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Club hoping for success in 2014

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Essex Redbacks Baseball & Softball have confirmed their managerial line-up for 2014, hoping they will be the men to lead their teams to glory.

Vince Warner retains managerial duties for the first team after a challenging 2013 season.

The club have dropped down from the National Baseball League in 2014, returning to AAA South, the division they won in 2012 to earn promotion.

And Warner is hopeful that getting back to winning ways will be good for the club as a whole, saying: “We had a really difficult year in 2013. We won a few games at the start, but once other teams got up to speed we struggled as their experience at the NBL level paid dividends.

“I’m excited about continuing to develop our junior players and local talent and I expect we’ll get a few more wins in 2014, which will help boost our morale throughout the club and drive success all the way.

“We’ll build on a strong off-season which started with our great tour to Holland in October.”

Warner will be joined by assistant manager Sam Rounce, 22, who excelled at shortstop in the NBL team in 2013 and will add extra energy to the coaching staff.

The second team will be led by Neil Hall, who takes on his first full managerial role after seven years of coaching at all levels.

Hall inherits a team that went through a transitional period in 2013, narrowly missing out on a play-off spot in an inconsistent season.

“As the Redbacks Single-A team manager 2014, it would be great to have a competitive season and finish in the top two,” said Hall.

“We’ll be a little more settled in terms of squad from the first game, whereas last season we had a lot of flux with availability.

“Our indoor training has already shown lots of improvement among the players and I’ll be hoping to lift them to a level where they’re pushing to get promoted to the first team too.”

The senior players continue training on Friday nights at Chelmer Valley High School from 8-10pm, while the youth players have their first training session of 2014 at James Hornsby School in Laindon on Sunday (2-4pm).

A restructure in the way the British Baseball Federation runs junior baseball sees the Redbacks’ three youth programmes reformed under new age groups.

The Pony-team, previously under-16s, become the Forest Glade Redbacks under-15s and stalwart Sean Briscomb leads the side for a second season having taken on various coaching roles throughout the junior section.

The majority of the under-15s will be formed of players from last year’s under-14s, who were runners-up in the National Youth Baseball Championships – the club’s most successful team of 2013.

“An initial target will be to win half our games,” said Briscomb. “But if the season starts well then it will be great to finish the season with a higher win percentage. If we can make the final in the NYBC’s again this will be a great achievement for the season.”

Richard Crabb takes the reins for the under-13s, which were previously the Forest Glade Redbacks Broncos under-14s.

With the slight change in age groups, the Forest Glade side will be confident that many of the younger players in last year’s runners-up team will have the experience to win the big games at crucial times.

Crabb said: “We’ve had a few very good seasons with the under-14s and though a lot of the players from last year have graduated into the next age group, there’s still a lot of experience in our ranks.

“I think we can certainly make another great run at the title and if we continue to develop at the same rate as the last couple of years then I can’t see why we couldn’t win the national championships come September.”

Graham Meikle takes over the Little Redbacks, who will be playing competitive baseball as the under-12s.

The Redbacks are one of the few clubs that has successfully developed players under the age of 11 – where there was previously no competitive baseball played in the UK – knowing that a strong future for the club starts with the youth teams.

Meikle, who managed the Pony team from 2010-2012 and coached with the Little Redbacks in 2013, said: “At all levels, the most important thing about baseball and softball in the UK is having fun and the Little Redbacks are a case in point.

“There’s so much talent and enthusiasm in this team that regardless of what happens on the field, I know that we’ll have a great season.”

Phil Candice continues as manager of the club’s softball programme and brings over 30 years of experience to the role, helping many new teams develop into challengers in London.

“The potential for softball in Essex and East Anglia is huge,” said Candice.

“There are lots of big companies who could take part in away-day team building tournaments, while there is scope for a league made of school, college and university teams.

“We hope to be able to put together a tournament side to take part in events across the country throughout the year, as we did at the end of 2013.”

*The Redbacks hold their first ever quiz night on Saturday and hope to raise £300 towards a new backstop fund.

Prizes have been donated from local restaurant Road House Diner, Comet Sports Limited and The Baseball Shop, and there are still a few places available.

The quiz starts at 7pm at Forest Glade Football Club, off Barleylands Road. To book a spot, contact fundraising officer Sam Rounce at: sam.rounce@btinternet.com.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Redbacks as a player or through volunteering, officiating or sponsorship opportunities, can contact club secretary Sean Briscomb at sean@essexredbacks.com or visit the website at www.essexredbacks.com.

Stay up to date with all the goings-on at the Redbacks via @essexredbacks on Twitter.

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