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Jun '10 23

Havana and Haarlem inspired Rotterdam to World Port Tournament

International Tournaments Comments Off on Havana and Haarlem inspired Rotterdam to World Port Tournament

National Anthem at 2009 WPT

by Pim van Nes

World Port Tournament president Jacques van Steen will host a 25 years jubilee reception just two weeks before the city of Haarlem will host the 25th edition of its Honkbal Week. Van Steen has invited all internal and external collaborators of his 25 years celebrating World Port Tournament. Coming Sunday the Business Lounge of the Familie Stadion in Rotterdam will open doors to all present and previous relations, who helped to realize the baseball dream of former Mayor Dr Bram Peper. As a native of Haarlem, where he had played semi pro soccer, he as a Labour Party mayor of world port city Rotterdam took his visiting colleague Mayor of Havana, Dr. Oscar Fernandez Mell out to a baseball game within the already traditional Haarlem Honkbal Week in 1984.

Why do you take me to a baseball game all the way here in Haarlem, Oscar asked Bram in the Pim Mulier Stadion, don’t you have baseball in your own city? Of course I do have baseball in Rotterdam, Bram replied referring to multiple champion club Sparta, emerging Neptunus, third best Feyenoord and various other clubs independently playing in lower leagues. Peper: But we don’t have such a huge stadium and we don’t have such a tournament. In 1982 two Rotterdam born fans (KNBSB president Guus van der Heijden and regional promoter Pim van Nes) had already arranged for a tour d’horizon about cooperation between Sparta and Neptunus and the erection and use of the first real stadium in the city. They managed to get the two clubs around one table in Rotterdam town hall together with municipality delegates Martin Mallon and Gerard Rooijakkers.

Things started working out only when Havana and Haarlem confronted Rotterdam with its retarded situation regarding facilities in 1984. Mayor Peper spoke with his internal and external sports advisors, including Chamber of Commerce secretary general Gerard Vaandrager. The first organizing board for the baseball tournament was presided by Vaandrager and among his board members there were city sports manager Rooijakkers, Neptunus manager Frans van Aalen and former Sparta player Hamilton Richardson. The first World Port Tournament was hosted by Neptunus in 1985 with participation by a Havana selection, promised a year before by its Mayor Oscar Fernandez Mell. Other city delegating teams came from Kobe in Japan and Dallas in USA, from Curacao of the Netherlands Antilles and home playing Netherlands national team.

The business approach to construct a stable tournament became successful and within a few years this World Port Tournament turned out to be a new tradition, which earned itself the construction of the second real baseball stadium of the country. Based on WPT biannual profits and referring to its family atmosphere during WPT games, the new stadium was named Familie Stadion. Participating teams changed from city selections into national selections, but Mayor Mell’s promise to delegate a strong team was kept also by the national federation of Cuba. In 1993 Cuba had to regret and in 2005 World Port Tournament withdrew in favor of IBAF World Cup in very same Familie Stadion.

Eight times the tournament was won by the Cuban or Havana team, including the latest four editions in a row. In 1989 and 1991 Havana finished third and in 1999 second as Cuba lost the finale versus the Netherlands. Among the best players of the Rotterdam tournaments we find Cuban pitchers like Jose Darcourt (85, 87), Viceohondri Odelin (01), Vladimir Hernandez (05) and Maikel Folch (09), Cuban batters like Romelio Martinez (87), Jobal Duenas (97), Manuel Benavides (03), Alfredo Despaigne (07) and Adonis Garcia (09). MVP’s from Cuba were elected in 1985 (Rolando Verde), in 1997 (Orestes Kindelan), in 2007 (Yosvani Peraza) and in 2009 (Yoelvis Fiss).

Thanks also to the star players from Cuba, the two WPT presidents so far, Gerard Vaandrager for first 20 years and his successor Jacques van Steen, are used to present high stadium stats. Attendance in Rotterdam increased from 30.000 fans for first edition in 1985 to 60.000 in 1993 and from 40.000 in 1997 to over 70.000 as record high so far. The local fans cheered home team best pitchers Harry Koster (1989), Eelco Jansen (1995), Orlando Stewart (1999) and Leon Boyd (2007), best batter Dirk van ‘t Klooster (2001) and MVP Jeffrey Cranston (1995), Robert Eenhoorn and Mike Hofer (1999), Dirk van ‘t Klooster (2001) and Raily Legito (2003).

Pim van Nes
Baseball writer for

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