The 2011 season started on Thursday with game one of a three-game series between the defending champion DOOR Neptunus Rotterdam and L&D Amsterdam Pirates, a rematch of last year’s Holland Series. They other six teams will open the new campaign next week. Until then take a look at the eight clubs and what they did during the winter.
DOOR Neptunus Rotterdam
After an impressive 2010 campaign, where they easily won the regular season and later downed the L&D Amsterdam Pirates in the Holland Series, DOOR Neptunus is entering 2011 as the defending champion. Head coach Steve Janssen had to leave since he is now working fulltime as pitching coach for the Dutch national team. He got succeeded by Jan Collins. Also no longer on the team are Leon Boyd (stays in Canada), Dushan Ruzic (Telemarket Rimini), Jeroen Sluijter (retired), Danny Rombley (UVV) and Martijn Meeuwis (Twins) among others. On the plus side they gained Australian national teamer and former minor leaguer Craig Andersson, Dutch national team pitcher Arshwin Asjes, Tim Roodenburg, Kevin van Veen, Sape Wagenaar, Rien Vernooij and Mike Bazuin. Anderson, Kevin Heijstek and Diegomar Markwell are expected to form the starting rotation. Even though they lost key players, Neptunus still will be the number one favorite for the championship.
L&D Amsterdam Pirates
L&D Amsterdam finished in third place after the regular season in 2010, but they defeated Corendon Kinheim in the semi-finals en route to the Holland Series. In the championship series the Pirates lost in six games to DOOR Neptunus. They still qualified for the European Cup and will host one of the two Final Four Qualifiers. It was a quite offseason for the team of head coach Charles Urbanus. Jurrian Koks (ADO) and Percy Isenia (Sparta/Feyenoord) are the only new players. Michael Kramer (retired) and Pim Walsma (Kinheim) have left. Nick Urbanus, who signed with the Texas Rangers organization, is probably not going to be available for most of the season. The pitching staff still will be led by Rob Cordemans, Jos de Jong and Ben Grover as starting pitcher. L&D Amsterdam again will be candidate for the Holland Series.
Corendon Kinheim finished in second place after the regular season in the Hoofdklasse, but didn’t make it out of the semi-finals, losing to the Pirates. Similar to their opponents in the playoffs, they had a quite offseason. Michiel van Kampen and Tjerk Smeets retired. Roy Seltenrijch (DOOR Neptunus) and Pim Walsma (L&D Amsterdam) are now wearing the Kinheim jersey. David Bergman, Duko Jansen, Patrick Beljaards and Nick Veltkamp will share the workload as starting pitchers for head coach Eelco Jansen. Led by veterans Bryan Engelhardt and Dirk van’t Klooster on offense, Corendon is going to play for a playoff spot.
The Hoofddorp Pioniers had to fight for their spot in the playoffs of the Hoofdklasse last summer. They made them in fourth place, but lost in three games to DOOR Neptunus. During the winter they lost their longtime sponsor Konica Minolta, but found a replacement with the construction company Vaessen. Additionally they re-hired Robert Klaver as head coach. Player transaction wise, Arshwin Asjes (DOOR Neptunus), Lennart Koster (Mr. Cocker HCAW), Jakub Malik (Arrows Ostrava), Jourick Blanco (Sparta/Feyenoord) and Jurjen van Zijl (UVV) have left. Nik Gumeson and Conrad and Jason Orman have joined the Pioniers. Eddie Aucoin is returning for a second season in the Netherlands. With all the losses it could become difficult for the Vaessen Pioniers to return to the playoffs in 2011.
Mr. Cocker HCAW
Mr. Cocker HCAW gave the Pioniers a run for fourth place, but in the end had to settle for fifth place and a series of playdown series to maintain their spot in the 2011 Hoofdklasse. They were able to bring back most of their roster and will try to reach the playoffs this time. No longer on board is Wuilliuans Vasquez, who has departed for T&A San Marino in the Italian Baseball League. On the other hand they had signed former minor leaguer Tony Granadillo from San Inazio Bilbao. However he is going to be replaced by fellow former pro Juan Miguel Gonzalez. He joins the Venezuelan crew of Dirimo Chavez and Roger Luque. The offense further got stronger with the addition of Lennart Koster. Luque, Dutch national team debutant Kevin Miner and Joey Eijpe are expected to share starting pitcher duties. HCAW could be able to feature one of the most potent lineups in the league. If their pitching will be able to catch up, they could make the jump towards the top four.
Finishing in sixth place Sparta/Feyenoord Rotterdam saw a big overhaul during the offseason, as management changed last summer. Now featuring an Antillean touch they try to move up in the standings, rivaling their city opponents from Neptunus. Luty Bernadina is going to lead the team as head coach. Ludwin Obispo and Gregory Gustina are the big names at the pitching staff. Bobby Carrington is also listed on the 2011 roster. The hurler, who pitched for ADO last year, however is currently playing in Spain for the Astros Valencia, although he could use the time in the Division de Honor only to get in shape for the Hoofdklasse. On offense Jourick Blanco, Quinten de Cuba, Churandy la Cruz and Rubinet Koko are supposed to shoulder the production. Ardley Jansen and Ulrich Snijders, who were rumored to make the transfer from Italy to the Netherlands, are not on the roster. Sparta/Feyenoord is probably not yet in a position to reach the playoffs, but should be able to accomplish to surprise one of the favored teams from time to time.
2010 was another season for ADO at the bottom of the standings in the Hoofdklasse. Thanks to the Almere Magpies their spot for this year’s campaign was secure. During the offseason several players left (Bobby Carrington, Jurrian Koks, Ludwin Obispo) or retired (Frans and Bert Richardson). The club from The Hague was able to add former minor leaguers Jan Baldee and Raynard Doran besides Carlos Tavarez and new American import Kolby Olzewski. However it won’t be enough to improve their standing in the league. It is probably even going into the opposite direction, as the promoted UVV is trying to make the leap towards the top four.
Usually the new teams in a league are going to have a tough stand. However UVV from Utrecht is trying to avoid this kind of tradition, as they are entering the 2011 campaign with playoff hopes. The new coaching staff with Royce Holder, Cliff Foster and Patt Romney welcomed the complete team from 2010 to Spring Training plus additions like Dutch national teamers Orlando Yntema (Catania Warriors), Danny Rombley (DOOR Neptunus) and Jurjen van Zijl (Pioniers). Now they have to show that they can translate the success on paper into wins on the field. Their first series against the Vaessen Pioniers is going to be a first indicator if the hopes by UVV are legit.