He was the projected heir to the throne of L&D Amsterdam Pirates, the follow up of manager Charles Urbanus. But he accepted an offer of rival Neptunus to become the head coach for the 2017 season. In what was supposed to be a transition year for Curaçao Neptunus, first-year manager Ronald Jaarsma won every prize that could be won. Ronald Jaarsma looks back on a fantastic first season.
Despite the fact that 2017 was supposed to be a kind of transition year, the goal was still to win the main prizes (European Champions Cup and the Dutch title). The transition was more about fitting in younger players. But 2017 was a tough season. Neptunus was hit by the injury bug as starting pitcher Orlando Yntema was seriously ill. Even this serious he needed surgery. Also Loek van Mil wasn’t in a good shape as he was bothered by back problems. If that wasn’t enough, Rien Vernooi had to step back because playing in the hoofdklasse was very hard to combine with his job. And of course, two players were suspended due to PED use. Despite all the setbacks, the first success came in early June, when Curaçao Neptunus won the first prize of the season: the European Champions Cup. As the playoffs in the hoofdklasse neared, the pitching staff slowly returned to full strength. After undergoing surgery, Orlando Yntema was back in shape right in time for the Holland Series.
Ronald gives a big hand to the education system of the club. Because of all setbacks, he had to fit in several young players from Neptunus’ farm team, Tridents, of which some even just came from the Rotterdam Baseball Academy Unicorns. These young players have played an important role in clinching the championship as well according to Ronald.
Of course, this season was a team effort, as Ronald has emphasized a few times. But still, there is one person who pulled the pitching staff through the tough first part of the season after Yntema hit the DL. Elton Koeiman was on Ronald Jaarsma’s wish list in the offseason. Mainly as a fourth starter for the European Champions Cup, but also as pitching coach. But Koeiman stepped in perfectly. Jaarsma and Koeiman know each other since both played for Tridents, years ago. Jaarsma has a blind faith in Koeiman if he sends him out to the mound. In the first half of the season, Koeiman certainly did not disappoint Jaarsma.
On the question, if he was satisfied with how youth players fit in the team, Ronald said the following: “Every player and coach who works with Neptunus or has worked there, knows that you have to give something extra when you want to survive. This gives some extra pressure. But the way the young players have dealt with this pressure was simply good. But young players can be unstable so you have to keep your cool and stay focused. If you cannot do that, you will have a hard time at Neptunus. A player like Jochem Koedijk had a slow start. He did not get innings during the European Champions Cup but in the second half of the season and during the playoffs, he came through. If you are able to do that, you are mentally strong and you passed the first test.”
According to Jaarsma, he had to start with the core of the team, a group of players that is together for years now. But at times he used the youth players to avoid tricky pitcher moves by the opponents and in most cases, the youngsters performed well.
The strength of the infield with Dwayne Kemp at third base, Stijn van der Meer at shortstop and Benjamin Dille at second blocks the development of younger players. Two of the aforementioned three players are still very young. Only Benjamin Dille is getting a bit older physically. But Dille is still very valuable for the team (Benjamin was the best hitter in the hoofdklasse during the 2017 campaign with a batting average of .448). Because of the quality of this infield, there is no need for replacements yet. If you use players, who would be in the starting lineup of every other hoofdklasse team, as a backup, this would be a bad thing for baseball according to Ronald. Therefore the club has chosen for younger players who can fit in when needed to give the regulars a much-needed rest at times.
Another remarkable pitcher was Czech Jan Tomek. The coaching staff of Neptunus’ farm team Tridents took the initiative to get him to Rotterdam to help that team survive the transition year in the overgangsklasse (one level below the hoofdklasse). Jan joined Neptunus on the trip to Regensburg (European Champions Cup) and also stepped in well in the regular hoofdklasse season. Ronald Jaarsma remembered Tomek from the 2016 European Champions Cup, when Jaarsma was still with L&D Amsterdam Pirates and when Tomek allowed Pirates to score only one run. So Tomek can really pitch.
Because of all the fuzz caused by his move from L&D Amsterdam Pirates to Curaçao Neptunus, he stated in an interview with a Dutch newspaper, that he was trailing 2-0 during his start with his new club. The group of players was not happy with the move as the loved to play for the previous manager Evert-Jan ‘t Hoen. The group had gotten used to his coaching style for four years but Ronald wanted to do things differently. Because of the differences, the start was pretty hard for Ronald. But since he prefers to be transparent, the players accepted him. Big advantage for Ronald was that he used to be a player himself. He dared to open his mouth when he disagreed. As he knows the sentiments as a player, he knew how to deal with players and their opinions. Ronald knew he had to earn respect instead of demanding it. The European Champions Cup was the turnaround for him as he made some bold moves which led to the European title.
Jaarsma was a player who did everything to win. The players of Neptunus are the same. They want to play on. But at times Jaarsma thought a pitching change or a change of a fielder would benefit the team. Of course, a player will react. But if players disagreed and started a discussion, Jaarsma talked to the players in private to explain why he had made the move.
Jaarsma’s predecessor, Evert-Jan van ‘t Hoen, preferred to stay in the dugout like a real manager. Jaarsma, on the other hand, prefers to be a third base coach as well because he stays focused as a third base coach. As a third base coach, he can make a sudden decision during a play, something that would be nearly impossible if he opted to stay in the dugout. Jaarsma said he is capable to do what he is doing thanks to the assistant coach Wim Martinus and bench coach Jan Collins. Both have decades of baseball experience under their belt. When Melfried Commenencia quit after a month into the season, a new assistant coach had to be found. Collins, Koeiman and Jaarsma wrote down a name of the person they wanted to join them. All three wrote down the name of Wim Martinus, so that is why Wim Martinus is back with his old club again after being sent away four years ago when the board of the club wanted to make a change in the coaching staff.
According to Ronald, this year’s Holland Series was a real promotion for the game of baseball. Except for game two, which was won by Neptunus 12-0, all other games were decided in the final innings.
We would like to thank Ronald Jaarsma for the time he has taken to answer our questions.