Herts Baseball Club has confirmed that 22 teams have entered this year’s Herts Spring League (HSL). The teams come from all British baseball leagues including the National Baseball League (NBL), Triple-A, Double-A and Single-A Leagues.

The London Archers are also back for their third year in the HSL. They made history in 2019 year by becoming the first British team to win the Pony European Championships and qualified for the Pony World Series which was played in Pennsylvania. 

The HSL teams will be divided into four divisions as follows:

HSL – NBL
TEAMCLASSHSL RANKING
Essex Arrows 3
Herts Falcons 4
London Capitals 2
London Mets 1
HSL – Triple-A
TEAMCLASSHSL RANKING
BC Vetra 8
Essex Redbacks 6
London Archers 7
London Marauders 9
London Mammoths 5
Milton Keynes Bucks 10
HSL – Double-A
TEAMCLASSHSL RANKING
Croydon Pirates 13
Herts Hawks 14
London Musketeers 12
Sidewinders 11
HSL – Single-A
TEAMCLASSHSL RANKING
Bracknell Inferno 15
Herts Eagles 22
Herts Raptors 18
Herts Londoners 21
London Mustangs 16
London Minotaurs 20
Milton Keynes Bucks 2 17
Southern Belles 19
Spring Training groups announced

Spring Training groups announced

As announced by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, yesterday, organised outdoor sport can now restart. 

The five Herts adult league teams will report for Spring Training this week. The teams will initially be divided into three groups. Those trying out to play in the National Baseball League and in the Double-A League will be in one group. There will be two further groups – Single-A League for players based in Hemel Hempstead and a separate Single-A group for the teams based at the club’s ballpark in North West London.

NBL / Double-ASingle-A Hemel HempsteadSingle-A NW London
Amane SobueAdam ScalesAdam Collins
Andy CornishBradley CharalambousAlex Plehn
Antonio LourencoCameron SchultzAlexander Trautman
Antony LavenderCharlie BeachAndrew Slater
Charlie ObrienConnor LunnAndy Stratford
Charlie PlausinDale HardwickArnold Longboy
Cristobal HicheDaniel ShawAspi Dimitrov
Daniel BartramDanny PrestonBenjamin Markscheffel
Daniel GippleDeclan CarleanCory English
George MorganDowan BelleroseDan Taylor
Gilberto MedinaEfthymios RizoglouEllie Page
Jack ObrienGeorge GreenstreetGreg Bochan
Joe GippleGregory ClarkJames Hawes
Kai RajahHarry McmenaminJamie Lang-Richards
Laurence Currington John KjorstadKevin Abioye
Lee ManningKennet PikeKumail Jaffer
Matthew JacksonLauren DutchMax Trautman
Michael CresswellLee OdellMichael Wakelam
Michael JohnsonLuis MartinsMohamed Abdule
Noah TaborMichael CunninghamNicolas Goetz
Paul BartonMichael LongNorman Peng
Rene TorcatoMichelle GreenRob Jones
Robert SmithNick ClohessyRyan Bartlett
Tetsuro ShinkawaPaul Le GuillouSaira Smith
Theo ClarkPavneet PurewalSam Kumar
Will DavisPedro MartinsZack Case
Will ZuckerTaysir Barakat 
Yasu IchigeTom Lock 
 Troy Mayer 

All three groups will report at 10am at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead this Sunday, 4 April. In the following two weeks the groups will continue preparations at their respective ballparks on 11 and 18 April. To comply with Covid procedures, registered players are required to mark their availability for these events in the online Clubhouse.

All of these sessions are open to anyone aged 14 and over to come and try baseball and to help them decide whether they would like to join the teams for the 2021 baseball season.

Later in April, the managers will announce the preliminary rosters for the 2021 Herts Spring League which will have a condensed format with games being played over the weekend of the 24 and 25 April at Grovehill Ballpark.

The Opening Day of the 2021 BBF league season is Sunday, 2 May. The schedule for the various leagues is expected to be published later this week.

Midweek evening baseball will return to both Grovehill Ballpark and Basing Hill Ballpark in the first week of May. The teams may have midweek evening sessions even earlier and the managers will communicate this with their players.

