Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dutch Baseball

I saw two articles yesterday about the Dutch baseball team pulling off not one, but two major upsets of the Dominican Republic. I thought some of the (few) who look at this blog might be interested. It's from yesterday--we now know that the Netherlands will face Venezuela in the next round. If they win, they will face the winner of the USA-Puerto Rico match. If they lose, they move to an elimination game against the loser of the USA-Puerto Rico match.

First, from

Dutch treat highlights a Classic night
By Doug Miller /


It's the only word that describes what the baseball team from The Netherlands accomplished Tuesday at the World Baseball Classic, and if you didn't know that it was Dutch for incredible or unbelievable or miraculous, well, you've just learned the second thing about this country that you might not forget anytime soon.

With their beyond-dramatic 2-1 victory comeback in 11 innings over the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, their second win over a prohibitive tournament favorite, the unheralded Dutchmen have advanced to the second round on the heels of two of the biggest upsets in international baseball history.

"It's hard to put into words what just happened," Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said after watching his team score two runs in the bottom of the 11th to upend the stunned Dominicans on Tuesday.

"Our guys have played with heart the last three days. I've never been a part of a team with as much passion as this team has. I am very, very proud of our players."

The Dutch team, a rag-tag collection of unproven Minor Leaguers and aging former Major Leaguers, twice defeated a team packed with Major League stars including David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, Pedro Martinez, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen and Carlos Marmol.

Now The Netherlands will take on undefeated Puerto Rico for the Pool D title tonight before moving on to Round 2 in Miami next week.

And oh yeah, there were two other World Baseball Classic games Tuesday, both with results that could go a long way toward deciding who takes the championship trophy out of Dodger Stadium on March 23.

Veneuzela's potent offense came to life against Italy, hitting four home runs in one inning to pull away to a 10-1 victory that knocked the Italians out of the tournament. Venezuela advances to the second round after a rematch today against the 2-0 U.S. team.

"I think that's one big point for us," said catcher Ramon Hernandez, who homered in the fifth along with Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez.

"The last (Classic), we (didn't) hit well. So now, at least, all the hitters, it's a good sign (that) they all would come (much) more prepared. And now that we know when we go to Miami we're going to face a pretty good team, or pretty good pitching, so that's a good sign, that everybody is trying to get the best baseball."

And in Mexico City, the Cubans came through to beat a gritty, talented Australian team, by a score of 5-4, punching their ticket to Round 2 at PETCO Park in San Diego while letting Australia and Mexico battle it out in an elimination game today.

"There is no small enemy here, and Australia is definitely an enemy," Cuban manager Higinio Velez said. "In 2004, we both fought for that gold medal in the Olympics. ... Their players are professional. They are very powerful and have improved with the relief pitching and the great pitchers. It's not a surprise."

But there are plenty more surprises in store for the World Baseball Classic over the next two weeks, and as we move forward to what's shaping up to be a wonderful Wednesday, here comes yet another day of international pool-hopping:

POOL B: MEXICO CITY Home team Mexico was routed by Australia in its first matchup at Foro Sol Stadium and came back with a win over South Africa. Now the Mexicans can get the sweetest revenge on the team from Down Under by beating them in the elimination game set for 10 p.m. ET. "The rivalry doesn't matter, and it would be fun to play them again," Mexico's first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, said. "We know we can beat them, but it really doesn't matter."

POOL C: TORONTO The beast in the Venezuelan bats was finally unleashed, and it can't really be that surprising when a lineup features big leaguers Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Abreu, Carlos Guillen, Lopez and Hernandez. Today, the Venezuelans will get their rematch against the American team at Rogers Centre at 6:30 p.m. ET to see who wins the pool. "They beat us last time," Carlos Guillen said of the U.S. "We'll try to play a hard nine innings [today]. You never know what's going to happen in baseball."

POOL D: SAN JUAN That has certainly been true in this pool, the site of the remarkable double-Dutch feat and astonishingly quick Dominican exit. Today at 5:30 p.m. ET, the Netherlands will meet Puerto Rico to determine the winner of the pool, but as Delmonico said while basking in the glow of Tuesday's monumental win, maybe the result of that game won't be the most important thing on the Dutch team's mind heading into Round 2. "I know for me it's going to be hard to go to sleep just from the excitement of all of this," Delmonico said. "We'll get up in the morning and tee it up tomorrow and see what we can do. We've got our hands full, but the good thing about it is we're both going to Miami."

Sixteen teams will officially be down to eight by the end of Wednesday as the stakes get higher and the baseball gets more intense.

And that's what makes the World Baseball Classic one ongelofelijk event.

