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About Those Dutch Baseball Fans


Dutch baseball, on Mount Olympus. (By Andres Leighton - AP)


I went to one baseball game at the Olympics. It was the U.S. vs. the Netherlands, and the U.S. won in controversial fashion after massive amounts of rain and sitting around. Currrent Nat prospect Shairon Martis took the loss. Future Nat prospect Stephen Strasburg earned the win. Here's what I wrote:

By the top of bottom of the eighth, the rain had returned. By the top of the ninth, it was pouring. And with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, rain splashing everywhere and the Dutch down 7-0, the umpires pulled the players off the field, to loud boos, or as loud as a few dozen people could manage. Most of the remaining fans then left. Not counting Wukesong Baseball Field volunteers and national officials, there were perhaps 50 of us in the stands.

Wow, I really don't miss being in Beijing. I started twitching just reading that. Anyhow, there were three basic groups of people in the stands that day, not counting me and various officials: the parents and relatives of U.S. players, some random U.S. citizens who had stumbled upon the baseball field, and a few groups of hardcore Dutch baseball fans who were trying to decide between sticking it out in the rain or going to drink. Eventually, many of them left to drink, but before then, I had one of the typical Olympic conversations that makes you wonder why everyone in the world doesn't just move to Amsterdam.

I can't say I've thought much about Dutch baseball since then, until this week, when the team became an international sensation, getting warm kisses from the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN.com, Thomas Boswell and basically every other baseball writer in the world. And lo and behold, what should pop into my inbox but a message from Joris van Wijk, one of the Dutch fans I sat with in the rain in Beijing.

"We spoke briefly during the rained out Beijing Olympics baseball game, USA vs. Netherlands," he wrote me. "That game ended with a win for the USA after the game was ended due to rain, with bases loaded with Dutch players and 0 outs. I still think a miracle was possible that day. And to prove we're in the miracle business, check out the double win against the Dominican Republic in the WBC."

Can't argue with that logic. Some Olympic umpire must be feeling mighty guilty this week. Anyhow, I asked Joris to sum up the mood for baseball in his country after this week's Dutch treat, an awful pun that's been used in 50 percent of the recaps. Here's his response.

From Joris van Wijk...

I did my best to get some feedback about the Double Dutch victory over the Dominican Republic, but the painful truth is that it was hardly registered. Man, it is a humbling experience being a baseball fan in the Netherlands, let alone a baseball player.

None of the Dutch news organizations had someone in San Juan, so they were dependent on news agencies and ESPN footage. The games weren't televised live, only the very few who have ESPN could watch them. The morning after, the sports shows opened with the story but moved quickly to that evening's upcoming Champions League soccer games. You'd expect the evening TV news to at least have an item about it, but alas, it wasn't the case - a cookie museum being opened did make the cut.

I don't think the Dutch news agencies, and with them the people, really understand how big an upset this was. Everyone is always ready to embrace a success by any national team in any sport, but the way it came across here is "Netherlands proceed to second round of WBC." If you don't know the game well, don't know who Big Papi, Jose Reyes or Bert Blyleven are, you won't understand that the double win against the D.R. was the equivalent of hell freezing over.

The baseball fans we have in The Netherlands are overjoyed: the players aren't just living their own dream, they gave a new dream to all the young baseball players in this tiny country. And with the team moving on to Miami, things will change: camera crews, reporters and anchors are being dispatched; they're going to get more attention from the national press than they've ever had.

Dutch Baseball fans now live between hope and fear: the sport is finally getting the attention of the media, a lot of people here will be watching the next game, but if we lose - and the odds remain very much stacked against a Dutch win - people will lose interest again and it's back to square one.

We don't dare hope for another miracle, but we'll be glued to our TV sets this Saturday watching our rag tag team taking another shot at glory. Most of them really are in the trenches of the game and suddenly seeing them compete on Mount Olympus...it's heroic stuff.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 12, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  MLB , Olympics  
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Comments

Very cool (1) that van Wijk contacted you, and (2) that you followed up and posted his comments here.

As a Nats fan, I feel his pain re. lack of interest among non-hardcore fans and the media generally. Glad to hear that the team will be getting some more love in the next round.

Also, I didn't see the first upset, but I was glued to my tv for the second. I tuned in with the intention of rooting for Nats skipper Manny's countrymen, but the young and spirited Dutch team quickly won my heart. I was shouting at my tv with glee in the bottom of the ninth (and I loved the various rally cap configurations in the dugout, BTW). That was truly an amazing game, and I'll be rooting for the Netherlands this weekend.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 12, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff. Baseball coverage over there is more than a bit like soccer coverage here... Why aren't you in Charleston, Dan?

Posted by: sitruc | March 12, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Correction: Make that the 11th inning in my post. I forgot that it went into extras.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 12, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The tournament rules made it a really strange night since I was basically rooting for the Dutch not to have to go up next against the US.

Posted by: petey5 | March 12, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

When the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994 one of the first round games at RFK Stadium featured the Netherlands. I still remember how much fun the Dutch football fans were. Dressed in their international orange from sneakers to hats (so they were hard to miss), they made themselves a pleasant and joyous presence in Metrorail cars, Smithsonian museums, and just about every beer bar between RFK and Falls Church. I'll confess that I'm not really paying much attention to the WBC (Let's Go CAPS!!!!) but I will give a little cheer and hoist a big drink for the Dutch. Based on my World Cup-in-D.C. experiences, it's what they would want me to do.

Posted by: greggwiggins | March 12, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Future Nat prospect Stephen Strasburg" - ouch! no faith in anything approaching a .500 record?

as for the Dutch win, it immediately went up there with Villanova over Georgetown, Valpo over OleMiss, the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team, you name it. as big an upset as you might ever see in baseball - it was amazing. it was tough that it was on against the North Dakota St. - Oakland game, but i managed to catch most of both.

as for the lack of Dutch interest, part of it may be that so many of their players are from Aruba, Curacao and the other Netherlands Antilles rather than from the Netherlands themselves. if a team from Guam won a curling tournament, i don't think it would really make the news here either, despite what a ridiculous upset it would be.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | March 12, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this sounds exactly like when the US beat England in the 1950 World Cup, 1-0. A team made up of amateurs and a couple semi-pros beat a team favored to win the whole thing. The English media thought it was a mistake and reported the score as 10-1, England.

It's an amazing thing what confidence and determination can do for a small, unsupported team.

Posted by: Josh8 | March 12, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Great story: end of story.

Posted by: WaPoGuy | March 12, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Dan. Seeing as how you've been in touch, would you please pass on the word to Dutch baseball fan Joris van Wijk, featured in a prior post, that IMO his team should be very proud of having advanced as far as they did despite expectations to the contrary. I haven't seen all of the WBC games (and missed tonight's because of a prior commitment), but one of the most exciting that I watched was their second game against the Dominican. My thanks to the Netherlands team for that classic game, which I will never forget. Hope to see more honkbal in a future tournament!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 15, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

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