The youth league players will report for Spring Training at their resepctive ballparks a week later than the adult teams on 10 and 11 April.  See more details here.

Training sessions and games will follow the Covid-secure protocol for baseball which was approved by the government.

Spring Training schedule announced for the Herts adult and youth teams

Spring Training schedule announced for the Herts adult and youth teams

With the success of the Covid vaccination roll out, families around the country are looking forward to resuming outdoor activities in April. The government’s timetable currently indicates that organised outdoor sport can commence from Monday, 29 March. On the basis of this Herts Baseball Club has published the Spring Training schedule for its adult and youth teams.

The adult teams are set to return to the ballpark for the first time on Sunday, 4 April, while the youth teams start preparations on the following weekend, 10-11 April.

Youth players who are new to the sport will have the opportunity to come to one of the Open Days in April to try baseball and see if they will enjoy it before they register for the 2021 inaugural season of the Herts Youth Baseball League. These will be held at both of the club’s ballparks in Hemel Hempstead and in North West London. 

New adult players will have the opportunity to do the same during the Spring Training sessions in April.

Although the youth teams do not have a session on Easter weekend, the Great Britain National Team is inviting all players aged between 9 and 12 who are British passport holders, or soon to be passport holders, to attend the first GB Under-12 National Team workout which we understand will be used as a tryout in preparation for the U12 European Championships to be held in Germany this summer between 4 and 10 July 2021.

All Herts events will follow the Covid-secure protocol approved by the government which allows baseball activities for up to 30 players and coaches on a baseball diamond at any given time. In view of this, players will need to book their places for the sessions in advance by marking their availability in the online Clubhouse. Those who are not registered for the 2021 season yet but who are interested to come to one of these open sessions to try baseball, must contact the club in advance to book their place.  If we reach the limit of 30 players per event, the club will give priority to registered members and will put non-registered players on a waiting list so that they are given priority at the next event which has available places.

Before the players return for their first baseball sessions at Grovehill Ballpark, the club will have its annual Field Maintenance Day on Saturday, 3 April. Players and volunteers are invited to come and help to prepare the field for the upcoming season. The club will provide more details about this closer to the event.

Note: The schedules may be subject to change to comply with Covid restrictions.

Schedule – Adult teams based at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead

DAYDATETIME (START)TIME (END)EVENT NAMEVENUE
Sun04-Apr-2110:0012:00Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun11-Apr-2110:0012:00Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun18-Apr-2110:0012:00Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sat24-Apr-21TBCTBCHerts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun25-Apr-21TBCTBCHerts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun02-May-21TBCTBCBBF League Opening DayTBC

Schedule – Adult teams based at Basing Hill Ballpark, NW London

DAYDATETIME (START)TIME (END)EVENT NAMEVENUE
Sun04-Apr-2110:0012:00Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun11-Apr-2112:3014:30Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sun18-Apr-2112:3014:30Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sat24-Apr-21TBCTBCHerts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun25-Apr-21TBCTBCHerts Spring LeagueGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun02-May-21TBCTBCBBF League Opening DayTBC

Schedule – Youth teams based at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead

DAYDATETIME (START)TIME (END)EVENT NAMEVENUE
Sat10-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sat17-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sun25-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sat01-May-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Sat08-May-21TBCTBCHYBL Opening DayGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead

Schedule – Youth teams based at Basing Hill Ballpark, NW London

DAYDATETIME (START)TIME (END)EVENT NAMEVENUE
Sun11-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sun18-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sun25-Apr-2110:0012:00Open Day – Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sun02-May-2109:3011:30Open Day – Spring TrainingBasing Hill Ballpark, NW London
Sat08-May-21TBCTBCHYBL Opening DayGrovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead
Crowdfunding campaign continues for Basing Hill Ballpark despite setback

Crowdfunding campaign continues for Basing Hill Ballpark despite setback

It has been a hotly anticipated few weeks as Herts Baseball Club rallied support for the Basing Hill Ballpark crowdfunding campaign on Spacehive. Facing steep competition, the club hoped to be one of the projects to receive financial backing from the Mayor of London as part of the Make London Fund. Results were announced earlier this week and sadly Basing Hill Ballpark did not succeed in its pitch for mayoral funding. Despite the setback, perhaps there is some comfort in the fact that Herts Baseball Club only narrowly missed out.

