Pitching is the name of the game

Another blog, another story about another cap of mine… This is about my EPA-cap.

Every once in a while you have people entering your life, that you cannot get rid off…
Eric de Vries is one of those people.

Pioniers-Ned-kampioen-hoofdklasse-1997The first time I met Eric, sometime in 1997, he was coaching the pitchers  for Hoofddorp Pioniers. We just moved to Hoofddorp, when I went to the ballpark to watch a game. We had a talk after the game, but I cannot begin to remember what it was about…

In the next couple of years baseball was plan B, until my sons became old enough to pick a sport; we had to figure out what they would like.
Luckily for them I do not play soccer (never have) nor am I a big fan of a soccer-team, I just support AJAX Amsterdam as I am born and raised in Amsterdam and to piss off others… You will never find me or them on a soccer-field in rain or shine.

While we were searching for a club, one friend of ours’ son just started playing peanut-ball at Badhoevedorp; a small town close-by. We went over there to watch a game and I guess that is when we all fell (back) in love with game. Just watching these munchkins in their uniforms and big bats & helmets… Another friend of mine’s daughter started playing peanut-ball in Hoofddorp, which was even closer, so we went over there to watch and ended up with 1 kid becoming a member, 1 kid whining to please-please-please also wanted to join (but was underage) and 1 dad becoming trainer/coach for the team my kid was going to play in. Eventually the youngest also joined!

Baseball-against-cancerMy kids were both really loving the game and especially the clinics that were giving by the big boys from the Hoofdklasse / Dutch National Team and even the Big Leaguers Rick van der Hurk brought to the Netherlands. During these Wintertrainings or clinics I was more than once asked to lend a hand, and I generally ended up helping Eric de Vries (with Swen Huijer) with the pitchers. You see: we live in a small world!
EPA logoDuring the last 10 years Eric and me bumped into each other every once in awhile, but always with big smiling faces, hugs all over the place & loads to talk about. We go about things in a very similar manner: not just in a baseball way but also in general life. On one of the KNBSB catchers training during winter, Eric brought me a cap of EPA: ERIC’S PITCHING ACADEMY… Eric started his academy in 2008 as he was already training so many kids, he was gonna make a living out of it! And boy, he did!!!

LadybucsEric and me even got to play on the same team once, during the KIKA Marathon against Cancer that was organized by the LADYBUCS of Amsterdam – the only All-women team in seniors competition. Every team wanting to play against the ladies, had to pay! Every player on the “All-star team” had to pay as well and that was the team we played in together with a great number of players of the Hoofdklasse!

Last season my eldest son no longer wanted to be a catcher and choose to play outfield for the major part of the competition; needless to say that I (still trainer/coach – just different club) occasionally needed him behind the plate, which he did without complaining. During the last part of the competition we had 3 others on the team that would rotate catching, so he could play just outfield. BUT, during the last games of the season I ended up with just 1 pitcher, so I asked of him to pitch a few innings.

E&E1Since Eric is on the staff of RCH-Pinguins 1 as pitcher coach, he offered to help the youth out as well with his guidance. My son was in the bullpen several times under Eric’s wings: he had the speed, but lacked the skills. He loved Eric’s lessons so much, he asked if he could go train with Eric during off-season.

This season I am no longer a trainer or coach to the team my son plays in, but I still go to all his games, and then some… My son is now the regular starter for his team, I guess Eric taught him enough to get out there. To makes things even sweeter: How about making your debut in the Overgangsklasse and pitch your first strikeout while the Freezer is watching???

Even though the season is not over yet, he already asked to enter into Eric’s winterschool again.

Lowell Spinners

I have quite a few baseball caps and there are some nice stories to some of them…

Lowell_SpinnersThe cap I want to tell you about is the Lowell Spinners cap. Lowell Spinners is a Short-Season A New York-Penn League Minor League baseball team affiliated to the Boston Red Sox.
As an European, I do not have a deep rooted feeling for Minor League teams, but since I have been a Red Sox fan for quite some time, I also became a fan of the Lowell Spinners as of some years ago…

 

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Swen signs his deal!

April 2008 a young man named Swen Huijer, from my club at that time (Hoofddorp Pioniers), was being watched by scouts from some pretty big Major League teams from across the Atlantic ocean. The New York Mets and New York Yankees were already interested in this 6.9 feet gentle giant. He got offered a deal by the Yankees to come play in the Dominican Republic.

He was smart enough to wait for the next big thing: while playing an invitational tournament in Italy (organized by MLB), scouts from Boston saw what he could do and in the next few day offered him a contract with the Red Sox organisation.

When you sign a contract, you are (generally) placed in a team that is in the lower Minor Leagues, so was Swen. He started his American Dream in the GCL (Gulf Coast League) Red Sox in Fort Meyers, Florida. He played there for 3 seasons in the so-called Rookie level.

