Dutch Baseball Hangout interviews Nick van der Kooi

What started as a single interview with Rick van Dijck, the Dutch Baseball Hangout is trying to make this a returning item: To interview the not so famous Dutch players abroad. In this second interview, we are paying attention to Nick van der Kooi.

Nick van der Kooi is from the Dutch Province of Friesland in the North of the Netherlands. He was about nine years old when he started to play baseball. Like many Dutch kids, his parents thought that soccer would be a good sport for him. So when they went to a game to watch, there was a baseball game going on on the adjacent field. Clearly, that game draw his interest and a week later he was playing baseball.

Nick started his career with Northern Stars from Leeuwarden, the capital of the Province of Friesland. He also played for the Drachten Diamonds and the Blue Devils from Meppel. When he spent almost a year in South Africa with a friend he had met at an international tournament, he played at a local baseball academy before he returned to the Frisian capital. Currently, Nick is playing for the Drachten Diamonds again.

During his career, Nick played at various levels of which the eerste klasse (fourth-tier league) was the highest level he reached. Since it is not easy for players up in the North of the Netherlands to get into the picture, one may wonder how Nick ended up in Sweden (more about that in a moment). To make it to the higher levels of Dutch baseball, one has to move to the Randstad (urban area between Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam). According to Nick, he doesn’t know how the Dutch baseball federation could solve this issue but he wants to try to change this in the future. For sure there are talented players in the North but then again, since the focus appears to be on the Randstad as most of the Dutch hoofdklasse clubs are playing there, baseball in the North is kind of left alone (Dutch Baseball Hangout).

But then about how Nick ended up in Sweden, which is rather unique. His best friend in South Africa, Kieran Moore, had played several seasons in Germany and Sweden. The two made a promise to play one season together abroad. So when Kieran was signed by the Sölvesborg Firehawks, he pleaded for his friend to be signed by the Firehawks as well. The club agreed but Nick had to prove himself in a tryout. He succeeded with flying colors.

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Nick with the2019 Elitserien champions trophy

During that 2019 season, Nick was mainly used as a reliever and as DH. As a reliever he posted a 4.12 ERA and kept the opposing batters at an average of .233. In twenty-four innings he struck out twenty batters. In the batters box, he posted a modest .244 batting average with twelve hits out of forty-nine at-bats with three doubles. But his moment of fame had yet to come. In one of the final games of the season against the Sundsvall Mosquitoes, Nick pitched a no-hitter. In eight innings, he gave up two walks and struck out eight and needed hundred pitches to accomplish the feat. As a result, the head coach of the Firehawks penciled him in for game three of the Swedish championship series but that game never came as the Firehawks won the first two games of the best-of-three series.

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Nick van der Kooi (on the right) next to his headcoach Daniel Johnson right after tossing his no-hitter

Last season, Nick wasn’t able to play a complete season in Sweden due to work and his study. He only went to Sweden during his vacation and pitched for Sölvesborg during a two week stint. He pitched three innings in relief in which he allowed one run and batted a decent .428 in seven at-bats.

What Nick remembers were the huge distances they had to drive to play games. Those distances varied from 560 km to 940 km. The Sölvesborg Firehawks scheduled some games in the high North in one week, during the Midsummer Night period. They drove up North and played all those games at the end of the afternoons or at night (at broad daylight). Due to those long trips, Nick has seen a lot of Swedish nature and the Swedish landscape.

Nick works as a dental technician and also follows a study for that profession. On the question if the 2019 season in Sweden was nothing but a great adventure with nice memories because of his work, he did not rule out that he will return to Sweden to play there one day. In fact, the Firehawks asked him to return for the 2021 season but recently, Nick read that the club had withdrawn from the Swedish Elitserien because of financial problems.

The Dutch Baseball Hangout would like to thank Nick for the time he took to answer the questions. This is really appreciated.

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