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Updated: June 11, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Henk Seppen)

Roster Netherlands Team for Olympic Qualifier announced

NIEUWEGEIN (Neth.) - The 26-man roster of the Team Kingdom of the Netherlands that will participate in the WBSC Baseball Final Qualifier was announced on Friday (June 11). The Orange squad will travel to Mexico coming week to participate in the Final Olympic Qualifier that will be played in Puebla. There, the Netherlands Team will meet the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The winner of the event becomes the sixth and final team to qualify for the Olympic Games that will be held next month in Japan.

Initially, there were six countries in the field of participants in the Final Qualifier. Besides the three teams named above, the others were Australia, China and Chinese Taipei, but they all withdrew.

In 2019, the Netherlands Team captured the European title in Germany, but a week later, the team was left empty-handed during the European Qualifying Tournament in Italy. During that event, Israel surprised everyone by winning the tournament to qualify for the Olympic Games. The Netherlands ended up in second place and with that had to participate in the Final Qualifier, which was to be held in April last year in Taiwan with the participation of Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and the second and third best teams of the Americas Qualfier. However, due to the coronavirus-pandemic (COVID-19), the Americas Qualifier, which was scheduled for March last year, was cancelled. When the Olympic Games were postponed to this year, the Final Qualifer was also cancelled.

The Final Qualifier was re-scheduled for June this year in Taiwan. Early May, China withdraw its team and on May 20, the event was moved to Mexico, due to stronger COVID-19 countermeasures and restrictions in the island-country. On May 29, it was announced that the games were to be played in the city of Puebla.

Last Saturday (June 5), the USA won the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualfier in Florida (USA) to qualify for the Olympic Games, joining host Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea. The Dominican Republic and Venezuela finished in second and third place in Florida to advance to the Final Qualifier in Mexico.

A day earlier (June 4), Chinese Taipei also withdrew its team. In a statement, the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association said: ,,The newly implemented pandemic prevention policies prohibits the gathering of teams for practices has made our preparations next to impossible. We can conclude that this pandemic has finally given us a fatal blow and ended our Olympic dream''.

...Hensley Meulens...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Earlier this week (June 9), Australia became the third country to withdraw. Glenn Williams, Chief Executive of Baseball Australia, said in a statement: ,,Attending the Final Olympic Qualifier in a COVID world was always going to present significant challenges. The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete. We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable''.

With that, only three teams will compete in Mexico for the final spot in the Olympic Baseball Tournament.

Hensley Meulens will return as Manager of the Netherlands Team. Meulens was a member of the coaching-staff of the Major League-team of the San Francisco Giants for ten years (2010-2019), eight as Hitting Coach, two as Bench Coach. Last year, Meulens was the Bench Coach of the New York Mets, but the two separated after the season.

With his staff, Meulens selected 26 players for the team that will participte in Mexico.

Two players will make their debut in the National Team, reliever Mike Groen of L&D Amsterdam Pirates and outfielder Jiandido Tromp. In 2019, Groen played for the Netherlands Under-23 Team in the European Championship in the Czech Republic, where the Orange squad finished in fifth place. Aruban-born Tromp played professionally in 2012-2018 (Rookie, Single-A, Double-A) in the organization of Philadelphia Phillies. This year, he plays for San Marino in the Italian Serie-A.

Several veteran players who played for the Netherlands in international tournament in 2019 are not with the team this time. They are pitchers Rob Cordemans (L&D Amsterdam Pirates), Jim Ploeger (HCAW) and Tom Stuifbergen (DSS/Kinheim) and outfielders Gilmer Lampe and Kalian Sams (both L&D Amsterdam Pirates). Cordemans threw only one inning so far this season and is recovering from an injury. Lampe and Sams are both also recovering from injuries. In 2019, all five participated with the Netherlands in the Premier12. Cordemans, Stuifbergen, Sams and Lampe also participated in the European Championship. The first three were also with the team during the European Olympic Qualifier, while Cordemans, Ploeger and Stuifbergen also participated in the World Port Tournament in 2019. Other veterans who are not with the team this time are catcher Gianison Boekhoudt and infielder Stijn van der Meer (both Curašao Neptunus), who in 2019 only participated in the WPT in Rotterdam (Netherlands). During the 2019 European Championship in Germany, pitcher Donny Breek made his debut in the National Team. He is currently unavailable, as his is pitching professionally in the Minor League in the Minnesota Twins-organization.

