Mister-Baseball.com is counting down with short team-by-team previews until the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5th.
We’re making big strides towards the end of our 2009 World Baseball Classic previews. After Italy on Friday, we’re today looking at the second European team in the tournament. The Netherlands are the dominant and nearly unchallenged team on the old continent and they hope to play a good role this March.
The first game of the 2009 WBC is already the toughest job for the Dutch National Team. They open the preliminary round on Saturday, March 7th against the Dominican Republic at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Host Puerto Rico or Panama will wait in the second match. Both teams already were opponents in the inaugural edition of the World Baseball Classic three years ago. If they are able to be one of the two advancing teams from Pool D, they are going to make the trip to the second round venue Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida to take on the winners from group C with Team USA, Canada, Venezuela and Italy.
Recent Tournament History
Since Italy won the European Championship in 1997; the Dutch team won the title five tournaments in a row, the last time in 2007. They also were able to translate their success on the own continent into good results at the international level.
They finished fourth in each in the last two Baseball World Cups, in their home country in 2005 and in Taiwan in November 2007. They also impressed in the Intercontinental Cup in 2006, being the runner-up to Cuba. The only two more or less disappointing results were at the Olympics last August (7th place) and in the 2006 World Baseball Classic (11th).
Three years ago, the Dutch team lost the first two matches of the WBC against Puerto Rico (3-8) and Cuba (2-11). In game three they said farewell to the tournament with an impressive 10-0 victory in seven innings against Panama. Shairon Martis was the big star of the match, pitching seven no-hit frames, allowing just one walk, while striking out none.
The Netherlands are ranked sixth in the IBAF World Rankings.
Netherlands – Eckerd College 18-1
Netherlands – Woori Heroes 3-3
Netherlands – University of South Florida 4-4
Netherlands – Manatee Community College 4-0
Tuesday, March 3:
Netherlands – Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday, March 4:
Netherlands – Cincinnati Reds
Thursday, March 5:
Netherlands – Minnesota Twins
The Dutch National Team arrived in Bradenton, Florida on February 18th to start training camp. They are using the Spring Training facilities of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On March 5th following the Twins game the delegation will depart for San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Netherlands had hopes the last couple of months to feature a pretty good roster going into the 2009 World Baseball Classic, especially in the pitching department. But two withdrawals shortly before the tournament will hurt their chances. Their two top starting pitchers Jair Jurrjens (Braves) and Shairon Martis (Nationals), which are healthy, will skip the WBC, as they want to focus on Spring Training with their employing Major League clubs. Additionally outfielder Roger Bernadina (Nationals) already had told the Dutch federation before training camp that he will not play.
Now their pitching rotation probably features Sidney Ponson (free agent), Juan Carlos Sulbaran (Reds) and Rick van den Hurk (Marlins). They are certainly talented (van den Hurk, Sulbaran) and experienced (Ponson) enough, but Jurrjens and Martis clearly would have been better options. The bullpen will be made up by Alex Smit (Reds) and pitchers from the Dutch Hoofdklasse with David Bergman, Leon Boyd, Rob Cordemans, Diegomar Markwell and Michiel van Kampen.
On the offensive side of the game Mariners top prospect Gregory Halman leads the team with former big leaguers Eugene Kingsale and Randall Simon in support. Also notable are defensive wiz Hainley Statia (Angels), former Minor Leaguer Vince Rooi, Yurendell de Caster (Tigers), Sharnol Adriana (Mexico) and catchers Sharlon Schoop (Giants) and Sidney de Jong.
Rod Delmonico succeeded Robert Eenhoorn at the beginning of the year as manager and head coach of the Dutch National Team. He will be assisted by two-time World Series winner Bert Blyleven as pitching coach, bullpen coach Jim Stoeckel, Ben Thijssen, Bill Froberg, Wim Martinus and Hensley Meulens.
The chances to advance into the second round depend on two main things. First the Dutch National Team needs to hope that their pitchers are able to stop the powerful offenses of the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans without Martis and Jurrjens. Secondly their batters have to produce. This was a major problem last summer in the Haarlem Baseball Week and in the Olympic Games. Overall it will be difficult for the Netherlands to advance, as they face the Dominican team in game one and with a loss much likely, this means they have to win game two to stay in the tournament.
Photo: © IBAF, www.ibaf.org