Swen Huijer Lowell SpinnersWe were going to spent a long summer vacation in Florida in 2011, traveling the state, see all the Disney & Universal parks & of course a couple of baseball games; so I also scheduled a stop in Fort Meyers to go see Swen in his hometown… But Swen was doing so good, he was promoted to the next level:  Short Season A. He was to pack his bags and move to Lowell, home of the Spinners, just a short hour from Fenway Park but 1400+ miles from Fort Meyers. Thus we never got to see Swen play in Fort Meyers. As a peace offering he brought me THE Lowell Spinners cap. It turned out to be Swen’s final season in the Leagues…

Swen came back to the Netherlands at the end of the 2011 season; he retired from professional baseball. He played for the Dutch Major League (Hoofdklasse) team of Hoofddorp and started his “Baseball Against Cancer“-foundation. During off-seasons he taught kids the basics of pitching with the help of his brother, Lars.

swen&edWe run in to each other every now and then, we live in the same town, we both coach Little League (Swen coaches the Littles, I coach the Seniors, both for the same team – Kennemerland), he organizes the BAC, I was one of the coaches of the BAC-team. I have a soft spot for this tall guy with his big heart, I still wear my Lowell Spinners cap often… WITH GREAT PRIDE!

Baseball Against Cancer By Night – Part 2

Still on a natural high of all the good vibes I picked up during the entire event… On the other hand I am on an emotional roller-coaster; tearing up and hearing my voice break every time I see or hear something that gets to me.

To get back to the BAC By Night: we ended up playing 8 games, instead of 9, because we had to take an hour out of the schedule due to a rain-delay. We had to let the All Star Game (final game of the night – with a lot of the instructors) slip, because we wanted to let all our scheduled opponents play.

UmpsA BIG shout-out to the umpires: Edwin Louisa (Left) & Michael Toet (Right) for umping. We all had a change to interact with these umpires on a different level, as nice guys, almost human… hahaha! Thanks guys for being with us and for making this a success!!!

And a massive applause for Roy van de Wateringen (Centre) for umping all night, all 8 games!!! You’re the best, Roy!

Also a huge “thank you” to Lars & Maarten Broersen for the maintenance of the field during the night.

Swen

Swen Huijer taking the mound

A major shout-out to all the parents and other supporters that were there throughout the night, with food, drinks, applause and a word of comfort every now and then…

During the different games we had a couple of guest players; some dropped in and played along! So a big shout-out to Danny van Ewijk, Glenn Bakker, Dè Flanigan, Theo Geerman, Thom van de Snoek & Damian Melis!!!

But the biggest shout-out goes to the man behind Baseball Against Cancer: Swen Huijer. Swen pitched during our third game, against the Pioniers III. But he was also there a greater part of the night for mental support to the team!
Lange, you know you are the best!

And finally thanks to the entire team for your absolute dedication and commitment!!!
Top: Daaf – Arnoud – Merle – Famke – Teun – Jaycy – Ward – Jules – Joppe – Giancarlo – Ed
Bottom: Barend – Timothy – Thomas – Lucca – Shaquille – Steve – Michael – Luc – Bob – (Marlon)

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Baseball Against Cancer By Night

logo BACAs you might know, I am a bit of a baseball nut… And I am a sucker for charity. So when you have a charity AND Baseball, COUNT ME IN! Not just donating, but also attending as 1 of the coaches of the hosting team.

This is the first lustrum of Baseball Against Cancer, which started in 2013. Swen Huijer, former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox organisation, together with Joey van Ruth came up with the idea to host a baseball clinic for kids, to fund their participation in the 2013 Alpe D’huzes. They found themselves (with a lot of volunteers) hosting the first event for over 200 kids, with a total proceeds of over €4.000!!!

Each year after that, the venue grew and attracted  more people and attention: not only did the US Ambassador Timothy Broas threw the first pitch at the 2014 edition, but Dutch National Radio 1 reported live during the 2015 edition. More events were added like the Zumba against Cancer, BBQ against cancer & Softball against cancer.

In 2017, to celebrate the 5th anniversary, Baseball Against Cancer By Night is presented: an 17-hour marathon hosted by a youth team playing all through the night against 9 different teams with several celebrities joining and attending!

The schedule for May 2nd-3rd (for now) looks like:
– 16:30 – 18:30 Onze Gezellen Junioren 1
– 18:30 – 20:30 Portland Poema’s
– 20:30 – 22:30 Hoofddorp Pioniers Heren 3
– 22:30 – 00:30 DSS Rookies
– 00:30 – 02:30 Storks Junioren 1
– 02:30 – 04:30 Nuenen Junioren 1
– 04:30 – 06:30 Nighthawks Junioren 1
– 06:30 – 08:30 Ad-M-Visie Hitmanics
– 08:30 – 09:45 Allstar Team

Feel free to donate, or come and visit us during this night! We need all the support we can.

On behalf of:
Joppe – Timothy – Thomas – Michael – Luc – Shaquille – Ward – Teun – Lucca – Jaycy – Steve – Giancarlo – Famke – Merle – Bob – Jules – Arnoud – Barend – Ed.