Last Friday representatives of Curacao Neptunus Rotterdam, the Vaessen Pioniers (both NED), T&A San Marino (SMA) and the Rouen Huskies (FRA) met together with Wim van den Hurk (Euro League Baseball President), Jan van der Sande (Press Officer) and Jan Maarten Kops (Organizer Collegiate Baseball League Europe) in Amsterdam to found the European Association of Professional Baseball. Curacao Neptunus Rotterdam, Vaessen Pioniers (both NED), T&A San Marino (SMA), Rouen Huskies, Templiers Senart (both FRA), Unipol Bologna (ITA), Buchbinder Legionaere Regensburg and the Heidenheim Heidekoepfe (both GER) are supposed to form the ELB in the inaugural season.
Only a few people knew before and the news created quite some turbulence in European Baseball. Even though a press release mentioned a couple of details about the league, including a start date of April 2016, a lot of questions need to be answered. Wim van den Hurk was so kind to answer a couple of them in an exclusive interview with Mister-Baseball.com.
Mister-Baseball.com: What was the reason to start the Euro League Baseball? On what criteria did you select the teams?
Wim van den Hurk: European Baseball needs a new boost to grow its popularity and fan base and to attract more youth. But also to improve the highest level of play in Europe which automatically improves the average level of national leagues.
Selection criteria are ambition, results, accommodation, and geographical location.
Mister-Baseball.com: Will the league be open to other teams in the future, for example from the Czech Republic or other countries?
Wim van den Hurk: Yes. In our plans through 2020 we expect to expand to South and North Division consisting of 12-16 teams.
Mister-Baseball.com:Right now the league seems to be limited to two teams from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain and France. Is this going to be a constant figure of two teams from one country apiece or is this flexible, so that for example three teams from the Netherlands and just one from Germany would be also a possibility?
We will be flexible but cost effectiveness will be a key factor.
Mister-Baseball.com: We know it’s still early in the process, but how can we imagine the format and the schedule? Who is going to make the rules?
Wim van den Hurk: After the founding of the European Association of Professional Baseball last Friday we’ve talked a lot about format, schedule and rules. So you can imagine this is a work in progress.
League structure we’re thinking of is ELB games played from Monday through Thursday. I.e. two Dutch teams travel to France together. On Monday and Tuesday 1 Dutch team plays 1 French team and on Wednesday and Thursday 1 Dutch team plays 2 French team. For 2 Dutch team the other way around. One road trip means two away series. All 6 pm games.
Mister-Baseball.com: Except for a few clubs like Regensburg, most of the club teams in European Baseball fail to bring in people into the stands. On the other hand national team competitions have been well attended. How do you plan to attack these concerns?
Wim van den Hurk: We’ve action plans for teams to arrange affordable family entertainment with themes for different age groups, theme nights for men, women, business and family. We want to create a minor/independent league environment.
Mister-Baseball.com: Will the players mainly be recruited in Europe or will it be open without any restrictions to “foreign” players too?
Wim van den Hurk: The players are from the mentioned teams with possibilities to expand rosters with foreign players.
Mister-Baseball.com: You choose to leave national, continental and international federations and organizations out of the loop in the initiation phase of the Euro League Baseball. As we all unfortunately know politics play a major role in European Baseball. But still the governing bodies of the sport are the federations. How and in which way do you want to include federations into the process?
Wim van den Hurk: In the upcoming weeks, meetings with national and international federations are scheduled.
Mister-Baseball.com: And last but not least, the main question: How will the league be financed, especially regarding payment of the players and travel costs?
Wim van den Hurk: We’re working on a League sponsor for the first three years.