Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dutch Win Baseball World Cup

Dutch Baseball Team Celebrating World Cup
This may be startling news to American baseball fans, but there is a new Baseball World Cup champion, and it’s not the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees. It's the Netherlands baseball team that won the 2011 Baseball World Cup, beating Cuba 2-1 in the final played last weekend in Panama City, Panama.  First, something about the Baseball World Cup:  initially known as the Amateur World Series and until 1998 only open to amateur players, has since included professional players (incl. minor league players, although Major League Baseball still does not allow its players to join.) This tournament has grown from its founding in 1938 – when only two teams participated and Great Britain won by beating a team of U.S. college students– to last week’s tournament consisting of 22 countries including................

leading teams such as defending World Cup champion the U.S., World Cup record holder Cuba with 25 titles, Olympic champion South Korea, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and others.

In this field of champions, the Dutch managed a historical achievement by being the first European team not only to reach the final since 1938 but also to become world champion. This achievement is both surprising and understandable. It’s understandable because the Dutch have consistently played baseball on a high level. The Dutch have won 20 European championship titles over the last decades, they just missed winning the bronze medal in the 2005 and 2007 Baseball World Cups, and their teams include many players from the Dutch Caribbean islands, generally known as a region for talented players as the MLB can attest to.

On the other hand, this achievement is truly surprising within the context of the competition: in the U.S., Cuba, South Korea, Japan and other countries, baseball is a leading national sport. In Holland, more known for its soccer, skating and cycling, baseball is a small not to say impoverished sport. Its baseball federation has a mere 30,000 members (vs. over one million members for the soccer federation) and the Dutch major league has only eight teams playing against each other.  

So, this Dutch Baseball World Cup victory is truly a sensation and shows that surprises in sports are still possible no matter what the odds. This victory becomes even more special, when one knows that some of the best Dutch players were not allowed by their (U.S.) MLB teams to play in this competition. Who knows how an even stronger Dutch team would perform against this season’s world series champions? Maybe we then would truly see the best of the world competing against each other..

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