June 19, 2018
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Classic has fans saying ‘Go Dutch’


I don’t rush home to watch the World Baseball Classic.

But I feel it is an interesting concept and should be continued. And I do watch bits of it.

As an American, I certainly see my share of baseball during the season.

That’s probably why there doesn’t seem to be much interest in the United States. And we have other sports we enjoy like football, basketball and hockey.

(Yes, I have to add hockey to this list despite the miniscule TV ratings).

This is such a great source of pride for several of the countries involved because baseball is their No. 1 sport: countries like Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan and Venezuela.

When the soccer-crazed Netherlands beat tourney favorite the Dominican Republic twice to eliminate them, it sent shock waves world-wide.

Sidney Ponson was the only major leaguer on the Netherlands roster while the Dominican Republic roster was loaded with major leaguers including several all-stars.

It would be like the U.S. beating Brazil in the World Cup final.

I’ve heard it compared to the United States beating Russia in hockey in the Winter Olympics in 1980, but nothing compares with that.

Don’t be surprised if more Dutch youngsters adopt the sport and baseball shows a significant growth spurt in Holland.

Hockey certainly took off in the United States after 1980’s Miracle on Ice.

The international exposure carries a lot of weight with it.

You don’t have all of the best players involved in the tournament because their major league teams don’t want them to play in case of injury.

I certainly understand the major league teams’ stance. They are paying these players a lot of money and are banking on them to help put wins on the board and people in the seats.

But there’s still plenty of talent on the rosters and, for the major leaguers who are allowed to play, it’s probably more productive than playing meaningless exhibition games.

Two of the players on the Netherlands roster, former University of Maine star Curt Smith and starting shortstop Sharlon Schoop, played for Curacao at the Senior League World Series in Bangor. Shoop is in the San Francisco Giants organization while Smith is a minor leaguer for the St. Lous Cardinals.

The Netherlands has sent one team to the Senior League World Series (2004) and it went winless.

It’s fun watching the fans wave their country’s flags and exhibit the passion you find at international soccer games.

For a country like Cuba, it’s one of the only times we get to see them play due to the political strife between the United States and Fidel Castro’s government.

Castro is one of the world’s biggest baseball fans.

He was rumored to have had a tryout with a major league team, but that is apparently unfounded.

For those of us still staring at snow banks, this tournament is a nice introduction to warm weather and the baseball season.

It is also a showcase for major league talent scouts.

Everybody wants to play in the major leagues and this gives them a stage to show off their talents.

In addition, it gives the young players who have remained in their native countries to play ball an opportunity to check out the United States.

They play at different venues and I’ll bet this will provide a lasting memory for many of the players.

These will be some of the best ballparks they have ever played in.

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