The Netherlands have won the title at European Baseball Championships five times in a row. They are currently finishing up preparations for the 2010 tournament in Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenburg at the 25th Haarlemse Honkbalweek. They already showed off their impressive form with a 3-2 win over Cuba in an exhibition game on Thursday. At the Euros 2010 they are slotted into Pool A with host Germany, Belgium, France, the Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Mister-Baseball talked with manager Jim Stoeckel about the upcoming European Championship.
Mister-Baseball: What do you expect from your team in Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenburg?
Jim Stoeckel: Consistent effort and execution. We are bringing a veteran team that has been there before.
MRBB: Can a team challenge defending Champion Netherlands in the 2010 European Championship? Which teams have the best chances of advancing in your group?
JS: All teams are getting better every year. As the WBC showed last year, any team can win on any day. Hopefully, a strong pitching staff will get a team close to the finals.
MRBB: Which team could be the surprise of the tournament?
JS: Germany. They had a solid summer in 2009. The Czechs could also surprise. You know Italy will be good also, and Spain can do some damage. The Europa Cups this year showed how European Baseball is leveling out.
MRBB: General speaking is the level of play in European Baseball getting better and more balanced since the EC 2007 or is there still a gap between the top teams and the underdogs?
JS: Getting better and more balanced. More MLB signings with the May workouts and the Academy in Tirrenia. Only worry with no Olympic Baseball is future development. Hopefully, MLB and the EURO Federations can work together on this.
MRBB: There will be only a few professional players in the tournament. Does this will have an influence and does it hurt some teams more than others?
JS: All teams trying to get the best players eligible and available. It is not reasonable to expect contracted MLB players to be released during their seasons.
MRBB: Looking at the rosters of the other teams, which players could be especially worthy to watch?
JS: ALL players will be solid.
MRBB: What is your plan for the final days before the Euro 2010? Which exhibition games do you have planned?
JS: We are playing in the Haarlem Baseball Week.
MRBB: Do you already have a starting lineup in place and who will be in your starting rotation?
JS: Not yet.
Mister-Baseball thanks Jim Stoeckel for answering our questions and wishes good luck in the European Championship.
Sven Hendrickx (Belgium)