The Make London Fund had two tiers: Tier 1 for projects up to £5,000 and Tier 2 for projects over £5,000. With a target of £55,804, Basing Hill Ballpark was placed in Tier 2. Of the 35 projects that were successful in their campaigns for the Mayor’s fund, around fifteen were in Tier 2. Shortly before the results were announced, Herts Baseball Club had 120 backers which ranked it 17th out of a total 98 projects.  Although the decision is not based entirely on the number of backers, it must have been very close.

And let us not forget the very worthy projects we were up against, from cookery schools supporting social integration, which received a pledge from the Duchess of Sussex, to projects tackling loneliness and homelessness. Club President, Aspi Dimitrov, congratulated all the other projects and said that, “although this is a setback, we are determined to build this baseball venue. Apart from the Mayor of London, we have pitched to several other organisations such as the London Borough of Barnet and are continuing to approach other potential backers as part of our crowdfunding campaign”.

There is no denying that missing out on the Make London Fund, with its potential to back up to 50% of the project, was a blow. But the club has not given up. Although holding considerably smaller funds, backing from the London Borough of Barnet is still a potential source of financial support, and with 53 days left to reach its crowdfunding target, Herts are doing everything they can to reach out to other organisations and potential backers.

To date, the campaign has received pledges amounting to £12,123 which is 21% of the £55,804 target. If the campaign fails to reach the target by the deadline all of the pledges will be cancelled and no payments will be taken. The club hopes it does not come to this and will continue to promote the unique and exciting project that Basing Hill Ballpark is. It is also becoming more necessary. One development which emphasises the importance of the project is this week’s launch of the club’s brand new youth baseball league. This will see boys and girls aged between 6 and 14 playing games in Basing Hill Park and at the club’s existing Grovehill Ballpark baseball complex in Hemel Hempstead.

Businesses, sponsors and other backers who may be interested to support the project can contact the club to discuss ways in which this could be a good fit and beneficial for them. They would have the additional assurance from the fact that the club passed the project viability verification process carried out by the independent organisation Locality, which was a prerequisite to pitch to the Mayor of London.

Our goal is to recreate that special baseball atmosphere in our ballparks

Behind the scenes of the newly launched Herts Youth Baseball League

Last month, Herts Baseball Club elected Will Zucker and Aspi Dimitrov as Co-Directors of Youth Baseball. We asked them about the launch of the brand new youth baseball league.

What can young players look forward to when the new league commences?

How many of the children and their parents watching MLB on their TVs have wondered what it would be like to wear those uniforms and play for a team on a beautiful baseball diamond? Or compete in playoffs surrounded by cheering fans enjoying the food and unique atmosphere of the ballpark? Even without MLB’s multi-billion dollar budget, we want to offer the players and families of our new league an experience as close to  MLB as possible.

Where will the league games be played?

Our club has two ballparks: one in Hemel Hempstead, another in North West London. They are conveniently located within a thirty minute drive from each other. Substantial investment has gone into Grovehill Ballpark, making it one of the best baseball venues in the UK.  Crowdfunding is underway to repeat that success story at Basing Hill Ballpark.

What will the league schedule and format be?

Though we have two ballparks, the league will minimise travel for families so that around 75% of the season will be played at the team’s nearest ballpark. The season will start in May and end in the middle of July. Each team will play around twelve games: four home single games, two home doubleheaders and two away doubleheaders. Similar to MLB, teams will be in a race to qualify for the postseason playoffs which will determine the league champions.

We are still considering whether the champions will win the privilege to represent Herts at the National Baseball Championships in September or whether the club will select an All-Star team from all of the Herts teams in the league.

What will game days look like?

Our goal is to recreate that special baseball atmosphere in our ballparks with food, music and a lot more. We want children and their families to enjoy game days, allowing developing players the incredible feeling of playing in front of fans – similar to the superstars of MLB.

The two home and two away doubleheaders will be large scale events, bringing all teams to the same venue. Grovehill Ballpark may even be able to stage games for teams from all age groups – eight or more in total.

