With talent from Curaçao and Aruba, the Netherlands is a W.B.C. favorite
SEOUL - Stijn van der Meer can still hardly believe his good fortune. One of the best baseball players to come out of the soccer-crazed nation of the Netherlands, van der Meer played shortstop at Lamar University in Division I and was drafted last year by the Houston Astros in the 34th round.
But none of that prepared the affable and lanky 23 year old for playing alongside some of the best infielders in the game with Team Netherlands at the World Baseball Classic. Yet there he was at a recent workout, fielding ground balls with three of the top shortstops in the major leagues: Xander Bogaerts, who has won two Silver Slugger awards with the Red Sox; Didi Gregorius, who replaced Derek Jeter on the Yankees; and Andrelton Simmons of the Angels, who has two Gold Gloves awards.
“It’s just awesome: I’m in between superstars,” said van der Meer, who started playing baseball when he was 5 in Rosmalen, a hotbed of Dutch baseball. “We pretty much have a dream team of infielders.”
The major league firepower is a primary reason Team Netherlands is the favorite to win the W.B.C.’s Pool A — which includes Taiwan, Israel and host South Korea — and potentially improve on its fourth-place finish in 2013. While most squads in the 16-team tournament struggle to recruit more than a few players from the majors, the Netherlands’ roster is peppered with talented young players from two of its former colonies, Aruba and Curaçao.
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Source: The New York Times