The new millennium started with a blast for the Dutch baseball world. With the Olympic baseball tournament in Sydney, the Dutch upset the Cubans by beating them 4-2. For the first time, the best possible team with (former) pro players that played in the US was put together. Players like Hensley Meulens, Rikkert Faneyte, Ralph Milliard and Robert Eenhoorn. The day after the victory over Cuba, the Dutch took on the baseball dwarf, South Africa. Apparently the Dutch celebrated the victory over Cuba too much as they fell to the Springboks. Due to this loss, the Dutch didn’t get to the semi-finals. Eventually, the USA with players like Pat Borders, Doug Mientkiewicz, Brad Wilkerson, Sean Burroughs, Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt won the Olympic title.
But the victory over the Cubans made one thing clear. The Dutch were no longer the pushovers of baseball world tournaments. Great performances during the Intercontinental Cups of 2006 (second place after a 6-3 loss vs Cuba) and 2008 (second place after a 4-1 loss vs Cuba) proved that we have become a force to be reckoned with. Since 2000 Robert Eenhoorn took over as manager and general manager of the Dutch Baseball Federation. He has professionalized the organization and the youth education. Five baseball schools were founded; in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Bussum, The Hague, and Haarlem. Talented youth players will be placed at one of these schools. If they want to make one of the Dutch national teams, they need to play for one of the clubs of the two highest divisions in Dutch baseball. This turned out to be a good idea because many Dutch players are trying their luck in the US and more and more Dutch players are drawing the interest of MLB teams.
Eventually, the reward for this development came in 2011. During the 2011 World Cup (official World Championship for “amateurs”) the Dutch won every game but one (a close loss in a tie-breaker vs Canada). In the second round, they convinced the baseball world by beating every opponent and most of all Cuba (by 4-1). In the gold medal game, they would take on Cuba again. But because of heavy rainfall, it looked like the gold medal game would be canceled. In that case, the Dutch would win the championship anyway because they had beaten the Cubans in the previous round. But the Dutch players showed some guts, saying that they wanted to play. They wanted to prove the world that they were capable of winning the World Championship. Finally after a four-hour rain delay, the home plate umpire called “play ball!!” In a pitching duel, the Cubans took the lead in the fourth inning but the Dutch answered immediately in the bottom of the fourth by scoring two runs. Eventually, through great pitching and great defense (worth mentioning is a great stop by the current Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius), the Dutch managed to record the final out in the ninth for their first ever World Championship title. The Dutch baseball world went crazy and the team got knighted by our Queen.
The Dutch squad celebrating their World Cup win in 2011
The euphoria lasted for a month until the news was spread around that Gregory Halman is killed. All of a sudden the Dutch baseball world was mourning. In the offseason, Greg was living together with his brother Jason in Rotterdam. But Jason had psychological problems. Jason stabbed Greg fatally in the neck with a knife. The reason is still not clear as it is unknown what actually happened that day. Jason was arrested but after a year of investigations, he was released from prosecution because of his psychological condition. Luckily his family didn’t lose two sons but eventually, this tragedy only has losers: the Netherlands lost two talented ballplayers of which one just had a couple of stints with the MLB squad of the Mariners and the Halman family lost a son.
A little memorial at Safeco Field
In 2012 the Royal Dutch baseball and softball federation (KNBSB) celebrates its 100th birthday. A special book about the history is published and as cream on the cake, the European Cup is played in the Netherlands. But what had to become the climax of the 2012 season ends in a major disappointment as the Italians repeat as European champions.
Then came 2013. A couple of big things happened. First of all, AHC Quick turned 100. This baseball club from Amsterdam was one of the pioneers in the early 1900s and is the oldest baseball club in Europe. The highlight is the reception at the Park Hotel in Amsterdam; the hotel where the club was founded hundred years earlier. Through the years the club was close to folding a couple of times but now the club is thriving again thanks to a very motivated chairman and many volunteers.
The World Baseball Classic. Players like Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Xander Bogaerts, Roger Bernadina, Jonathan and Marlon Schoop were the players that carried the Dutch team. Most pitchers were from the Dutch leagues. Former MLB player Rick van den Hurk declined participation because of his preparation for the Korean baseball season. With the best possible team, the Dutch took on South Korea. Diegomar Markwell was masterful on the mound and before they knew it the Koreans were trailing 5-0. They never came back into the game. Eventually the Dutch advanced to round two in Tokyo where they beat Cuba in game one by 6-2. In the winner’s bracket, they faced the Japanese. Rob Cordemans, normally a solid pitcher, had a rough start. He was beaten up by the Japanese and only survived an inning. The Dutch were not able to beat the Japanese. Final score 16-4. The Dutch had to face Cuba again, who beat Taiwan in the losers bracket. Once again the Dutch were victorious and beat the Cubans in a nailbiter 7-6 with a walk-off sac fly by Kalian Sams.
In San Francisco, the Dutch faced the Dominican Republic. The latter had to settle a score with the Dutch, who humiliated them in 2009 when they denied them to advance to the second round. Despite not being outplayed, the Dutch fell to the Dominicans by 4-1. A bad 5th inning cost them the game. But once again the Dutch have proven that they are no longer a bunch of pushovers. Belonging to the best four countries in the world isn’t bad for such a small country where only 20,000-25,000 people play baseball or softball. Sure without the help of the players from the Netherlands Antilles, the Dutch never would have come this far.
The Dutch team is introduced before the semi-final of the 2013 WBC (photo: Dutch Baseball Hangout)
Due to the many players heading to the US, the level of the Dutch competition is deteriorating. In the first half of the 2000s, the Dutch clubs dominated European baseball by winning the European cup from 2000-2004 and in 2007. But now many Dutch youngsters are heading to the US, that domination is over. Despite being a small sport in Italy as well, there is much more money involved there so the clubs can hire good foreign players which makes them stronger than their Dutch counterparts.
In 2013 a state of the art baseball stadium was opened in Hoofddorp. This stadium was built according to MLB standards (especially the grass, the dirt and the locker rooms) in an attempt to get a series of MLB games to the Netherlands. But so far MLB has not appointed a series to the Netherlands. The new stadium is the training facility of the Dutch national teams.
The new stadium in Hoofddorp (photo: Dutch Baseball Hangout)
Dutch champions from 2000 –
2001 Neptunus Rotterdam
2002 Neptunus Rotterdam
2003 Neptunus Rotterdam
2004 Neptunus Rotterdam
2005 Neptunus Rotterdam
2006 Kinheim Haarlem
2007 Kinheim Haarlem
2008 Pirates Amsterdam
2009 Neptunus Rotterdam
2010 Neptunus Rotterdam
2011 Pirates Amsterdam
2012 Kinheim Haarlem
2013 Neptunus Rotterdam
2014 Neptunus Rotterdam
2015 Neptunus Rotterdam
2016 Neptunus Rotterdam
2017 Neptunus Rotterdam
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