Remarkably enough, there are no players on the roster who are currently playing the Minor Leagues. But there are seven players, who play in foreign leagues. Catcher Sicnarf Loopstok and infielder Curt Smith both play for Lincoln Saltdogs in an Independent League in the USA. Infielder Yurendell de Caster plays for Wild Cats on Curašao. Pitcher Mike Bolsenbroek plays for Heidenheim Heidek÷pfe in the German Bundesliga and outfielder Jiandido Tromp plays in the Italian Baseball League for San Marino. Tromp is the brother of Chadwick Tromp, who has been a catcher of the Netherlands Team before and last year made his debut in the Major League, playing for San Francisco Giants.

...Jair Jurrjens pitching during the 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Pitchers Wendell Floranus and Jair Jurrjens play in Mexico. Floranus plays for Tigres de Quintana Roo in the Mexican Summer League. This season, Floranus pitched in six games in relief for the team from Canc˙n. The 26-year old righthander threw 6 1/3 inning and he is 1-0 with three saves, striking out ten batters. Last year, Floranus pitched in the Dutch big league for Quick Amersfoort. Jurrjens plays for Guerreros de Oaxaca with whom he signed a contract last Monday. He also was to play in Mexico last year, but the entire season was then cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 35-year old righthanded pitcher played in the Major League in 2007-2014 for Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies. He also played in Taiwan (2016).

Six players (who all played for the Orange Team before) on the roster are listed as Free Agents, meaning they are without a team at the moment. Amongst them are pitcher Shairon Martis and short stop Sharlon Schoop, who both played for L&D Amsterdam Pirates last season in the Dutch big league. Both are also on the roster of the Amsterdam-team this year, but haven't played yet, as they are still on Curašao. Outfielder Ademar Rifaela played for Quick Amersfoort last year in the highest Dutch league. Earlier this year, it was reported that he might play this season in Italy, but that never happened. The other three Free Agents are pitcher Franklin Van Gurp and infielders Calten Daal and Juremi Profar.

Van Gurp, who was born on Saint Martin, played professionally in 2017-2019 (Rookie, Single-A, Double-AA) in the organization of San Francisco Giants. He was released in March of this year by Lake Elsinore Storm (Low-A, San Diego Padres).

Curašao-born Daal played professionally in 2013-2019 (Single-A, Double-A) in the organization of Cincinnati Reds. He was signed by Minnesota Twins in January last year, but released in July last year.

Profar, also from Curašao, also played professionally in 2013-2019 (Rookie, Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A) in the Texas Rangers-organization. The brother of Major League-player Jurickson Profar was signed by Boston Red Sox in November 2019, but then was released in May last year.

...Debuting Mike Groen pitching...
...for L&D Amsterdam Pirates...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Tjerk Smeets, Technical Director of the Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Association (KNBSB), said in a statement: ,,Putting together a selection is always a puzzle. But with the many changes, adjustments and associated consequences surrounding this tournament, compiling this group was really complicated. However, after much consultation with the technical staff, we have come to the conclusion that these players give us the best chance of capturing the last ticket to Tokyo. I have full confidence that we can do great things at the Olympic Qualifier''.

The roster looks as follows:

Pitchers (12):
Tom de Blok, Mike Groen, Shairon Martis, Juan Carlos Sulbaran (all L&D Amsterdam Pirates), Mike Bolsenbroek (Heidenheim Heidek÷pfe, Germany), Wendell Floranus (Tigres de Quintana Roo, Mexico), Lars Huijer (HCAW), Jair Jurrjens (Guerreros de Oaxaca, Mexico), Kevin Kelly, Diegomar Markwell, Orlando Yntema (all Curašao Neptunus) and Franklin Van Gurp (Free Agent).

Catchers (2):
Sicnarf Loopstok (Lincoln Saltdogs, USA) and Dashenko Ricardo (Curašao Neptunus).

Infielders (7):
Yurendell de Caster (Wild Cats, Curašao), Calten Daal, Juremi Profar (both Free Agent), Dwayne Kemp, John Polonius (both Curašao Neptunus), Sharlon Schoop (L&D Amsterdam Pirates) and Curt Smith (Lincoln Saltdogs, USA).

Outfielder (5):
Roger Bernadina (Curašao Neptunus), Randolph Oduber (Hoofddorp Pioniers), Denzel Richardson (L&D Amsterdam Pirates), Ademar Rifaela (Free Agent) and Jiandido Tromp (San Marino, Italy).

Coaching Staff:
Hensley Meulens (Field Manager), Evert-Jan 't Hoen (Bench Coach), Wim Martinus (1B Coach), Ben Thijssen (3B Coach), Sidney de Jong (Hitting Coach), Robin van Doornspeek (Pitching Coach), Lester Victoria (Bullpen Coach & Advanced Scout).

Supporting Staff:
Harmen Bakker (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Kevin Sprengers (Physical Therapist), Niels van Weert (Team Manager), Tjerk Smeets (Technical Director KNBSB).

(June 11)

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