Doug Miller is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Next, from

Who are these guys? Meet the Dutch
World getting familiar with players from The Netherlands
By Doug Miller /

Astute baseball fans remember Randall Simon, they've heard of Sidney Ponson, and they might even know about Gene Kingsale's seven-year stint in the Major Leagues that ended in 2003.

But even the most serious ball geeks have to shake their seamheads at the rest of the roster of The Netherlands team that has turned this World Baseball Classic on its head by eliminating the star-studded Dominican Republic team.

Just who are these guys?

Well, they're managed by Rod Delmonico, a longtime American college coach, and their pitching coach is Bert Blyleven, the Dutch-born curveball and clubhouse-prank artist who won 287 Major League games over a 22-year career and now serves as a popular TV broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins.

But in poring over the profiles of the players who have stunned the world over the past three days, one realizes that the Dutch team features an intriguing mixture of young, unproven talent currently toiling in the Minor Leagues or in Europe plus a salty core of veterans who know a thing or two about baseball's long road of hard knocks.

"What you've got to understand is these guys have played together in Curacao and Holland for a long time," Delmonico said.

"We've got guys who have played together for 10 years. They care about each other and pull for one another. They actually love one another."

Here's a brief Who's Who of some of the key cogs of this surprising Netherlands second-round team:

Ponson, P: The burly 32-year-old Aruba native, who won 17 Major League games in 2003, is a free agent looking for a big-league job for 2009. He might have a better chance at employment after showing new-found maturity while being a leader of this club.

Simon, 1B: He hasn't played in the Majors since 2006, but the Curacao native played in the bigs for parts of eight seasons and had a career year for the Detroit Tigers in 2002, when he batted .301 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Kingsale, OF: Another Aruban, Kingsale played for four Major League teams from 1996-2003, mostly as a reserve outfielder. He logged a career-high 219 at-bats in 2002 with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and batted .283 overall with nine stolen bases.

Dennis Neuman, P: He's 19 years old and spent part of last summer as a reliever on Boston's Single-A Lowell club. Neuman, who is from Curacao, was signed as an undrafted free agent in October 2006 and appeared in eight games for Lowell last year, going 2-0 with a 7.20 ERA and striking out 12 men in 15 innings.

Rob Cordemans, P: Dutch native Cordemans pitched in four straight Olympic Games for The Netherlands (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and has been the best pitcher in Hoofdklasse, the Dutch professional league, for years. Cordemans also pitched for his home country in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. The right-hander is 34 years old.

Leon Boyd, P: Boyd, the 25-year-old closer, is a starter in Hoofdklasse for the Neptunus club. He was born in Canada but has Dutch heritage from his mother, Wilma, who met his father, Sean, when Sean was playing hockey in Holland in the 1970s.

Tom Stuifbergen, P: Holland-born Stuifbergen, 20, was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted free agent in August 2006 and made his professional debut last year for the Twins' Gulf Coast League rookie team. He appeared in seven games as a reliever and struck out nine batters in 12 1/3 innings, limiting hitters to a .140 batting average and compiling a 2.19 ERA.

Rick VandenHurk, P: Born in The Netherlands, the 6-foot-5 right-hander is still considered a Florida Marlins prospect. He made 17 starts for the Marlins in 2007 after making the jump from Double-A and got the win in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game. He made four big-league starts in 2008.

Juan Carlos Sulbaran, P: Sulbaran, a Curacao native, turned 19 last November, a few months after being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 30th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander received a $500,000 signing bonus, a record for a 30th-round draftee. Sulbaran played high school baseball in Florida and went 11-0 with a 1.40 ERA for a state championship team in 2007.

Kenley Jansen, C: The 21-year-old catcher from Curacao played in 2008 for the Single-A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed Jansen as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Jansen batted .227 in 2008 but hit nine homers and drove in 27 runs in 247 at-bats over 79 games.

Yurendell de Caster, IF: The man who won Tuesday night's game over the Dominican Republic with an RBI single in the 11th inning has been a Minor League utility man since signing with Tampa Bay in 1996. Now 29, Curacao native de Caster signed a Minor League deal with the Detroit Tigers in February. He played for the Washington Nationals' Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2008.

Gregory Halman, OF: Netherlands native Halman, 21, was named the Seattle Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 2008 after hitting .272 with 95 runs scored, 29 doubles, five triples, 29 home runs, 83 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 128 games combined between Single-A High Desert and Double-A West Tennessee. Halman, who was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in June 2004, was rated the No. 13 prospect in the California League by Baseball America.

Doug Miller is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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