by Pim van Nes
Second article from a Netherlands newspaper, refering to present European Championship tournament in the Netherlands, tells us about one of three ball players originating from ADO in The Hague. The one is outfielder Kalian Sams, now pro player for Seattle Mariners in the Minor Leagues, and the other two are pitcher Berry van Driel (Neptunus in Rotterdam) and outfielder Roger Bernadina (Nationals in Washington). Sams and /van Driel are reunited by Brian Farley within the Dutch national team. The very nice article was produced by Koen Greven in Rotterdam founded newspaper NRC-Next (Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, spelling from 19th century, Next for smaller shape since 7 years ago).
Sams (26) was born and grew up in The Hague. His cradle was close to ADO ballpark and a neighbour took him as a young boy to baseball practise. Sams: I just wanted to do something different from soccer, that everybody else was already involved with. Since the age of nine I have been focused on baseball and players like Ken Griffey Jr.and Andruw Jones were my great examples. When I was scouted by Seattle Mariners during Haarlemse Honkbal Week 2006, I did not hesitate a moment and signed a seven years contract. But immediately my life was upside down.
Sams’s teammates with ADO were Roger Bernadina and Berry van Driel. Bernadina made it as outfielder to the Majors, where he has played hundreds of games with Washington Nationals (presently with highest win percentage .617 of all 6 divisions and Bernadina batting .300, PvN). Van Driel became pitcher with Neptunus and with the Dutch national team and conquered last year’s World Championship title, together with Kalian Sams. By now, Sams has a 6 years career in the Minors and aims at a Major League opportunity. Sams: Bernadina got what I want and Van Driel was never offered a pro option.
In his lonesome career through the Minor Leagues to perhaps once the Majors, his teammates are both each other’s friends and each other’s competitors. Sams: Everybody tries to do his utmost in his own way. You have to perform best. It is all about statistics. In baseball more things go wrong than right. You will have to deal with that too. Every time you have to get a bit better. And all that time you have to wait for that call from your Major League team. Just waiting for that magic moment. You cannot do anything more than that.
In the United States Sams discovered right away the difference between amateur baseball in the Netherlands and the struggle for life in American environment for pro players. Sams: As a Dutchman I arrived trailing 100 games a year. I was used to exercise two evenings per week and to play 40 games per year. In the American season we work in baseball every day and we compete in 140 games. This demands a lot from everybody’s physical and mental potential. As Europeans we are all alone in a distant country without any relative around. At any moment you can face difficult situations. You are relegated or injured or you feel lost and lonesome. In those cases you have to prevent a mental collapse. I remember one time I really considered to stop. But that moment lasted one second and it was gone.
As a Minor League player he feels like a an almost homeless gypsy traveling from city to city. Sams: It sounds bizar, but you never know where you will be the day after. And you do not have any influence in this domain. I will find out early next year where I have to report for the new season. I will never give up. Since last few years I saw so many boys around me surrender sooner or later. For myself I never consider that option.
Sams is aware that baseball in the Netherlands requires examples. Sams: We have established quite a reputation in the United States thanks to our World Championship title and we are hot favorites for the new European Championship on homeground. I always proudly represent the Netherlands and look forward to join the national team during next year’s World Baseball Classic. That is another platform where contracts are deserved. Hopefully Bernadina, Van Driel and I will play there together again. Wouldn’t that be marvelous?
Pim van Nes: Kalian Sams managed a cycle in Netherlands game 1 versus Belgium, including a grand slam homerun.