The loss of Kal


Mark Caress

Herts Baseball Club is a great club and I really enjoy being part of it.  On Sunday 5 July our world was rocked when, in the late afternoon, the news broke that Kal Dimitrov (Club President Aspi's big brother) had collapsed and died on the Essex Archers diamond at Waltham Abbey at a Single-A game in which he was playing and managing the club’s development team, the Herts Raptors.

Kal Dimitrov

Total shock, stunned silence and disbelief -- no one could believe what they had just been told.  What to do?  Everyone wanted to do something but no one knew what.  The emails went back and forth, social media sparked to life.  The club was hurting and didn't know how to ease the pain.

Kal #12 PatchLots of suggestions had come forward and very quickly we decided that we wanted to do something -- and things started to take shape.  First, we would produce a sleeve patch to go on our jerseys; second, we would retire Kal’s jersey; and third, we would have a gathering to remember him.

We needed a pause from baseball.  It didn't seem right or respectful to continue playing, so we cancelled all activities for a week (the BBF were fantastic -- they rescheduled games, sent out condolences, and arranged their own tribute to Kal to be held before all league games the following Sunday).  We all needed this time to give Kal the send-off he deserved.

The Board was united, tasks delegated, processes started -- finally we felt we were doing something useful.  We were still hurting, but keeping busy was helping.  Social media was awash with information.  Lee Manning (Herts Falcons Manager) was taking charge of the Memorial Service.  We were in full flight.

Saturday 11 July was chosen as the day for the club to hold a Memorial Service, a gathering so that the club could mourn and celebrate all the good that Kal had done for Herts and the baseball community in general.  We initially thought the event would be just for the club, but that soon changed as we got more and more enquiries from players at other clubs, all feeling the same way we were.  So of course we opened it up and everyone was welcome.

We decided to use the sleeve patch design as our 'logo' for the event.  Our Facebook and Twitter photos changed, and then, to our surprise (and delight), more and more players/clubs changed their own profile pictures to the logo.  Very quickly, 12 was trending and the show of support was extraordinary and overwhelming.  The Memorial Service could be huge.

Saturday arrived, and the club was ready -- apprehensive but needing to meet and share experiences.  Again, everyone had done their jobs: the field prepared, flowers arranged, photos and logos produced, information distributed, invites sent, food ordered and delivered.

Kal Memorial Crowd

From around 10:30 am they started coming, and they just kept on coming -- the ballpark full of Herts players new and old, plus friends, family, and players and family from the whole community.

Then, around 11.00 am, Aspi arrived and he spent the next 40 minutes or so giving everyone a hug and thanking them for all the support he had been given.

At around 11:50, the jerseys started to be laid on the diamond, led by Aspi placing down Kal’s, his and Ilya's. Then, one by one, people lined up to take turns laying down their jersey.  In total, 159 jerseys were laid down, filling much of the infield.  This was followed by speeches and poems read by family friends.

Kal Memorial Jerseys

At 12:12, the whole congregation gave a minute’s applause, then Aspi addressed the crowd.  As expected, what he had to say was highly emotional and heart-felt.  If anyone had managed to hold it together until then, now they lost it.

It was a fantastic, moving tribute to Kal; a day I'll never forget and a day we needed to have.

The show of support from the whole community was fantastic and all of us at Herts offer our thanks to everyone.  Kal was a great man and his loss is a massive blow to Herts and British baseball as a whole.  Herts is not just a club -- it's a family, and I'm blessed to be part of this family.  Baseball is not just a sport -- it's a community, and the whole community has pulled together and shown that no matter what, we are as one together.

Herts is still hurting, but after Saturday’s Memorial Service it's starting to heal.  Next week we start playing again, with heavy hearts -- but we know it's what Kal would have wanted.


Herts Memorial Scoreboard

tagged under: baseball, obituary, herts baseball club, clubs

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