I returned yesterday from a long weekend in The Netherlands with the Croydon Pirates, and, as promised in my previous post, I’m going to share a few more thoughts on baseball in “Orange Country”.
First up is the Hoofdklasse, the top tier of baseball in The Netherlands. The Dutch Whitsuntide holiday weekend sees the greatest concentration of games in the season, with 12 taking place across three days. We took in game one of the three-game series between DOOR Neptunus and Mr. Cocker HCAW, hosted by the latter in Bussum. It wasn’t much of a contest, with Neptunus running out 14-1 winners helped by four home runs (Neptunus went on to get the sweep). But on a warm afternoon with beer and frikandellen (minced-meat hot dogs) on sale, the lopsided score was not going to stop us having a good time.
The strength of the Dutch baseball league and national side is aided by two of the country’s Latin American outposts, Aruba and Curaçao – islands sitting just off the coast of Venzuela, one of the world’s truly great baseball-playing nations. The three players with Major League Baseball experience who were playing in Bussum on Saturday – Ivanon Coffie, Eugene Kingsale, and Ralph Milliard – came from one of the two islands. Kingsale is probably the most famous of these, having been knighted by Queen Beatrix alongside fellow Arubans Sidney Ponson and Calvin Maduro in 2004.
The Whitsuntide long weekend is used by some amateur baseball and softball clubs in The Netherlands to host tournaments, and the Pirates were invited to take part in the event hosted by the Zuidvogels club in Huizen. Such is the quality of the Zuidvogels ground, facilities, and organization, an American on the Pirates team commented that the set-up for social baseball in The Netherlands is probably superior to that seen in all but a few pockets of his homeland.
Next year, The Netherlands will host second-round games of the baseball World Cup and, based on my experience of watching baseball in the country, I am already thinking about heading back across to take in a match-up or two.