Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dutch Treat

A baseball game, since at least WWII:
A former infielder with the New York Yankees, [Robert] Eenhoorn coaches the Dutch team that was the only one in Europe chosen to compete in the Beijing Olympics. He got his start playing ball at Neptunus, the club outside this port city [Rotterdam], before playing 37 games in the major leagues in the United States.

His father before him played ball, he said over coffee, recalling the years under German occupation during World War II, when Dutch kids turned to American baseball to stick it to the German occupiers. ....

As attested by the trickle of young Dutch ballplayers now entering the minor and even the major leagues in the United States, that wartime popularity never faded.

Asked what Dutch youngsters like about baseball, Eenhoorn said: "It's American; it's a summer sport, filling the gap left by soccer in spring and early summer. You know, we did research and found that kids like baseball, they like hitting the ball with the bat, they like the clothing. I don't think it's peaked."

Most Dutch baseball teams were in fact started by soccer clubs in search of a sport for the months when soccer is still. Johan Cruyff, the king of Dutch soccer, began his career as a catcher for Amsterdam Ajax's baseball team, before he ever kicked a soccer ball.

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