Dutch dream of WBC title, and MLB games in Amsterdam
The Netherlands has advanced to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic, but Dutch baseball officials hope that's just the start for them. Their goal is a WBC title, but also for major-league games to be played in a 29,000-seat baseball stadium near Amsterdam.
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Robert Eenhoorn hates it when people say that the Netherlands "upset" Cuba to make it to the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.
"We've beaten Cuba five times in a row," said Eenhoorn, the former Yankee and Angel infielder who heads the Dutch baseball federation.
Bet you didn't know that. Bet you didn't know there's a baseball stadium being built just outside Amsterdam that will be able to hold 29,000 fans. Bet you didn't know that the hope in Holland is that Major League Baseball will play games in that stadium (possibly next year, but more likely in 2015).
Here's something else you should know about the Dutch team that will play in a WBC semifinal Monday night in San Francisco: You'll recognize more names than you might think, especially now that Rangers super-prospect Jurrickson Profar and Dodger closer Kenley Jansen have been added to the team.
Profar and Jansen both grew up in Curacao, the Caribbean island that is a former Dutch colony and competes in all international sports as part of the Netherlands. Curacao is also home to Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, Nationals outfielder Roger Bernardina and Andruw Jones, the longtime major leaguer who is the veteran leader of the Netherlands team.
Baseball is big in the islands, and it's no shock that the WBC has been big news there. But Eenhoorn said the success of the Dutch team has people excited back home in Europe, where WBC games are now shown on a major television network (which puts them ahead of the U.S.).
"I got an email from the director of all sports in the Netherlands, congratulating us on making it this far," Eenhoorn said, as the Dutch team worked out before a Thursday night exhibition game against the Padres.
The Dutch team won some attention in the last WBC, with two first-round wins over the Dominican Republic. That led Eenhorn to set a bigger goal this time around.
"Now, the goal was winning it," he said. "That sounded weird to some people, but that was it."
It's still hard to believe the Netherlands could do it. The pitching staff isn't all that strong, and the Dutch will be heavy underdogs against whoever they play Monday (it still could be Team USA, the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico).
"I think the first game [Monday] is the most important," Jones said. "If we win the first game, anything can happen in the second game."
Remember, the Dutch already beat Cuba twice. But remember, those weren't upsets.