We are mindful of the increasing pressures on families to balance work, school and other commitments. Game days will run no longer than two hours, though team managers have discretion to extend that time a little if the players would benefit from extra practice before or after games.

League games are to be played on Saturdays, but we are also considering youth team games in NW London on Sunday mornings before the adult league plays. In this way, Herts adult players can be spectators for the youth league and the younger leagues and their families would feel welcome to stay after their games to watch adult league action in the afternoon.

What age groups will the league cover?

Players aged  6 to 14 with an Under-11, Under-13 and Under-15 league. Initially, the Under-13 and Under-15 leagues will be combined until we accumulate a sufficient number of players for separate U13 and U15 leagues.  Players over the age of 14 move up to the Herts adult league teams and we hope to select Under-17 players to represent Herts at the BBF U17 national championships.

What level of coaching can the players expect?

The league already has five coaches in place all of whom have either played or coached in America, Japan, Britain’s National League or the Great Britain National Teams. The league is looking to recruit more coaches. Those interested in getting involved, or who would like more details should contact the club.

How much will it cost to play in the league?

We want baseball to be affordable for every family. We have set membership fees very low – £49 for the U11s and £59 for the U13s and U15s – probably the lowest in the UK.

The club provides all of the baseball equipment such as bats, balls, helmets, including fielding gloves for kids that don’t have their own. The uniform is not included in the membership fee, but to reduce that cost, youth players joining the club for the first time will be given a £6 voucher which they can use when buying a Herts New Era 9FORTY baseball cap.

How many teams will play in the league?

Our aim is to have four league teams in each age group – two based in Hemel Hempstead and two in NW London. We’re assessing the option to add interleague games with teams from neighbouring clubs, with a possibility of external teams joining the league. However, it’s essential that these teams are no more than around 30 minutes from either  ballpark. At the moment there are just one or two other clubs that meet that criteria as our two ballparks are the only ones in the region.

Have the team names been announced and what uniforms will they wear?

The teams have adopted the names of the Herts adult league teams. For example, Herts Falcons U11, Herts Londoners U15. This is an approach more common with Premier League football teams and we felt that the young players would enjoy playing under the same Herts team names and they can progress through the age groups and into the big leagues in the coming years. We will be announcing more details about the teams’ uniforms in the coming weeks.

How will coaches select the players for their respective teams?

This league welcomes everyone from complete beginners to advanced players.  Everyone plays and will have an important role in the team.  Children will be invited to the Open Days in Spring Training to prepare for the season, a great way to introduce newcomers to the game of baseball. 

The managers will select players for their teams adopting a system similar to the MLB Draft. This should ensure that all the teams are of equal strength, which should make it an exciting and a close race for the playoffs.

The number of youth players was very low last year. Will you be able to grow fast enough before the start of the season and do you have a backup plan if you don’t?

Despite a significant drop of youth players in the previous three years, we are already seeing a lot of interest from both former and new youth players and their families. We started our discussions with schools in Hemel Hempstead and in North West London; we are fortunate to have a newly appointed Head of U13/U11, Cory English who is an active member of his local school working as both parent governor and freelance teacher. Even if a particular age group does not have enough players for a 4-team league, we have alternative options such as a best-of-7 World Series format and interleague games similar to MLB.

Can Herts fans and the wider community help with the launch of the league?

It’s crucial that the league inspires support from the community to spread the word. We are asking Herts baseball families to share news of our league on social media and with their friends, colleagues and neighbours. If every club member recommends the league to two friends, we will reach our target. 

How does Covid affect the league’s plans?

The NHS and the government have done tremendously well with the vaccination roll out. It’s encouraging to see the statistics already proving it is effective in controlling Covid. Of course, the virus remains unpredictable and we will ensure government guidance is strictly followed.  The government already approved a Covid-secure protocol for baseball games last year so we are hopeful to welcome a full first season of Herts Youth Baseball League (HYBL).

Players are now registering for the 2021 season. More information about joining the league can be found here.

To come to try baseball at no cost at one of the upcoming Open Days, or if you require more information, contact the club.