On Saturday, February 16 the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) will hold its annual congress in Bled, Slovenia. Probably the biggest item on the agenda is the election of a new CEB Executive Committee. Jan Esselman, who is one of two candidates to become new CEB President, was so kind to answer a few questions for Mister-Baseball.com about his campaign and the future of European Baseball.
Mister-Baseball: You are running to become the next CEB President. Can you quickly introduce yourself to Mister-Baseball’s audience and what led to your candidacy?
Jan Esselman: Jan Esselman(69). Dutch. Living in Haarlem, Netherlands. Vice President of the baseball club Haarlem Nicols, 1985-1989. Member of the Board of the Dutch Baseball Federation KNBSB – Commissioner Baseball 1989-1995. Member, Secretary and Chairman C.E.B. Technical Commission 1993-2013. Member IBAF Tournament Commission 1994-2013.
Mister-Baseball: What is on your agenda when you’ll be elected as CEB President? What are your goals for European Baseball?
Jan Esselman: The coming period of 4-years will be important for European Baseball and for World Baseball.
For C.E.B. it is fine that after a long period the Federations of Italy and the Netherlands are taking again their responsibility and try to come back within the C.E.B. Executive. Both Federations are fully prepared to be involved and support the C.E.B. in every possible way.
The new C.E.B. Executive should stay close to our most important activities; the Competitions, the development of European Baseball and also on the training of our game officials.
We will investigate how we can improve the C.E.B. competitions like the Euro and European Cup and all youth competitions.
There will be some crucial decisions during the next period:
The I.O.C. will decide in 2013 on the return of Men’s Baseball and Women’s Softball on the program of the Olympics in 2020. The merger of IBAF and ISF into the WBSC. The success of the WBC 2013 as replacement of the World Cup event. The future format of the qualifications for the WBC 2016/2017. IBAF will organize and take decisions on the format of their Premier 12 event in 2015.
Mister-Baseball: In the past politics have hurt European Baseball as federations didn’t work together. Now the Netherlands and Italy are willing to return to the European board. What will you do to avoid aforementioned politics, trying to put baseball at the next level through all of Europe?
Jan Esselman: I am the proud leader of a group of eleven candidates for all positions of the next C.E.B. Executive.
I hope we will get the support of the majority of the European Federations to be elected in Bled on the 16th February. The smooth co-operation within this group will lead to an active Executive where the future and development of European Baseball is our main goal. Now is the time to work all in the same direction.
Mister-Baseball: With Baseball and Softball merging on an international level should CEB and ESF pursuing similar plans in Europe?
Jan Esselman: No, that is not an item for the moment. Let’s see what will happen with the merger IBAF/ISF and the return to the Olympics. Meanwhile the co-operation between C.E.B. and E.S.F will be extended and improved wherever possible. Now we have our Congresses again on the same date and at the same place. Furthermore the successful BeeBall project is a combined development tool for Baseball and Softball effected in co-operation between ESF and CEB.
Mister-Baseball: You chaired the Technical Commission of the Confederation of European Baseball, you worked as a TC on numerous international tournaments and you are a member of IBAF’s Tournaments Commission. What are your plans regarding tournaments in European Baseball. Will there be changes in the coming years?
Jan Esselman: The challenge for the new Executive is to find solutions for the various top and development levels within the European baseball competitions. The best way for all Federations is that every team can compete on their own level and in that way to reach a higher one. The last change of the Seniors in to A, B and C level will be watched carefully.
Mister-Baseball: Who is going to be the next chair of the CEB Technical Commission?
Jan Esselman: There are various ideas and the new Executive will take a decision on all Commissions as soon as elected.
Mister-Baseball: CEB got rid of the Final Four this year. A final series with home games for both finalists should help raise local interest. However Europe wide interest in the European Cup as such hasn’t been on the rise in the last few years. Is a European League realistic in the near future and is there interest among the European federations?
Jan Esselman: An European league is still realistic but unfortunately not in the near future. Italy, the Netherlands and some other European Federations need the support of MLB and TV broadcasting on this. Financially the European Federations or C.E.B. cannot start on their own at this moment. The economic situation within Europe is at present also not in our favor.
Mister-Baseball: What is your opinion on the European Championship? Are you satisfied with the current format and if not, what needs to be changed? And while crowds at national team events in Europe are pretty good, what needs to be done to translate this success into a broader interest in baseball in Europe?
Jan Esselman: As said earlier the format is now on A, B and C-level. For the A level we should look into other systems with more games of teams in their own country instead of the 12 team tournament which we have now. In small groups of 4 teams you play total 6 games. You can play preliminary rounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and have three home games of the Organizer’s National team. In this way the number of spectators will be increased and attract the interest of TV. The finals can be played also in a smaller group.
Mister-Baseball: With the new facility being built in Hoofddorp everyone is talking about potential MLB games, World Baseball Classic events and MLB International development opportunities. From a CEB perspective what does the new facility mean for baseball in general in Europe? Are there already any plans to host European tournaments there in the near future?
Jan Esselman: It’s very nice to have another baseball Stadium with these facilities in Europe. The club Hoofddorp Pioniers played already a few times on European Level and for sure if again qualified they will bid for hosting an European Cup in their new stadium. For National team European competitions the Dutch Federation will have a more difficult choice to make between Haarlem, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and now Hoofddorp too.
Mister-Baseball thanks Jan Esselman for answering our questions and wishes good luck during the upcoming CEB Congress.