The Belgian national team needed to win a Qualifier to get a spot for the European Championship in Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenburg (July 23-August 1). They are slotted into Group A together with defending champion Netherlands, host Germany, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine and France. Belgium opens on July 23rd in Neuenburg against France. Mister-Baseball talked with head coach Sven Hendrickx about the upcoming tournament.
Mister-Baseball: What do you expect from your team in Stuttgart, Heidenheim and Neuenburg?
Sven Hendrickx: We expect to play good baseball and see where that brings us. It’s been quite a while since Belgium participated in the A-Pool so it’s tough to say where we stand right now.
MRBB: Can a team challenge defending Champion Netherlands in the 2010 European Championship? Which teams have the best chances of advancing in your group?
SH: I think the Netherlands are the team to beat but there are some countries that are right there with them. I’m thinking Italy, Germany and Spain to be the main challengers. The best chances of advancing in our group are in hands of the Netherlands. I think Germany is strong also and hopefully we can compete with the other countries in our group for the 3rd spot.
MRBB: Which team could be the surprise of the tournament?
SH: Hopefully Belgium.
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?
SH: I think both. I think the level is constantly getting better in Europe. The top of European baseball is getting wider too. If you take a look at the club tournaments, you see different teams competing with the top teams of the Netherlands and Italy. That used to be different.
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?
SH: Due to logistical reasons, we don’t have our only professional player on our roster (Thomas De Wolf). That’s something that we regret but I think other countries miss much more professional players. Maybe it’s going to be a bit tighter at the top with all the Dutch and Italian pro’s not being there.
MRBB: Looking at the rosters of the other teams, which players could be especially worthy to watch?
SH: I especially envy the pitching staffs the big countries have. That’s something we don’t have. I would like to have 10 guys that pitch 90 miles without problems. The staffs of Holland, Italy and Germany are so full of powerful arms so I think the pitchers are going to be worthy watching.
MRBB: What is your plan for the final days before the Euro 2010? Which exhibition games do you have planned?
SH: We have a training camp in Belgium on 10-11 July. We leave for Germany on July 17. We play Germany twice (17 and 18 July) and we play Great Britain once (21 July).
MRBB: Do you already have a starting lineup in place and who will be in your starting rotation?
SH: We’ve got a lineup in our mind but we’re going to try out different line ups in our preparation and see what works out best. With the pitching staff we probably go day to day. For a country like Belgium, it’s though to set up a real rotation. We’ve got to look at our pitching one day at a time.
Mister-Baseball thanks Sven Hendrickx for answering our questions and wishes good luck in the European Championship.