NY Times on Dutch baseball

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.

Second weekend: bodies, ballparks and buildings

After visiting the Air Force Museum last weekend, Steve wanted to take me (and his son Matthew) out again this Saturday. His first idea was to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, to indulge our mutual love for baseball. We quickly agreed that, unfortunately, Cooperstown really is too far from Granville (over nine hours if we’d drive non-stop) to do this. Some of the more feasible suggestions included Cleveland and Pittsburgh. For reasons that will become apparent in a moment, I opted for Pittsburgh.

Steve and Matt picked me up around 8.15am for the three-hour drive to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA. We split up after getting our tickets, because I wanted to see BODIES… The Exhibition: one of several exhibitions around the world of preserved human bodies dissected to show the interior workings. BODIES… was nicely set up and certainly interesting, but not quite as spectacular as it’s been said to be. It was very crowded, making it impossible to study all the displays and read all the descriptions. Besides, the descriptions didn’t mention anything you can’t find in a high-school biology book. In fact, the entire exhibition contained very little I haven’t seen elsewhere.

To continue on that negative note, the rest of the Science Center was a bit disappointing, too. (Steve agrees with me there.) It’s not a bad place, but it’s much more targeted at kids than we thought it was, and even then, it was more of a small theme park than a science museum. (For the Dutch readers: think NEMO, but with less science.) It was fun, but it wasn’t what you’d expect of a place called the Carnegie Science Center.

Still, our visit to Pittsburgh was worth every minute of the six hours we spent on the road that day. Right next to the Science Center stands Heinz Field, the American Football stadium for the Steelers (NFL) and the Panthers (college). A few hundred meters further east stands PNC Park, the baseball stadium for the Pirates, which was rated the best MLB park last year by ESPN.

The waterfront promenade behind the stadium was freely accessible that day (I suppose it usually is when there’s nothing going on inside), so we could get pretty close to the outfield wall. At one point, the only thing between us and the field was the bullpen. Even if I’ll never root for the Pirates, they’ll always be special to me for their ballpark being my first American baseball stadium to visit.

The Pirates’ field seen from almost dead center. Separating the snow-covered warning track from one of the bullpens is the outfield fence.

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