by Pim van Nes
Aboard former Holland America Line flagship ss Rotterdam, Netherlands baseball and softball federation KNBSB yesterday hosted a three halls gathering with current and potential business partners and their diplomatic main guests Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata from Japan, Ambassador Jonghyun Choe from South-Korea, Charge d’Affaires Adam H. Sterling from USA, former US Ambassador Timothy Broas and from the Netherlands, International Programs Director Bas Pulles of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
The event, initiated and developed by KNBSB Commercial Director Paddy Roomer, started at 16.00 hrs and was opened by KNBSB president Ron Schel, who underlined that baseball means business and inspired his guests to adept a team or a club in order to achieve their business goals. He considered ss Rotterdam as symbol of the historic connections between the Netherlands and other countries, especially USA.
USA representative Adam Sterling refered to next day April 19 as Dutch American Friendship Day, based on the same date in 1782, when the Netherlands officially recognized young USA. Baseball unifies people around the world, in particular trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific Oceans. Diplomats gratefully follow and accompany baseball to countries, such as Cuba in order to repair connections lost by politics. Sterling mentioned the recent visit by his president Obama to Cuban president Castro, sharing the love for baseball.
Japan’s Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata felt honoured by the invitation to attend this ceremony hosted by Netherlands baseball federation, being himself a former minor league player in Japan. Professionally Inomata refered to over 400 years trade connections between sailing Dutch and then introvert Japan. As a baseball fan he mentioned Dutch players successful in his country, like slugger Wladimir Balentien and pitcher Rick van den Hurk. KNBSB official Roomer later added that on November 11 the Netherlands Kingdom Team will fly to Tokyo for two games versus the national home team. Schel: “Join us on the road to Tokyo!”
Also Korean Ambassador Jonghyun Choe thanked KNBSB president Schel and director Roomer for the invitation , also because he was a baseball fan already in the sixties of last century, when as a boy he followed MLB games and World Series in USA. Baseball has been played in Korea since over 100 years and he is proud that Korea is the best baseball country of the world now.
Dutch diplomat Bas Pulles, RVO director international programs, mentioned Dutch American Friendship Day since 1782, but even went back to 1776, when the Netherlands were the first foreign nation to bring a friendly salute to a USA visit. This happened on the island of Saint Eustatius, one of the Dutch Antillies, presently known for so many baseball players in MLB.
Pulles is happy with sports investments, as the Netherlands is the world’s 133rd country in size, but trade and sports bring the country to the top ten in their domain world wide. Dutch perform best in water related sports, such as speed swimming, speed skating and speed sailing, but also team sports on fields like soccer and hockey reach World Cup and Olympic podiums. Nowadays also baseball drives the country more and more to the top. “May be we do punch above our weight here too!”
“It is therefore no surprise that economy and sports go well together. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs often combines both worlds, when promoting trade and investment ties with other countries”. With soccer trade missions went to China, Turkey, Brazil and accompanied by Guus Hiddink to South-Korea. “Dutch companies are very much involved in sports infrasructures, smart mobility, security technology and sport innovations. In that respect important economic missions ere scheduled later this year towards Korea and Japan, where respectively the Winter Olympics 2018 and the Summer Olympics 2020 will play a prominent role”.
“Finally, sports have an important function in our country to enhance contacts with foreign investors. Events like this here in Rotterdam play a role in intensifying the contacts foreign business people, government officials and fans”. Pulles continued later: “I think I can state that it is a good thing to have a favourable investment climate, which has attracted so many foreign companies, but it is the friendships that make a happy investor in the end. I am sure KNBSB will find a way to make this event a tradition laying the foundation for baseball diplomacy in the Netherlands. I they do so, we will be ready to support them. Here in the Netherlands, but certainly also in USA, Japan, South-Korea and Taiwan!”
After the speeches by the respective excellencies in the Theatre of the former cruise ship, KNBSB presented a line-up of Hoofdklasse players, who also performed in the Netherlands Kingdom Team. A part of them also joined the trade mission with Foreign Trade Minister Liliane Ploumen to Cuba in January, where unfortunately the international game Cuba – Netherlands rained out twice in the same LatinAmerican stadium in Havana, as where US president Obama in March copied this baseball diplomacy example by the Netherlands, Bas Pulles precised.