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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.

Dingers and drama on derby day

Dingers and drama on derby day

The Herts Eagles and Herts Londoners faced each other at Basing Hill Ballpark in their final games of the regular season. Stakes are always high in a club derby, but these were crucial games for the home side, the Londoners, if they were to keep alive their playoff hopes. The visitors were keen to play the spoiler! Here are your two game reports, one from each side.


By Kumail Jaffer

The Eagles may have been out of the playoff race, but they were keen to finish strong after a season hampered by player absences and injuries.

And as much as the two teams were friends off the diamond, they had enjoyed some feisty affairs on it. Sunday was no different.

The Londoners quickly showed why they boast an impressive record. Andrew Slater and his infamous curveballs (or are they just junk-balls?) frustrated the Eagles early on, and he retired the first NINE batters he faced.

Eddie Wang, Kenny Liao, Hunter Devine and Zak Beller all came home in the first inning, while a solid single from Greg Bochan allowed Sonam Lama to cross the plate in the third.

Kumail Jaffer at bat

The Eagles’ strength this year has been their offense – with good hitting and quick base-running throughout the order, their firepower has often made up for occasional errors in the field and on the mound.

But no runs through the first three innings meant that, despite a good shift from starting pitcher Saira Smith, they were 5 behind going into the fourth.

The bats suddenly threatened to get going, however, with Thomas Hill, Kumail Jaffer and Taysir Barakat all getting hits to bring home the Eagles’ first run.

But the Londoners showed their experience, with hit machine Kenny Liao, Lama and Beller driving in more runners.

The Eagles tried to rally as Neil Chilton doubled to score Michael Green, but Slater continued to bamboozle the batters and eventually secured the 8-2 win for the Londoners.


By Rob Jones

Giving up a leadoff home run is not how you want to start a game which you have to win. But that’s exactly what Londoners did as hard-throwing ace Nic Goetz took on the Eagles’ slugger Mike Wakelam.

With one loud crack of the bat, a fastball was launched over the left field fence.

Mike Wakelam is greeted at home plate

But a couple of fly-outs and a strikeout nullified any further threat, and Wakelam was not able to have the same impact when he stepped on to the mound to pitch. Walks and steals put runners in good position, and 2 runs scored before Jack Page drove in 2 more with a single to centre field.

Things were looking good for the Londoners, but with two out and two men on, Wakelam came up to bat again in the top of the second. And, yes, you can guess what happened. Three run homer. Tied game. 4-4.

But the home side were able to nose back in front and stay there for good. Kenny Liao delivered again to drive in Eddie Wang, while Liao and Sony Lama came home on wild pitches.

This was a game full of oddities. One runner who could have scored on a wild pick off at third accidentally blocked the ball, denying him an easy run. Another runner was out at third when a hot shot ground ball which deflected off the third baseman ricocheted straight to the shortstop as he moved towards the base, and he got there to apply the tag.

And it was one of these quirks which finally sealed the Eagles doom in the top of the third. They had loaded the bases with just one out, and threatened to rally back. Neil Chilton then worked a walk to bring home a run.

But the Londoners manager Matt Bell called time and, armed with his iPad, pointed out that Chilton shouldn’t have been batting at all. He was out of turn.

That meant that the scheduled batter Brad Charalambous was automatically called out, the run was taken off the board, and Chilton had to return to the plate to go again. This time he flied out and the inning was over.

Wakelam had started firing on all cylinders now with his pitching, but it was too late. Goetz was matching him and he polished off the Eagles in the fifth with a fly-out, a groundout and — for emphasis — his fourth strikeout. It ended 7-5.

Herts youth teams gear up for the National Baseball Championships. Badenhorst and Barrett to manage the U19s.

Herts youth teams gear up for the National Baseball Championships. Badenhorst and Barrett to manage the U19s.

Herts is preparing to enter teams in all age divisions of the of the 2022 National Youth Baseball Championships – U19, U15, U13 and U11.  The event is expected to take place on 24 and 25 September.

New players are continuing to register to play for the Herts teams in these games which will give them the opportunity to represent the club and compete with teams from around the UK for the national title.

The majority of these players are playing baseball for the first time in their lives this year so it will be interesting to see how they will respond to the challenge.

The club has also confirmed that Duane Badenhorst and Colin Barrett (pictured above) will be the joint managers of the Herts U19 team. Both bring a wealth of baseball experience having played and coached in South Africa and Great Britain, including at international level with the South Africa U12 National Team, South Africa Men’s Softball Team and, currently, the Great Britain Men’s Softball Team.

