vrijdag 27 augustus 2010

Dutch baseball players in the MLB?

On Wednesday a Dutch newspaper had a two page story about Dutch baseball players who are playing well in the MLB. You all know them, but did you realise they were Dutch?
As a Dodger fan I should start with Kenley Jansen, born on Curacao, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He started out as a catcher but since his hitting isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be but his throws are very hard he was transformed into a pitcher. Last night he pitched 2 innings, struck out 4.
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Another revelation (or so the Dutch newspaper claims) is Roger Bernardina, outfielder for the Washington Nationals. He was born on Curacao and raised in The Hague. He has a .267 average this year and is known for his diving catches.
The third ‘Dutchman’ who was born on Curacao you all know. He was disappointing as a Dodger but great as a Brave. A 5 time all star and a 10 time Golden Glove winner: Andruw Jones. What can you tell about this guy we don’t know? Maybe that he’s adored on Curacao? Or that he doesn’t speak Dutch? You all know what he can do with a bat.
Jair Jurrjens, also from Curacao (Yep, they love their beisbòl overthere!), Atlanta Braves starting pitcher, won 14 lost 10 last season with 152 strikeouts.
Oh yes, there is one actually born on the Netherlands mainland: Rick vanden Hurk, starting pitcher for the Marlins until he moved to Baltimore last month. I guess we won’t see him in the postseason…
These Dutch guys are in the Show now, but they aren’t the first batch. Before them there were some who did okay e.g. Robert Eenhoorn, Yankees and one who did awesome. His name: Bert Blyleven.
Blyleven was born in Zeist and debuted for the Minnesota Twins in 1970 as a pitcher. He was an All Star twice and won the world series in 1979 and 1987. He pitched a no hitter in 1977. Since 1996 he’s a commentator for the Twins. I’m pretty sure we’ll hear from him this postseason.
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woensdag 25 augustus 2010

The Bulldog

Yes, I agree, Gibby’s homer in the first game of the 1988 World Series was THE moment of the series. But how did the Dodgers get there? Hitting, sure, but also great pitching by Orel, Tim & Tim. Together they accounted for 62 wins! Compare that to last seasons, 1 better, 95 win season where the four starting pitchers only won 39. It was Hershiser who made a big impression in me in ’88 and at that time I didn’t know anything about his background.
In 1990 I visited the US for the second time. After the East Coast we travelled to Louisiana and between New Orleans and Tupelo we stopped at a gas station that seemed to come straight from 'Deliverance'. They had a shop with some snacks and a few books. Much to my surprise they had a book with a blue, white cover, a picture of a pitcher with an LA cap. It had the title 'Out of the Blue' in white Dodger-type letters and the name ‘Orel Hershiser’ in gold embossed lettering. The reading of this book would turn out to be the final push that put me in the Dodgers corner forever.
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I read it while we were on the road and I loved taking a peek into Orel's private life. At that age (19) I hadn't read any biographies and since then I've read a bunch. I liked most, so maybe it's the type of book that made an impression as well as Hershiser's story, making it double fun to read. One of the most fascinating facts I learned was that Orel is a christian and incorporated this in family life and his pitching. Being an atheist myself I often feel a certain reluctance when people begin about their religion. But Hershiser didn’t preach. He described it in a very loving way that made him endearing and strong at the same time. It was also a great way to relive the 1988 season and how he felt during the 59 scoreless innings. I wanted to send the book to Dodger Stadium for Hershiser to sign it, but I never came around to it and one day he was gone.
It pained me to see him leave LA, but that's how things go. But as with all good Dodger players who leave the organization I kept on following his career. He had three very strong seasons with the Indians before he moved to the Giants (a shock then and now).
In 2007 I visited Chicago and got myself tickets for the Cubs-Dodgers series at Wrigley Field. I met Natalie Uyeno and Charlie Firestone. ESPN had it's wednesday night baseball broadcast from Wrigley that night and one of the commentators was no other than Orel. After the game we tried to reach the commentary boxes. Against the flow of leaving spectators we almost reached them until an usher let us know we had to go downstairs. We turned, disappointed and Charles who was looking up said "He just went by". So, we ran up the stairs, no usher in sight and yes, it was him: The Bulldog! Natalie asked him if he had a moment, he did, he signed a 1988 World Series ball for her, I took their picture. Then hesigned my Dodgers Jersey, posed for a pic and was gone. Yes, I look a bit bewildered on the photo, but man, how cool was this? Meeting The Bulldog? Fantastic!
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woensdag 18 augustus 2010

How my interest in baseball and the Dodgers started

I get a lot of questions about my 'blue bloodedness'. Why is a Dutch guy interested in baseball? And of all the teams in the world is he a Dodgers fan?
It's not completely clear to me when I started to get interested in baseball. I knew the game from movies but did not understand it because in The Netherlands the national sport is football. We do not have the luxury of having Baseball AND American Football AND Basketball AND Hockey on a professional level. What attracted me instantly was the grass, the diamond, the white ball with red stitching as if the game came from another planet. I remember an article in a Dutch newspaper in which the Dodgers were mentioned. I tried to trace it back and I believe it must have been an article about the Dodgers winning the 1981 World Series. I believe there was a picture of Valenzuela as well. It's all a bit blurry. I was only ten but the name Dodgers stuck. It had a nice ring to it, still has.
Now that my interest in baseball was awakened there was this guy that made me a cap wearer. It was the only guy who made wearing a moustache look good: Tom Selleck. I loved Magnum p.i. The Hawaiian setting, the quirkiness of Thomas Magnum and... his cap! I had to have me one of those! It looked cool and I tried to find a shop that sold the things. But no, The Netherlands in the beginning of the '80 did not stock baseball caps. I wanted a fitted cap, not that I knew they were called that. It had to be a Tigers cap (yes, because of Magnum!). But the only ones I could find were these mesh, or trucker, caps. Well, they had to do. I bought a dark blue one and started to wear it to school. In those days no one wore them so it turned some heads and I had to take the cap off in class. Eversince 1984 I've been wearing caps, last twenty years mostly Dodgers ones.
I tried to follow baseball through the newspapers, but they only printed scores (actually, there was only one Dutch newspaper that did it). But around the play-offs short articles would appear. In the autumn of 1988 they did it again! And a rather big article told us about the blue heroics in the World Series.

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In 1989 I first visited the US and LA but somehow I only got me an Angels cap. Don't ask me how that happened! I
n 1990 I visited the US again. This time, the East Coast. Being in America I struck asap and got me a Dodgers cap and Dodgers Jersey. It was the time before the nice Majestic and New Era products, so I probably got some cheap knock offs, but they looked the part and that was good enough for me at the time. After the East Coast we travelled to Louisiana and between New Orleans and Tupelo we stopped for gas at a gasstation straight from 'Deliverance'. They had a shop with some snacks and some books. Much to my surprise they had a book with a blue, white cover, a picture of a pitcher with an LA cap an the title 'Out of the Blue'. This was the final push that would put me in the Dodgers corner forever.
It was only in 2003 I first laid eyes on Dodger Stadium. My first visit to LA was in 1989 and somehow I never came close to the stadium, maybe because my dad was in control of the trip. And to be honest my little brother and I were under the spell of Disney and Universal and the whole Hollywood sh'bang. First time in the USA, you tend to forget stuff. So it was in 2003 my girlfriend and I visited Dodger Stadium, had a Dodger Dog and enjoyed the game. It wasn't a great game (against the Pirates) and I even think it rained a little, but I was there. The place where many great games were played. I really hope to visit Dodger Stadium again in the near future.