By Baseball Jobs Overseas Founder David Burns
I hit the road once again to visit BBJO members along with their clubs, documenting my trip on video, and this time it was a trip to the Netherlands. My first stop was in Hoofddorp to visit the Hoofddorp Pioniers and the Sportpark Pioniers complex (see documentary video below), designed to host the first ever MLB game. As we all now know, they lost the bid to London who recently hosted the Yankees and Red Sox for the first MLB game in Europe and will again in 2020 with the Cubs and Cardinals.
Despite their obvious disappointment, the Pioniers still hold hope that one day they can host an MLB game, but for now, this amazing $13.5 million stadium which includes three hundred thousand tons of American clay that was shipped in for the field, will settle for hosting teams of the Honkbal Hoofdklasse, one of two pro leagues in Europe. In the meantime, the local municipality pays over $150,000 per year to maintain the field to MLB standards.
Planning out how to get to the stadium from where I was staying in Rotterdam, I realized that public transport would be much longer, with the bus route from the train station in Hoofddorp adding 30 minutes to my trip. So I decided to rent a car. At the rental place, I was happy to find out that they were out of the car I had reserved, an eco-efficient death trap model where my 6’6″ frame would have had to fold behind the steering wheel with my knees next to my ears. So after some subtle charming and realization that the registration lady and I shared a birthdate, I was upgraded to a BMW.
After a smooth, 40 minute drive, I rolled up to the complex about two hours before game time to allow myself plenty of time to watch BP, get some footage of the stadium, and meet up with Baseball Jobs Overseas member Paul Kirkpatrick who is with the Pioniers in 2019. Paul is a pitcher out of Western Kentucky University who at the time of publishing, holds down an era 1.80 with 50 k’s in 55 innings of work.
As I was walking up the stairs to the front entrance of the stadium and the field began to come into view, I got that feeling every baseball fan gets when they first take in a beautiful baseball stadium they haven’t visited, but yet here I was in the middle of nowhere in the outskirts of a Dutch town of 73 thousand, which made it even more impressive and exciting to take in. Maybe it was because I have been in the game in Europe now for 15 years and I have seen the worst of the worst, and that this $13+ million stadium, along with others such as the Armin-Wolf Arena in Regensburg, Germany, and the Městský Stadium in Brno, Czech Republic, gives me hope that the game one day can be showcased to all of Europe in a continental Europe professional league as per the dream of Wim van den Hurk who got the Euro League Baseball going for a single season in 2016.
After some quick footage, I was given the tour by Wilko Geesink, the Chairman of the foundation that operates the stadium, who then invited me to watch the game from the media booth overlooking the field. I enthusiastically accepted and was welcomed by all in the booth (sorry names have since slipped from my memory other than Jason the DJ!).
The Pioniers featured a young, talented team that at that time, sat in fourth place in the league and were up against the 3rd place HCAW (Honkbalclub Allen Weerbaar). Paul didn’t see any action in this game but I did get to see their Dutch star pitcher, Lars Huijer, get the start in his return from a four-game suspension after a recent bench-clearing altercation. Lars spent four seasons in the minors with the Mariners, reaching as high as advanced-A.
The game was a close, pitchers duel and defensive battle with a handful of double plays and a total of only one error on the day. I did notice that both teams did let their starters go deep into the game, with only one reliever each for an inning or slightly more, which is on par with most teams in Europe and is one major reason why the Hoofdklasse has a clear drop off in depth and level of play after the top two teams, the Amsterdam Pirates and Curacao Neptunus.
Despite not allowing an earned run in 7.2 innings of work, Lars received the loss in the close 3-2 game. The Pioniers managed to win the second game the next day 3-1 in another defensive pitchers duel. After the game, I returned my rental car and hopped on a train for a short 20-minute ride to Amsterdam, which I can now tick off my bucket list of epic cities to visit in Europe.
Until next time Hoofddorp, thanks for hosting me! Hope you enjoy the video.
Travel the world using baseball or softball as your ticket
Our baseball and softball members get paid to play or coach overseas year-round, mostly in Europe and Australia.
There are a variety of levels overseas which present opportunities for both the college grad and the established professional.