Duane Badenhorst (centre) with the Herts U17 team in the Youth NBC

Six members of the Badenhorst and Barrett families have worn the Herts jersey over the years and fans of the club will be delighted to see them back.

For more details about joining the Herts youth baseball teams for the upcoming national youth baseball championships contact us.

Eagles downed by Minotaurs

Eagles downed by Minotaurs

by Kumail Jaffer

SHORT on numbers but high on chutzpah, the Eagles flew into Finsbury Park on Sunday aiming to wrestle themselves back into the Playoff hunt.

The Minotaurs were an interesting proposition – it was a team that the Eagles had got the better of last season, but an improving side who were playing on their own, slightly misshaped home turf.

Game 1

With upcoming star Alex Trautman on the mound, it was no wonder things started so smoothly for the visitors.
The young Herts pitcher dealt four devastating innings – the perfect Fathers’ Day gift for Max, who was egging him on from 1B.

Eagles downed by Minotaurs
The Trautmans in action (file photo)

But on a small field, any semblance of contact can result in extra-base hits and, despite a great effort from Tom Hill behind the plate, an inevitable couple of runs also squeaked through from base-stealers.
Regardless, it was a solid defensive effort from the Eagles, who limited the Minotaurs to just three runs in the first three innings. 

Things also looked great on the offensive end. Appearing in just his second game of the season, Eagles veteran Kumail Jaffer went 3-4 as leadoff hitter, picking up an RBI alongside Hill, the senior Trautman and captain Saira Smith.

In a particularly impressive show of spirit, the visitors battled back in the top of the 5th while 7-4 down – and were unlucky not to defend their narrow lead going into the bottom of the final inning. Minotaurs walked off with a 9-8 win.

Kumail Jaffer at bat earlier in 2022

Game 2

On-loan Londoner Jack Page – who fully embraced the Eagles ‘chant’ – did his best to make sure morale stayed high going into the second game. 
The team knew that going 1-1 on the road against a well-stocked outfit wouldn’t be the worst result to take home – but they needed to dig deep.

Unfortunately, the home pitcher didn’t quite have the same idea. Though he walked six batters, clutch strikeouts at crucial times limited the Eagles’ momentum early on and stranded runners on base. And in a flash, it was 8-0 to the Minotaurs going into the bottom of the third.

It was time for the Eagles’ offence to spark, and the defence to lock it down to give the batters another shot. Some clever pitching from Smith and young Prime Mencias limited the hosts to a single run in the third, meaning the Eagles needed nine to extend the game.

And to their credit, they put the Minotaurs under real pressure. After loading the bases with just one out, two disciplined walks from Mencias and Jaffer brought home a couple of easy runs before Hill drove in another.

But it just wasn’t meant to be. This one ended 9-3. The Eagles shall fly again.

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.

Herts come up empty after last inning dramas

Sometimes, sport can be a thing of beauty and can raise you up. Sometimes, it can be agonising. This one was an agonising weekend for the Herts baseball club.

The Herts Raptors of the Single-A league travelled to the Essex Redbacks, missing some regulars because of injury and summer holidays. But they were also bolstered by a clutch of Great Britain Under-15 stars.

Josh Jones and Harry Quixley joined regulars Alex Paterson, Dan Moran and Nico Durer. They all recently took part in a successful tournament in Germany.

Nico Durer at bat

Herts were able to get a run across in the first frame, before Durer took the mound as starting pitcher. He had trouble throughout the game getting his strike zone to match up with that of the umpire, but battled hard.

He was backed up by some good plays in the field – from Moran at third base, and nice saves from Jones at first. Mantas Poderys at second base also fielded calmly.

John Kjorstad again swung a strong bat for Herts and they were able to take a lead into the final inning. But the Raptors have suffered a series of final inning setbacks this year and this was to be another. The Redbacks hitting and persistent larceny on the bases helped them come back to win 10-9.

Game 2 saw the Herts visitors keep their noses in front from the off. Better base-running and hitting gave them a good lead. Dan Shaw and Nico Durer got hits, and Moran was on the mound this time, pitching solidly.

But Essex chipped back into the Raptors lead, and their reliever Sean Briscomb was again able to shut down the offense, as in Game 1. It was to come down to the final inning again.

