John Miller, who is playing and coaching for the Brussels Kangaroos in the Belgian 2nd Division and is a reporter for a big American newspaper, is now also the Little League Commissioner for Belgium. He is also back chronicling the 2010 season in his “Old World Pastime” column on Mister-Baseball.com for a third straight year.
Readers of this space know that I am a fan of an East Coast baseball club that, between 1960 and 1980, won more games than any professional sports team in the entire universe. The Baltimore Orioles own one-fifth of the entire 20th century. The other 29 major league baseball teams can divide the rest.
My habit of living in a happier past was snapped this past summer when, in early August, the O’s hired William Nathaniel Showalter as manager. Uncle Buck led them to a 34-23 record. That translates to 97 wins over a 162-game season. That’s how many games the Phillies, the best team in baseball, won. And the O’s play in the mighty AL East.
I’m not going to give Buck Showalter all the credit, though. On July 31, the O’s traded for 25-year-old Rick VandenHurk, one of only two native-born Europeans in the bigs. He pitched in only seven games, with a 4.96 e.r.a., but he was part of the change in clubhouse atmosphere that helped turn around the Orioles’s season. By all accounts, the Dutchman is a fine young man, a hard-working baseball-loving prince. With a nasty slider.
I’m a fan of big Rick for another reason. He cares about baseball in Europe. This fall, he is, audaciously, taking a half-dozen major leaguers on a tour of Belgium and the Netherlands. (Details on http://www.europeanbigleaguetour.com/) Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Eindhoven; are you ready for Adam Jones, Barry Zito and Chase Utley? Led by Mr. VandenHurk, the big leaguers will run clinics and promote the game.
I caught up with the tall Dutch pitcher a couple weeks ago. The Orioles team plane had just landed in Boston. He sounded excited. “All around the league, guys keeping asking me how there’s baseball in Europe,” he said. “There was no much interest, I decided to organize something.”
He saw an opportunity. “Guys can see Europe, which they wanted to do, and also coach a bit, which is something they really known how to do.”
The Orioles, he said, “are believing Buck Showalter when he says you have to attack every series fresh and play hard.”
Then we hung up, and one of us went to Fenway Park.
What do you think about the VandenHurk big league tour? Email email@example.com with your thoughts.