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…

 

swen_huijer_contract

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!

The story of the Longhorn Baseball Cap

Over the years I have build a nice little collection of caps, and not just any caps, but caps of teams I feel a connection with… I hear you thinking: Yeah yeah, so you buy a lot of caps, so what?

No, I have a lot of caps that have a story to it! Every once in a while I will tell you about one of my Special Caps and the story that goes with it!

First one is the latest addition: Texas Longhorns.

What does a Dutchie got to do with wearing a Longhorns cap? I used to play basketball in the late 70’s, early 80’s when the Longhorns dominated the NCAA! Most of you perhaps do not know what NCAA is: National Collegiate Athletic Association. This is THE steppingstone for young athletes to get into NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLS, MLB and so on.
texas-longhorns-BWzPeP-clipart
I do not know whether it was the logo or the color or the combo of both that made me a Longhorn fan, but I rooted for them!!! Years of rooting, but no cap… How would a NCAA cap get to the Netherlands? Even nowadays it is hard to get it delivered…

BUT: My wife and I won a cruise to the Caribbean (Tampa-Honduras-Belize-Tampa) and before we took off everyone on that cruise was able to join a Facebook group to get to know one another. People where sharing their stories & pictures and I saw several people from Texas joining… I was excited enough to boldly ask if someone might bring me a Longhorns cap, so I did!

A lot of people commented that they would love to bring me one, and what kind would I like to have? For me, any would be fine.

Evan was coming to the cruise as well and he was gonna bring me a Longhorns Cap.
This is a picture of Evan & me, when we first met on board & he handed me my Longhorns cap!

Evan Gremont

Evan & Me

I have been wearing this cap for most of the cruise and lots of people asked if I was that guy that wanted the Longhorns cap in the Facebook group… That was nice, since we got to know so many nice people on that cruise with Young Living… And not just because of the cap!

Oh and by the way: I paid it forward!!! That shirt I am wearing in the pic? There was a girl on board (with a broken foot); we met her and her father in the elevator and he commented on my shirt that I was going to be his daughter’s newest best friend. So I asked him why. He said – pointing at my shirt – she plays Softball!!!
Later on I looked her up at the swimming pool deck and I gave her my shirt. So she now has a shirt that was never available outside the Netherlands. ENJOY!!!

Evan, once again: Thank you so much for bringing my cap! I will wear it with pride!!!