The New York Times had a nice piece yesterday on baseball in the Netherlands, talking about how the sport gained popularity here during and after World War II, the recent influx of Dutch pitchers in the US, the dominance of soccer, and more.
Asked what Dutch youngsters like about baseball, Mr. Eenhoorn [the coach of the Dutch national baseball team] 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 between soccer seasons. Johan Cruyff, the king of Dutch soccer, began his career as a catcher for Amsterdam Ajax’s nine, before he ever kicked a soccer ball.
The article comes back to the topic of soccer a bit further on:
Still, for the Dutch, Mr. Eenhoorn said, soccer remains the principal sport.
Tim Roodenburg, a 19-year-old pitcher with Sparta Feyenoord who got a tryout with the Yankees last year at a camp in the Dominican Republic, tends to agree. A former basketball player, he gave it up to focus on baseball, and now teaches city kids to play baseball and softball.
“I’ve seen it on the street,” he said. “Kids will take a softball, drop it on the ground, then kick it.”
The entire piece is available for free here.