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Willemstad is the new San Pedro de Macoris
February 26, 2013 7:14 PM   Subscribe

If you were going to set out to build a successful national baseball team you probably wouldn’t select a country with most of its land sitting below sea level. Camden Depot presents a brief history of honkbal, as the Netherlands nine get ready to compete in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, exactly 100 years after the formation of Quick Amsterdam, Europe's first baseball team. Last time around, the Dutchmen knocked the mighty Dominican Republic out of the tournament. This year's Dutch team, led by veteran Andruw Jones and Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop, both natives of Willemstad on the island of Curacao, puts more Dutch talent on the field than there has been since Bert Blyleven's last game. (Blyleven is the Netherlands' pitching coach.) Don't leave it till game time -- learn to speak honkbal now!
posted by escabeche (13 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't really follow baseball. What has altitude to do with it?
posted by pompomtom at 7:20 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honkbal. I just like saying the word. Honkbal.

Major League Honkbal.
posted by Bwithh at 7:28 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honkball. I'm sort of half-planning a trip through the Low Countries, and honkball was only the second-most-surprising sporting event.

In the Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium (Flanders and nearby), there's a game called Vinkensetting, Finch-sitting, whereby a fellow sits down next to his competitive finch and makes a mark on a chalkboard every time it chirps. The most chirps within a given time frame, fifteen minutes or whatever, and you win. It's a big enough deal that they televise these matches, and get into endless heated arguments over what exactly constitutes a legal chirp.

I love basehonkball to death, but vinkensetting is the sport I really hope to run across when I'm there (since I probably can't afford to go see Ajax or Anderlecht play soccer).
posted by Fnarf at 7:43 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you were going to set out to build a successful national baseball team you probably wouldn’t select a country with most of its land sitting below sea level.

Um, why is that? Is baseball somehow harder to play below sea level?
posted by Malor at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really follow baseball. What has altitude to do with it?

Almost nothing. Higher altitudes have lower air pressure, which is supposed to favor hitters: fly balls carry further and air currents over the surface of a ball, which drag on the seams and give movement to breaking pitches, are lessened. The degree to which this matters practically are debated.

But since offense and defense are opposing forces, "if you were going to set out to build a successful national baseball team you probably wouldn’t select a country with most of its land sitting below sea level..." is pretty meaningless. If the wisdom is correct and all other things equal, it should result in a team with below-average offense and above-average pitching.

That's not a bad way to describe the Netherlands' influence on MLB, but it ignores the fact that most of the notable players have come from Dutch holdings in the Caribbean.

The WBC is a drag for American baseball fans-- it basically means that the best foreign pitchers are going to be worked by their national teams until their arms fall off just before the season starts.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a slow, contemplative game. Distinctive offense and defense modes, each requiring a separate strategy. A game adored by those in USA mega-cities New York and Los Angeles, and in North American mega-cities Mexico City and Toronto, and in Asian Mega Cities Tokyo and Seoul and Taipei, and on the tiny island of Curacao.

Vastly different cultures, yet they all find solace in the same game. It's not the ceaseless back-and-forth of soccer or basketball or hockey, where constant motion takes the place of contemplating the moment, considering the options, and then moving. With grace, elegance, desperation, intelligence, luck, skill, love.

In the stands, at a baseball game... less so in the big leagues, but brilliantly so in the national leagues and in the US minor leagues... you find solace and joy and heartbreak and optimism and feats of strength and agility and concentration. A serious game for silly people, while also being a silly game for serious people... baseball with every hit and catch, steal and save, is both.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:04 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jones had a tough offseason: he was arrested for battery on his wife, which seems to have led to divorce proceedings. This did not keep him from joining Rakuten in camp prior to WBC, though.
posted by mwhybark at 8:08 PM on February 26, 2013


Last time around, the Dutchmen actually became world champions.

We're on your honks, beating your dudes.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:51 PM on February 26, 2013


I played fanatically in the seventies and eighties in The Netherlands and I was fortunate enough to be coached by my hero Winneke Remmerswaal. He was the first Dutchman to get drafted by the Red Sox. The first honkballer that made it to The Show. I will never forget how he returned from the US and led a pitchers clinic for a bunch of snotty sixteen year olds. We saw him play before of course, but when he came back, it looked like his speed almost doubled. After some warming up, he said: now let's start some real pitching. We gathered round and the first fastball he threw went clean through the web of the catcher's mitt. We were in awe (still getting chills when I think of that particular morning). He also gave us chewing tobacco, I still have fond memories of all these guys throwing up in the ditch next to the field, observed by a smirking Remmerswaal who called us a bunch of goddamnn pussies. We also imitated him by writing 'THINK' in the palms of our gloves.

After that clinic he went back and I never saw him again. He pitched 4 innings in the longest professional baseball game (33 innings) and he made 22 appearance for the Red Sox in the Major League. It is sad to say that it didn't end well for Win. He quickly got the reputation of being the weirdo of the team.

As a player for the Red Sox he became infamous when he overslepped before a game against the New York Yankees. He decided to take a cab from the hotel to the stadium. The cabdriver headed for Shea Stadium were the New York Jets were to play an American Football game later that day. Win didn't find out about the mistake untill he was in the lockerroom.

You'll find many more anecdotes in the bio here. He found it very difficult to adapt to life in the US and on the road. There was booze, there were pills and after he got injured he ended up living on the streets. He was found in a coma and now he lives in a retirement home, paralyzed, almost unable to speak. There is a 20 minute documentary in Dutch for the fans. So sad. But, fuck yeah, that man is still my hero. I mean, having a pizza delivered to the Boston bullpen by a hot chick, while on live tv. How can you not love guy like that?
posted by ouke at 2:17 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hey, I just met a load of the Dutch national team in London, at a MLB clinic for our little league. They were great. My son loved meeting Roger Bernidina (one of those Islanders mentioned above) and Rick Vandenhurk. He has no idea how lucky he is getting a coaching day with these guys.

Its pretty weird, growing up a Chicago Cubs kid, watching and playing every day a majority sport, to raising English schoolboys who happen to love a pretty niche sport (though we have a healthy little league here). I was surprised to find out the strength of Dutch baseball.

Though my favorite international was the French national team guy I've met here, who grew up the son of a Bordeaux footballer and a Orange County surf girl, who grew up half a year in each environment. Its a funny old world.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The WBC is a drag for American baseball fans-- it basically means that the best foreign pitchers are going to be worked by their national teams until their arms fall off just before the season starts.

Actually, the pitchers are on pretty strict pitch limits, given that they would usually only be going 3-4 innings in spring training games while they get into game shape.

Jones had a tough offseason: he was arrested for battery on his wife

So maybe it's his wife who's had a bad time of it?
posted by dry white toast at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2013


well, indeed, dwt.

ouke, great story.
posted by mwhybark at 9:15 PM on February 27, 2013


Netherlands blew out South Korea overnight, 0-5.
posted by mwhybark at 10:15 AM on March 2, 2013


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