(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by Marco Stoovelaar, Henk Seppen & Fred Versluis)
Iconic softball-coach and former National BB-Team player Nol Houtkamp passed away
(1929 - 2018)
(Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
HAARLEM (Neth.) -
Nol Houtkamp, who was a longtime iconic softball-coach in the Netherlands and a mentor for many, passed away on Thursday-morning (February 22) at the age of 89.
While he played several seasons in the Dutch big league and for the Netherlands Baseball Team, Nol Houtkamp is probably most known as the succesful softball-coach he was for many years.
He led the Netherlands National Softball Team for 15 years, led club-teams and did a lot for the development of softball in the Netherlands in general.
Houtkamp, who was bothered by health-problems in recent years, was a Member of Merit of the Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Association.
For his many (and successful) contributions to the sport of softball, he was was inducted into three Halls of Fame.
The memorial and funeral service will be held on Wednesday, February 28 at the Algemene Begraafplaats at the Bergweg 64 in Bloemendaal.
The service begins at 10:30 AM.
Arnoldus Simon Houtkamp, who earned a lot of respect as a softball-coach, was born on November 30, 1928 and started playing baseball at a young age.
He went on to play as a lefthanded pitcher and outfielder for RCH and later Kinheim, EHS and ABC (playing coach).
With all these teams, Houtkamp played in the highest Dutch league.
With EHS (the predecessor of Haarlem Nicols), he won the Dutch Championship-title in 1959 and 1962.
After making his debut in the Netherlands Baseball Team in 1953 as player of RCH, Houtkamp became a regular of the Orange-squad from 1957.
In that year, he played for HCK (Kinheim) and was a member of the team that captured the title at the European Championship in Mannheim (then West-Germany).
After having transfered to EHS for the 1958 season, Houtkamp was an outfielder in the Netherlands Team that won three more European titles.
The team was the best again in 1958 (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1960 (Barcelona, Spain) and 1962 (Amsterdam, Netherlands).
Houtkamp also participated in the Global World Series in 1957 for which the Netherlands was invited as European champion.
All games were played in the stadium of Major League-team Detroit Tigers.
In 1961, he partcipated with the Netherlands in the very-first edition of the Haarlem Baseball Week.
In total, Nol Houtkamp played in 24 official international games for the Netherlands Baseball Team.
In 1953, medals were introduced for the best players in the highest league.
The Most Valuable Player, Best Hitter and Best Pitcher were honored with a gold medal.
When these decorations were introduced, it was initially agreed that only Dutch players were to be eligible.
That was changed several years later, making foreign players also eligible to be recognized as the best players.
In 1961, Tom Campbell, an American player based in the Netherlands and played for UVV, was the Best Hitter with a .382 batting average.
However, the medal for Best Hitter went to Nol Houtkamp, who was the second Best Hitter with a .350 average.
...Hall of Famers Janke Nijdam, Henk Keulemans (seated),...|
...Wim Oosterhof, Dries de Zwaan, Jan Dick Leurs, Nol Houtkamp...
...and Hamilton Richardson pose together during the 2009...
...World Championship Baseball in Haarlem (Netherlands)...
...when Leurs was inducted into the Netherlands Hall of Fame...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
After concluding his baseball-career as a player, Nol Houtkamp went on coaching.
In these and following years, Houtkamp also coached baseball and/or softball-teams of Celeritas, Rood-Wit, SHELL, ABC and Kinheim.
In the same period, Houtkamp was asked to conduct some practice sessions of the Netherlands Women Softball Team, both seniors and juniors.
Netherlands Baseball Team-players Gé Hoogenbos, Herman Beidschat and Boudewijn Maat had done the same.
Beidschat and Maat were the first coaches of the National Softball Team in 1964-1965.
After Jaap Visser led the team one season, Hoogenbos took over in 1967.
Houtkamp led the Netherlands Junior Team for two years, then became the Head Coach of the National Softball Team in 1969 and he would continue leading the Orange squad for fifteen years (1969-1983), a record which still stands.
In this period, there were many firsts.
In 1974, the Netherlands Team participated for the first time in a World Championship (Stratford, USA).
Houtkamp also was the Head Coach when the Netherlands participated in the 1978 World Championship in El Salvador and in 1982 in Taiwan.
In 1979, the first-ever European Softball Championship was organized and Houtkamp led the Netherlands to its first title.
Houtkamp again was successful in the next two editions, as the Netherlands also was the European champion in 1981 and 1983.
Houtkamp and his Orange squad also participated in the first two editions of the Haarlem Softball Week (1980, 1983).
In many of his years as Head Coach of the Netherlands Softball Team, Houtkamp had a longtime assistant in Joop Schuitemaker, while Bram van der Werf was his Pitching Coach in his final three years.
Houtkamp also briefly was an Assistant Coach of the Netherlands Baseball Team.
That was in November-December 1973 when he assisted Head Coach Charles Urbanus Sr. when the team participated in the World Championship in Cuba.
In 1982, Houtkamp and National Team-player Els Spee wrote a book about softball, specially for schools and clubs.