Manager Matt Jackson stepped up to take the responsibility of the last outs, and made good pitches. But the Redbacks loaded the bases and a whiff of confusion after the fly ball which led to the second out was enough for them to capitalise. This time it was 11-10.

Raptors again played with good spirit and improved even as the game went on. Redbacks have a great record this year and earned their wins, but Herts can take many good things from their performance.

Also in Single-A, the Herts Eagles hosted the league-leading London Musketeers, with nobody expecting a home win. But Herts veteran Arnie Longboy pitched a gem which saw the Eagles take an early lead. It was 2-0 in the third.

London fought back, as you would expect them to. They had a couple of big innings. But Herts tied it at 10-10 to take the game to extra innings.

Co-manager and pitcher, Arnie Longboy

Longboy pitched a 3-up, 3-down top of the frame and the game was poised for Herts to secure a famous shock victory.

Then came the real gut-punch.

Adam Porte and Lewis Harrison got on base. They were both hit by pitch, surely a sign that the Musketeers were wobbling. Next came a scorching hit from Jamie Lang, only recently recruited to the Eagles.

But instead of being the walk-off, winning hit, as it first appeared, it went straight to the first baseman. He caught it – one out – stepped on the bag for two, and alertly threw to the shortstop at second base to get the final runner. In a flash, the threat was over.

London managed to score a go-ahead run in the top of the next inning, before retiring the Eagles and taking an 11-10 win. Their relief and delight was clear. This game had been a huge leap forward for the Eagles compared with the last time they faced the Musketeers, in week 2 of the season.

Mike Wakelam got the ball for Game 2 and turned in another excellent pitching performance, but the offense could not back him up this time. It ended 12-4 to London.

Co-manager Aspi Dimitrov was impressed with his players: “Ordinarily, two defeats might be demoralising, but the margin and the close nature of the defeats against such a good side were a huge boost for the Eagles. It really shows the progress everyone has made”.

Witter pitching for the Londoners

In Triple-A, the Herts Londoners were away at the Essex Redbacks. Like the Raptors, they had young talent to call on, with Chris Gregory and Aaron Witter among the pitchers in two close games.

Miguel Sarmiento continued to drive in runs, but Herts could not take the wins this time, going down 10-7 and 8-6 on a grey day.

The Herts Hawks made the long trip to the Bournemouth Bears to suffer a 16-2 defeat, while the Herts Falcons of the NBL saw their games rained off. There is a toss-up there as to who suffered the bigger agony.

Back in time: Herts young players help mark the dawn of baseball

Among the events featured in this British summer of baseball was one to mark the game’s origins right here in England. Herts’ own Robert Gregory was on hand to witness the day, and sent this report:

On Sunday July 7th a Blue plaque unveiling event was held at Walton-on-Thames to commemorate the first recorded baseball game that was held there. It took place at Ashley Park, what is now Walton cricket ground, in September 1749.

On that day, the Prince of Wales took part. As part of this year’s festivities a demonstration game was played by players that are either on GB team rosters, or are selected for the national development programme.  This included players of various age groups, among them 5 from Herts teams – Josh Jones, Pedro Gomez-Jones, Jack O’Brien, Lucas Lebrato and Chris Gregory.

Herts’ Chris Gregory in action

The day began with a wet start with the teams “warming up’ in a constant drizzle. All eyes were on the weather forecast and just before the start of the game the weather obliged and cleared up.

Managed by GB head coach Liam Carroll the players were split into two teams — one ‘Team USA’ and one ‘Team GB’. The former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read made the introductions, the two teams took the field and the GB and USA National anthems were sung.

A good crowd took their positions and it was ‘Game on’. 

It was decided that the older players should pitch and catch at a suitable level to provide a balanced game for the range of ages of the players. Chris Gregory of the Herts Londoners pitched first for Team GB.

Some good fielding allowed GB to take a 2-0 lead after the first innings. Team USA then put in two strong innings scoring 6 runs in each, this included strong hits by the younger Herts players.

The game progressed with the crowd enjoying the experience and being provided details of finer points of the game from the announcer, Cris Knoblock. Some young children were keen to play and so soon were playing a game of there own.

The game looked over in the 6th (and final) inning as Team USA stretched out to an 8 run lead. But Team GB came charging back from 18-10 down to tie the game. A final hit deep to centre field by Herts’ Lucas Lebrato provided the winning runs, much to the delight of the crowd.

