Today, the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation (KNBSB) held a press conference in the clubhouse of new hoofdklasse club Oosterhout Twins (pronounce Oaster hout) about the upcoming season in the baseball hoofdklasse, Golden League softball, the upcoming European (nations) Cup in Hoofddorp, the upcoming ladies World Cup softball and the cooperation within the Dutch Kingdom between the Dutch mainland and the overseas territories.
Next to these subjects, the new director of the KNBSB was introduced: Bart Volkerijk. Volkerijk was a great pitcher in his hay days and pitched for (now defunct) Ado from The Hague. He had plenty of appearances in the Dutch national team. He still owns a couple of hoofdklasse records (most strikeouts and most pitching appearances). Next to being a good pitcher, he was also a gifted hitter (who says that pitchers can’t hit?).
The major task that Bart Volkerijk has is to vitalize baseball clubs by letting them grow, especially in the area of youth players. The best way is to do this is selling the game in the Netherlands, for example to win the European Cup later this year.
According to technical director Gijs Selderijk, the baseball competition will be more interesting. Of course there is the projected top two (Curacao Neptunus and L&D Amsterdam Pirates), but the race for the other play off spots will be more thrilling because the numbers three to six/seven all have a chance to clinch a play off spot. For years there was a top four, but since Corendon Kinheim and Vaessen Pioniers have lost a lot of impact players, there will be a top two, the aforementioned Curacao Neptunus and L&D Amsterdam Pirates, a big gap and then the other six hoofdklasse teams.
This will be the final year that the competition will be played in the current format. Winner and runner up of the first half and winner and runner up of the second half of the competition will advance to the play off round. This is another round robin in which the overall winner of the regular competition gets eight points, the runner up six, the number three will get two points and the fourth place finisher will get no points. Right now there is a commission brainstorming about a new format for the 2017 season and beyond. The only thing that will remain is the number of games: 42. The intention is to make the competition more interesting for players and for fans.
Gijs Selderijk explained how team Kingdom of the Netherlands took shape. For a long time players from the Netherlands, Curacao, Aruba and other overseas territories, played in a team that was profiled as team Netherlands. And that was the touchy part, especially while the players from Curacao, Aruba and the other islands were the backbone of this team. To meet their reasonable request, the team was christened team Kingdom of the Netherlands and that was profiled on the jerseys as well.
Team manager of the team during the World Baseball Classic and the Premier 12 tournament, Hensley Meulens, has shown the interest to manage the team until 2020, as long as international tournaments are not played during the MLB season. Of course his employer, the San Francisco Giants, must give permission. Talks about this with the Giants are going on. The intention is to organize a tournament as a preparation for the World Baseball Classic in 2017.
Also mentioned was the free fall that team Kingdom of the Netherlands made in the world rankings. In the past the Dutch followed Italy when it came to participation in European Cups in age categories like U18, U15, etc. In many cases the Netherlands did not participate when Italy didn’t. Most of the time the opponents were not strong enough and then only in the final the teams would face a relative strong opponent. According to Gijs Selderijk, there is no challenge for the young players in tournaments like this. Of course it also was a matter of money. Since the KNBSB is just a small sports federation, there is not much money to spend. And then you have to make choices. But with the new world rankings, the results of the national U18, U15 etc, are also important. And in those areas the Dutch did not earn many points in the past four years. This means that other decisions must be made regarding playing youth tournaments. The KNBSB will start an NTC, a national training center, where the best youth players can train together under the watchful eye of the best coaches of the Netherlands.
The host of the event, Ronald van Dam, referred to a question of one of the foremost baseball journalists, last October during the press conference that was organized to inform the press about the preparation of team Kingdom of the Netherlands for the Premier 12 tournament. “If there are so many stars from the Dutch Kingdom and Curacao Baseball Week is organized, it would be nice if those players could come to the Netherlands as well.” Hensley Meulens then said: “We will arrange that.” The host now said that the intention is still there and that they are working on it.
As a representative of team Kingdom of the Netherlands, Rob Cordemans was interviewed by Ronald van Dam. Since Rob Cordemans is still battling an elbow injury, he got a cortisone shot last week and that seems to help. He will work his way back slowly and he will try to be ready in time so he can join L&D Amsterdam Pirates with the upcoming European Cup for club teams. After the press conference I talked with Rob for a while about an eventual participation in the Euro League Baseball. But since he is still a valued member of team Kingdom of the Netherlands, he cannot take part in that league with team Amsterdam.
Financial director of the KNBSB, Paddy Roomer, explained how team Kingdom of the Netherlands opens doors internationally for Dutch companies. With partnerships (and not only sponsorships) both parties (baseball and companies) can help each other getting better. Proudly Paddy told that the Dutch sent a mission to Cuba accompanied by a baseball team, sooner than the Americans. Last January a trade mission went to Cuba, accompanied by team Kingdom of the Netherlands. Due to heavy rainfall, the game that would be played in the same stadium where the Tampa Bay Rays faced the Cuban national team, eventually was cancelled, but the impact of this baseball diplomacy was unparalleled.
On a question of a journalist about the upcoming Euro League Baseball, Gijs Selderijk said the following: “The KNBSB has been brainstorming about how to make the competition more attractive. And during this period, the Euro League Baseball was founded. Right now the ELB does not fit into the program of the hoofdklasse, especially because of the speed this all was shaped.” According to Selderijk the KNBSB has made clear that they want to talk about the ELB fitting into the 2017 season. It became clear that Dutch hoofdklasse clubs cannot participate in the 2016 ELB. The current structure of team Amsterdam is beyond the control of the club L&D Amsterdam Pirates (even though the team contains a bulk of players of that club) according to Selderijk and that does not interfere with the prohibition that the KNBSB has imposed.
Personally I think that a press conference like this is a good thing. In the last few decades, the attention that baseball got was deteriorating, something many baseball fans complained about. But if you want the attention, you have to offer something. A press conference like this may be the start of more attention in the Dutch media.
To conclude I’d like to thank Mitchell Korpel for organizing this press conference. As far as I am concerned you did a nice job.