A new and updated edition of the book followed in 1990.
After stepping down as Head Coach of the National Team in November 1983, Nol Houtkamp remained active as a coach.
From 1984 through 1986, for several weeks per year, he was a coaching instructor and advisor in Spain.
Early 1984, he was invited by the Royal Spanish Baseball and Softball Federation to help them improve the quality of softball in the country.
Houtkamp also went on to coach clubteams.
He coached the softball-team of Second Divisionist The Herons in 1984-1985 and did practice-sessions for youth softball-teams of UVV in 1985.
In the wintermonths of 1985-1986, Houtkamp led the practices of the big league baseball-team of Kinheim and went on to coach the softball-team of this Haarlem-based club during the 1988 season.
...Nol Houtkamp throws the ceremonial...|
...first pitch during the opening of the...
...2014 Women's World Championship...
...in Haarlem (Netherlands)...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
Next, Nol Houtkamp was named Head Coach of the National Team of Belgium.
During the European Championship of 1990 in Genua (Italy), Houtkamp led Belgium to a historic 1-0 victory against the Netherlands.
Belgium finished in second place behind the Netherlands and before third-placed Italy.
The silver finish in 1990 is still the best European result of the Belgian Softball Team.
After his activities in Belgium, the veteran coach kept on sharing his knowledge with many teams and conducted multiple clinics.
In following years, he returned to clubcoaching and led three softball-teams in the Dutch big league, being TYBB, DSC '74 and Amsterdam Pirates.
He remained active as a coach or advisor at a high age.
In 2011, when he was 82, he did the practice-sessions of the women softball-team of RCH-Pinguïns, the club where he had started his baseball-career.
Hereafter, he retired, also because of some health problems.
However, despite not being active anymore, Nol Houtkamp remained a frequent visitor of mostly softball-games in the Haarlem-area and some baseball-games.
He mostly could be spotted sitting behind he backspot, watching games of DSS, Kinheim, Olympia Haarlem, Sparks Haarlem and Terrasvogels.
When there were international softball-events in Haarlem and Santpoort-Zuid at the sites of Sparks Haarlem and Terrasvogels, Nol Houtkamp was on the field daily.
He also was a daily visitor of games during Haarlem Baseball Weeks.
On those days, he loved to be amongst many of them his former players and/or coaches he worked with and shared his thoughts with everyone.
Those thoughts could be both positive and negative, as Houtkamp had no problems stating his opinion.
In August last year, he attended most games of the European Premiere Cup-tournament at the site of Sparks Haarlem.
For his many contributions to the sport of softball, Nol Houtkamp earned several recognitions.
In March 1980, he was named Member of Merit of the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association (KNBSB).
In 1983, he became the first person from the Netherlands to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Softball Federation.
Eight years later, Houtkamp became a member of the Hall of Fame of the European Softball Federation.
On September 10, 2005, Nol Houtkamp officially was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Netherlands Baseball and Softball Museum.
In 1999, the KNBSB introduced an award to be handed out to persons who have played an important role in the development of softball.
The award was named after Nol Houtkamp.
The first recipient of the Nol Houtkamp Award in 1999 was his former Pitching Coach Bram van der Werf.
Other winners include softball-coaches Jan en Ria van der Molen (2000), Iet Barnhoorn (2001), Jan Kouwenhoven (2003), André Prins (2005), Herman Thomas (2006), Hans Arends (2007), Jaap Braakman (2008), René Roovers (2009), Piet Pannen (2010), Kees van Vegten (2011), Berend Mannessen (2012), Annie Hekker (2013), Fred Remmers and Bart van Knegsel (2014), Mary-Ann Hatt (2015) and Jeroen van de Wiel (2016).
In October last year, the Award went to Bert Loggen and Carolien Stadhouders, who have done a lot for the development in umpiring in softball.
The Award was not handed out in 2002 and 2004.
The Award was handed out mostly by Nol Houtkamp himself.
...Nol Houtkamp is interviewed by his grandson Jason...|
...during the KNBSB Stars Awards in 2016 where...
...he handed out the Nol Houtkamp Award...
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
After the 2007 season, softball-clubs DSC '74 and TYBB merged to become Olympia Haarlem.
From the 2008 season on, the new club played at a new facility, which was named after Nol Houtkamp.
It became a favorite site for Houtkamp to watch many softball-games.
At the same site named after him, Nol Houtkamp threw out the ceremonial first pitch during the Opening Ceremony of the Women's World Championship when the event was held in Haarlem.
It was the first time that the global event was held in Europe.
Nol Houtkamp, who mostly had a smile on his face, was a colorful personality, respected and loved by many, who will surely be missed.
Nol's sons Andy and Bruce also played baseball and softball.
Andy went on to become a radio/TV-commenator.
Andy's son Jason is a Public Address Announcer during the home games of the baseball-team of Hoofddorp Pioniers.
The webmaster of Grand Slam * Stats & News offers his condolences to Andy, Bruce and Jason and other family and wishes them a lot of strength with this big loss.