The players could then relax and enjoy the rest of the festivities with batting and pitching cages run by BaseballSoftballUK. There were also food stalls, entertainment and various performances on the stages. VIP guests enjoyed a buffet lunch in the marquee that was decorated with USA and GB flags and baseball items.

In the afternoon, the blue plaque was unveiled by the comedian Bobby Davro and his father Bill Nankeville, who was a national and record breaker on the track and a two-time Olympian. After that a softball game was held with the celebs and special guests. A great day for promoting baseball in the UK.

An historic adventure: the Herts Falcons in Europe

There were trophies, triumphs, blowouts and rainouts in Herts baseball club’s first ever experience of European competition. And the players and fans lapped it up.

The Herts Falcons, sponsored by Regin Products, took part in the European Federations Cup qualifier in Bulgaria, thanks to their position as runners-up in last year’s National Baseball League. In a history stretching back to 1996, Herts has never before been in Europe, so it was a big step forward.

Falcons, in new red uniform thanks to Regin

The first of five games in five days in Blagoevgrad was against the Polish side, UKS Deby Osielsko. They would go on to be the runner’s up in the tournament, and so provided stiff opposition.

Herts took an early lead, with Tetsuro Shinkawa writing his place in history by driving in the club’s first ever European runs. Miguel Sarmiento later hit Herts’ first ever European home run, as the Falcons rallied late in the game. Shortstop Carlos Casal Jr went 2-2 with two walks, but Osielsko won 18-8.

It had still been a solid start from the travelling Herts side. The sport of baseball is far more solidly established in Europe, with professional leagues in countries such as Austria, Italy and the Netherlands – so we knew the challenge would be tough.

Tetsuro Shinkawa

Herts were overpowered by Athletic Sofia from Bulgaria on Tuesday – despite a 3-for-3 day at the plate by Gary Davison – and by eventual Swedish tournament winners Solvesborg Firehawks on Thursday.

In between was the most dramatic game, against Atletico Alexandria. Herts led the Romanian side 3-0 going into the fifth inning, behind the superb pitching of Davison. Ryan Trask and Miguel Rodriguez had scored the runs.

Then Alexandria rallied to take the lead on a couple of Herts errors and wild pitches. They scored 5 from only 2 hits. But the Falcons were still in the game.

A cloudy day then brought rain which interrupted proceedings with Herts 6-3 down. Casal had come on to pitch in relief, and struck out three, and the Falcons hopes remained high. But the rain delay became a cancellation and the game was called. Herts were disappointed by a 6-3 loss.

It was frustrating as, inside the camp, the Falcons felt their performance had been their best as a team so far. Manager Cris Hiche put it simply: “We should have won it”. The team had been more relaxed and had more fun.

Parental advisory – Falcons “showering”

That strong team spirit showed in the way they washed away their disappointment. Stripped down to their underwear, the team sprinted from the dugout, through the rain, and slid across the outfield.

The moment was memorably caught on camera. It proved a success not only on Herts social media channels, but on a Facebook page covering baseball around the world – where it racked up more than 20,000 views.

On Friday, the Falcons ended on a high when they faced Utenos Titanai from Lithuania. Young Chris Gregory got the start on the mound and pitched a gem. He went the full eight innings, scattering 7 hits and striking out 7.

He was backed up by the bats, with Jarrod Pretorius going 3-for-4 and Tyler Badenhorst and Conner Brown both having a multi-hit game. It ended 13-2 to Herts and they claimed the fourth place trophy.

This had been an epic adventure, for these players and for the club as a whole. Herts veteran Lee Manning – who made some guest appearances as a reliever – said “We’ve left everything on the field every day. After 23 years, making it into Europe has taken us to the next level.”

Falcons’ manager Cris Hiche was proud of what the team had achieved, while club President Aspi Dimitrov hailed it as an historic week for the club.

Generous donations from players, supporters and from the Falcons sponsor Regin Products had made the trip possible. The reaction from the fans and families – and from the rest of British baseball – had made it worthwhile.



BBC presenters agree to face Herts youth stars

It was perhaps a foolhardy moment for two of the stalwarts of sports broadcasting in Hertfordshire. Or was it the moment an epic confrontation was set in train?

Geoff Doyle and Luke Ashmead of BBC 3 Counties Radio were just wrapping up their interview with Herts’ own Lee and Riley Manning – when the visiting father and son duo pulled out their trump card.

“I want to get you down to face our juniors”, says Lee, quickly but casually. “Yeah, yeah” came the swift reply.

Geoff and Luke manfully said they would show no mercy. But Riley piped up with what was described as “fighting talk” in response.

