Last weekend, yours truly attended the eerste klasse (second-tier league) game between host Jeka and guest Herons/Alcmaria Victrix. After I wasn’t able to attend the unofficial opening of the new facility, as it was on a Friday night, I decided to attend last weekend’s game so I could interview the manager Mitchell Berghmans of Herons/Alcmaria Victrix about the new field and the new vision of the Herons.
The Herons got a brand new facility at the same location their old facility was located, earlier this year. Since the municipalities of Heerhugowaard and Langedijk merged, both municipalities had to spend some money before the merger. Herons was one of the lucky few, as the municipality of Heerhugowaard created a new baseball and softball field, both with a proper lighting system, which makes it possible to host international tournaments for both baseball and softball. The new baseball facility is hoofdklasse proof until 2029. In that year, new rules regarding facilities will be applied. Currently, the club is exploring the possibility building a new clubhouse with locker rooms and a bar at its own cost.
On the question, if the Herons has the ambition to play in the hoofdklasse, Mitchell Berghmans answered that he and other players experienced that playing in the eerste klasse is more fun. Unlike the hoofdklasse, the eerste klasse is not dominated by just two clubs, according to Mitchell.
Mitchell Berghmans was the manager of the Herons when the club was asked to play in the eerste klasse. But the club felt it wasn’t able to sport a team that could compete at that level on its own, so it discussed with Alcmaria Victrix from neighboring Alkmaar to form a combined team of the two flagship teams. One of the other reasons for this cooperation is that no team in the Alkmaar-Heerhugowaard region is strong enough to make the step to the eerste klasse themselves. One big advantage of the move to the eerste klasse is that the combined team of Herons and Alcmaria Victrix cannot be demoted, because, just like the Dutch hoofdklasse, the eerste klasse will be a closed circuit in 2022, which creates the possibility to build teams with home-grown players.
The combined team wears a neutral uniform with an HA logo on the left chest. These two letters are interconnected to emphasize the friendship between the two clubs. The logos of the two clubs are worn on the sleeves of the jersey; the logo of Alcmaria Victrix on the right sleeve.
The cooperation between the two teams is intended for the long run. Several clubs have tried to make the step to the overgangsklasse (now eerste klasse) but fell deep eventually. Double Stars from Heiloo is a good example. The club made it to the overgangsklasse but since the club was demoted, it dropped all the way down to the zesde klasse (seventh-tier league).
The intention is the create a platform for the region and to raise their own players. Part of the plan is to create a combination team of the flagship teams of both Herons and Alcmaria Victrix at several levels (adults, U21, and U17). The farm teams of each club will remain in-house. For the lower levels of baseball, both clubs want to keep their own identity since their points of view regarding the lower levels of baseball are very different. So a merger between the two clubs is out of the question.
After the 2022 season, both clubs will have a look at a further cooperation. You have to think about the levels of U15 and U12. In those age categories, the plan, written by Mitchell Berghmans, foresees the creation of a combined flagship team that contains players from both clubs. Currently, Alcmaria Victrix doesn’t have a U21 team since the players of last year’s U21 team moved up to the combined eerste klasse team. The Herons, on the other hand, has two U21 teams, so both clubs will look for possibilities to make the cooperation a success at the U21 level as well.
Part of Mitchell’s plan is that clubs in the Alkmaar region can join and form teams in the derde klasse and lower, to create a breeding ground of players in the area.
The new facility of the Herons will be opened officially on June 12 instead of three weeks ago.
I would like to thank Mitchell Bergmans for the time he took to answer my questions and for the much-needed information that made it possible to write this blog post.