CEB, Baseball popular in Europe?

Recently I bumped into this stat, showing the decline of baseball players in Europe.

When you read this from right to left, you will see an incline of members first but from 2014 the numbers go down with a sharp drop in 2015. Baseball Popular in Europe?
When you know that Jan Esselman is the chairman of the CEB since 2013, the decline of members is bigger than the growth of it since his appointment. In an interview with the pan-European baseball website, Mr. Esselman stated the following: “The challenge for the new Executive is to find solutions for the various top and development levels within the European baseball competitions. The best way for all Federations is that every team can compete on their own level and in that way to reach a higher one. The last change of the Seniors in to A, B and C level will be watched carefully.”

“… that every team can compete on their own level…”

Really? Clubs like Curacao Neptunus and L&D Amsterdam Pirates clearly have outgrown the Dutch competition. Therefore an initiative like the ELB would be a great opportunity for both teams. Sure, both teams could not participate due to the ban that was imposed by the Dutch federation, but that very same federation initially allowed Amsterdam Baseball, which contained players of L&D Amsterdam Pirates who are not playing in the Dutch National team, a.k.a.  team Kingdom of the Netherlands, to participate in the ELB.

In the last weeks the Dutch and possibly the European baseball community was stunned by the news that L&D Amsterdam Pirates decided to withdrawn its players from team Amsterdam Baseball because of a threat by CEB (European Baseball Confederation) chairman Jan Esselman.  According to a text message that he sent, those players would not be eligible for the upcoming European Cups. This would be based on rule 26e.1 of the CEB competition rules. This rule tells that players may not participate in foreign leagues for other teams than the team with which the player will participate in the European Cup, before the European Cup is played. This would also mean that college players cannot participate.  I cannot tell if the rule was already in place before Mr. Esselman warned L&D Amsterdam about the existence of the rule. I must admit that the founders of the ELB should have checked this before they started their big adventure. But this would also mean that Loek van Mil, who is part of the roster of Curacao Neptunus is not eligible to participate, since he pitched for the Rochester RedWings in the International League (AAA) in April of this year.

Tricky part in this is that according to the ELB,  Mr. Esselman said that there is a dispensation for players that played in college baseball and in the MLB and MiLB because those leagues are acknowledged by the CEB. But nowhere in the rules this can be found.

The fun part is that according to one of the founders of the ELB, Mr. Esselman should have said (so oral, not written) that if the local federations would agree on their teams participating in the ELB, the CEB would accept the decision. If this is true, why this sudden turnaround? Perhaps Mr. Esselman only said this as a kind of sop and was he shrewd enough not to put this on paper, so they never could nail him on his words.

Another point is that Mr. Esselman stated that the CEB would discuss the ELB in the past confederation executive board meeting of May 28. If there would be no agreement between the ELB and the CEB, more restrictions would follow. One of the founders of the ELB has stated to me that they have tried to make an appointment to discuss the situation but every time the CEB did not react. So how is it possible to reach an agreement then?

When I dropped questions about the previous two points in Mr. Esselman’s mailbox, he wrote: “Unfortunately, it will always be that whole or half untruths will be spread around.”

In my email to Mr. Esselman, I posted a couple of questions, next to the previous two:
– Why are you the only one of four (vice) presidents that is opposed to the ELB?
– In the statutes of the CEB it is stated that the organization deals with the promotion and the growth of the sport in Europe. You cannot deny that due to your attitude, the game of baseball is getting a lot of negative attention, can’t you?
– At an earlier stage, you claimed that the ELB did not stand a chance. So if the league does not stand a chance, why don’t you give it a chance? The CEB only has to watch and learn (the ELB told this in their defense on the rigid rule 26d.1). If we want to save baseball in Europe, cooperation is needed but right now exactly the opposite is happening.

In the answer on my email, Mr. Esselman stated: “The foremost point for both the national federations and the CEB is that we are the only authorized organization for the sport of baseball in the eyes of the IOC, WBSC and the National Olympic Committees. Our members know the statutes and they are obliged to follow them. The CEB is cheering for every promotion of the sport of baseball in Europe and because of that there are agreements with MLB, MiLB, Little League, Pony League and ISG.  The ELB opts to stay independent and because of that it will be in conflict with the organized sport. The CEB board will meet on May 28 about the ELB. We hope and we expect that the ELB wants to talk about moving on under the umbrella of the CEB.”

In fact Mr. Esselman never really answered the lower three questions.

On May 10 an adaption to the rules has been made. Rule 26e.1 now says:


There is a considerable change in the rule regarding the eligibility. Compare this with the rule as written down on top of this blog post. The part about the dispensation can be found in the last sentence that starts with All the players…

May 10….. That was a Tuesday. The warning of Mr. Esselman about the eligibility was on Sunday May 8 by text message….. The Dutch baseball website De Nederlandse Honkbalsite has asked questions about this change of rules to Mr. Esselman. Contrary to other questions that were answered rather quick, the website has not received an answer yet.

Also another baseball related website ( that has dug into the matter, does not get answers by Mr. Esselman anymore. Mr. Esselman is only spouting his statements towards newspapers that do not know as much about he matter as the aforementioned baseball websites.

Take the article in the local newspaper of the city of Haarlem (Haarlems Dagblad) on June 1.  In this article, Mr. Esselman is stating a couple of things that are questionable, to put it mildly.

He states that the founders of the ELB only wanted to talk to him during the CEB executive board meeting of last weekend. Since this wasn’t possible, they opted to stay away, according to this article. This is not true. The founders wanted to discuss the matter with anyone of the CEB. The reason why they did not show up is that Mr. Esselman did not want them to book a room in the hotel where the CEB executive board meeting was held (I have seen the email).  Perhaps Esselman was affraid that the founders of the ELB would try to convince the CEB members about their (ELB) cause. The only reason that the founders did not want to go to Rome was that they did not want to accept these restrictions.

Esselman also stated in the article that there was a major brawl during a game between L&D Amsterdam Pirates and Curacao Neptunus. He said:”Think about the following. Now the competition game between L&D Amsterdam Pirates and Curacao Neptunus has been suspended , it is very likely that a couple of players will be punished. Wouldn’t it be crazy if the players of Amsterdam Baseball still could play in the ELB?”

Can I ask you one thing Mr. Esselman? Isn’t it crazy then, that those players, both of L&D Amsterdam Pirates and Curacao Neptunus, are currently playing in the European Champions Cup?

Mr. Esselman seems to use fallacies to defend his own stance towards the ELB.

Crispy detail about the recent CEB executive board meeting on which more restrictions would be discussed. The local baseball federations of Germany and the Czech Republic have opposed to this, so no further restrictions will be implemented. Mr. Esselman had to accept a defeat here. After the CEB executive board meeting of last weekend, nothing has been published about the outcome. The CEB did not vent information through the media neither did they inform the persons and the institution that they have been discussing about. A strange situation. The information about the German and Czech federations opposing the restrictions has been coming in through various informal channels.

It remains to be seen how things will develop. It is all up to the local federations of which the German and Czech federations have given their clubs a go. The only federation that is against participation of players form their competition is the KNBSB; they have their reasons to be opposed. Last week the KNBSB withdrew the approval for Amsterdam Baseball. Now the CEB has decided not to implement more restrictions, perhaps the KNBSB can withdraw the withdrawal.

It remains to be seen how long Mr. Esselman will be in charge. According to the baseball website, Esselman would have been altering the rule 26e.1 – .4 all by himself. Parts of the changes would not have not been discussed by the CEB congress earlier this year.

If this is true, do European baseball players still want to be represented by someone who is changing rules single handedly? Not as far as I am concerned.

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