Spring is the time when managers put together their teams and aim to turn them into winning machines ahead of Opening Day. Similar to the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in Major League Baseball, the HSL provides a competitive edge to spring training.
This is the fifth year of the Herts Spring League, and the number of participants has increased every year. Twenty teams entered the HSL in 2011 -- a new record -- and the geographic spread of participating teams seems to be expanding as well, with teams from as far away as Leicester and Southampton involved.
This year’s competition is set to be even bigger and teams have been keeping the Herts front office busy with enquiries over the last few months.
Teams will be placed in two or more divisions (e.g. HSL Majors and HSL Minors) in 2012, based on team rankings going into the new season. The exact format will depend on the number of teams entering the HSL and the availability of venues; full details will be published when BBF league line-ups are confirmed.
Over the years, the HSL has featured teams from the National Baseball League (NBL), AAA, AA and Single-A Leagues, as well as international teams such as the GB Under-19 National Team and the ASL Eagles, who won the very first edition of the HSL Majors in 2008.
There has also been interest from Under-17 (Pony) League teams and the HSL expects to have Under-17 teams involved this year as well. The high standard of most of the BBF Under-17 league teams should enable them to compete comfortably at the level of adult teams from the AAA and AA Leagues.
The BBF has announced that the NBL season will commence on April 1, 2012, which is much earlier than previous seasons due to the GB Team’s involvement in the European Championships at the end of the summer. So the HSL schedule will be adjusted to ensure that NBL teams can complete their HSL games by Sunday, March 25.
The HSL Majors, which will involve the NBL teams, will be played over two weekends rather than the usual three -- the weekends of March 17-18 and March 24-25.
The other HSL Division(s), involving AAA, AA, Single-A and Under-17 League teams, will be played over three weekends: March 24-25, March 31-April 1 and April 7-8.
Most games will be played at Grovehill Ballpark in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, but there will also be games at other venues around London due to the ever-increasing number of HSL games.
For more information see the HSL page on the Herts Baseball Club website.