“We’d absolutely love to do that”, insisted the BBC men. Now we just need to set a date.

Lee Manning, Herts’ youth commissioner for 2019, had chatted with them both about the year ahead, the Herts Falcons’ foray into European competition, and the opportunities offered by the MLB London Series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

You can hear the whole thing here:

Of course, Geoff Doyle and Luke Ashmead are no strangers to Grovehill Ballpark. They came down in 2013 for a training session on a beautiful summer evening, and got to compete against one another at hitting.

When Lee and Riley dropped in to the studios this year, it was clear that the presenters remembered it well!

Luke quickly reminded Geoff that their previous experience of Herts baseball had included “me beating you in a batting competition”.

“I thought you might bring that one up”, he admitted after a brief pause. That’s how long baseball lives with you, and how much satisfaction it gives you when you get things right!

“It was such fun”, they agreed, saying anyone could try out the sport without any need to know the rules or the details.

You can listen to the original 2013 session here:

Stay tuned and we will keep you updated on when Geoff and Luke will be making their appearance at Grovehill to test their skills against our young stars.

You know they wouldn’t back out of it. Would they….?



Father-son duets do the double for Herts

At times, it looked as if the Herts Raptors would struggle to get a team together for Sunday’s trip to the Tonbridge Bobcats, as Father’s Day stripped away a few regulars from the line-up.

In the end, the 9 players they got together played one of their best all-around games of the season to secure a win. New father and son recruits were central to it, but more of them later.

We will start at the top of the first, when rookie Harvey Blenkarne led off with a hit to centre field. He advanced around the bases to score, as did manager Matt Jackson.

James Emblow at bat

Raptors loaded the bases, but some miscommunication about an infield fly ended the threat. Tonbridge struck back with two runs of their own, but in the second innings Herts were able to cash in more of their base-runners.

Doubles from Jackson and from Rob Jones helped bring in 5 runs this time, with the Bobcats getting only 1 in reply.

Herts veteran Arnie Longboy was on the mound for this one, and worked steadily in and around the strike zone. Andrew Sharp for Tonbridge picked up more strikeouts, but Longboy and his catcher, Ken Pike, kept the Bobcats swinging, and the defense backed them up.

Edward Liu, switched to first base for this game, was a rock, while Matt Jackson made excellent plays in a rare appearance at third base.

Shortstop Rob Jones – whose career highlight is probably a sliding infield catch at Tonbridge – made a sliding infield catch which was almost a carbon copy. He was able to dash in for a dying quail which had just enough to get past the pitcher, but not enough to reach anyone else.

Raptors led 10-4 after four innings. Solid, but far from decisive in Single-A. Whereas in the past, the team has sometimes lost a bit of focus at times like these, they stepped it up this time.

That father-son duo we mentioned earlier was Brian and Josh Morgan. Brian (senior) slipped smoothly into a job at second base, and got a hit every time he came up.

Josh (the younger) took time to warm up against the pitching. But when Herts needed the production to seal the game he hit a superb double to the outfield. He capped that with a steal of home, a cloud of dust as his exclamation point.

Herts scored 11 in the top of the fifth, with James Emblow contributing a double, a single and a run. It put a mercy rule win within sight. Tonbridge got runners on, and scored 2 as they loaded the bases.

But they ran out of outs. Matt Jackson made the final play from third to cap off a 21-6 victory and move his side to 5-2 on the season.

The Herts Hawks at Grovehill

Back at Grovehill, the Herts Hawks were hosting the Norwich Iceni, last year’s unbeaten champions in Single-A. Norwich had won the first encounter between the teams in Double-A this year, a rain soaked affair which went to extra innings.

The Hawks bats helped them jump out to an early lead, and pitcher Darrin Ward held the visitors to just one hit in the first two innings. Norwich did manage to rally.

But the Hawks showed their power to surge ahead. Ward and Andy Cornish both hit doubles, while there was a triple for Gilberto Medina. 10 runs in the fourth inning put Herts in control, with a 17-4 lead.

Manager Mike Cresswell got on base every time he came up while Drew Mayhew – playing his first Herts game for two and a half years, hit a double.

The Hawks celebrated a 20-5 mercy rule win and they are now 8-2 on the year.

At this game, the father-son combo was Louis Hare, who played a great game as ever, and Geoff, one of the country’s leading umpires. It seems you can play baseball and celebrate Father’s Day at the same time.