Right after the Intercontinental Cup in October the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association (KNBSB) announced that Jim Stoeckel will not return as manager of the Dutch National Team in 2011. He had taken over for Rod Delmonico last winter and led the Netherlands to a win at the Haarlemse Honkbalweek and second-place finishes at the European Championship in Germany and the Intercontinental Cup in Taiwan. Mister-Baseball talked to him about his third stint at the helm of the Dutch National Team and European Baseball in general.
Mister-Baseball: How did you like the Baseball season 2010 with the Dutch national team? Are you satisfied with the success, even though you twice (Euros, ICC) had to settle for second place?
Jim Stoeckel: It has always been an honor and privilege to work with Dutch Baseball. I thank the KNBSB and Robert Eenhoorn for having confidence in me. A top athlete is never satisfied, even when he wins. There is always room for improvement. Having said that, I think the Dutch Team played very well, for the most part, in 2010.
MRBB: Why aren’t you coming back as manager of the Dutch national team?
JS: Personal reasons. My wife and I both have elderly mothers in Vero Beach, Florida, where we live, and want to be more available to them. 10 months in the Netherlands is difficult for us with our USA responsibilities. I could be available for shorter periods of time but that does not fit with the Dutch plan for a full-time resident Field Manager.
MRBB: It was your third stint as Dutch national team manager. How has baseball in the Netherlands and in Europe changed during this time?
JS: Access to pro players is different and makes the selection pool bigger. That changed in 1996. Baseball in some countries (examples Germany, Czech Republic) has gotten better, with growing interest and more participation.
MRBB: What is European Baseball missing in comparison to the sport in the US?
JS: Top Athletes. A Major League Player is usually an Olympic Caliber Athlete first. There are just not enough top athletes playing baseball in Europe to grow into a large number of Major League Players. The base at the bottom has to become much bigger for the top to get stronger. This is what Branch Rickey used to call quality through quantity, and it is the foundation of the entire minor league system.
MRBB: If you had a chance to change anything in European Baseball, what would it be?
JS: Europe needs a Super League like the recently re-formed Australian Baseball League. A European Baseball League needs to be run in a financially responsible manner like a low-level minor league or independent club in the USA. Any league that can keep Top Players playing as long as possible will help national teams. I would like to see MLB partner with such a league, like they are doing in Australia. My worry is whether Europeans will ever pay enough to see baseball work at this level.
MRBB: You are also working as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. What do European players need to do to reach the big leagues? What has to change?
JS: The biggest problem in Europe is that young hitters do not see enough good arms. Resident Academies (such as Regensburg. Germany) are beginning to address this. The MLB European Academy could take players to play in the Dominican Summer League to address the problem of facing better competition. In the developed world, with young players, the issues are always school and finance for such ventures.
MRBB: What are your future plans and will you keep following European Baseball?
JS: I am going to keep scouting internationally this year for the Cincinnati Reds and plan to return to some events in Europe. I am also available to the Dutch Team if they ever need me.
Mister-Baseball thanks Jim Stoeckel for taking the time to answer our questions.
Photo: © Ron Wickert, www.eott.nl