Dutch Hoofdklasse vs. Double-A Eastern League

When I was first was being recruited to play in Holland while playing my first year of European baseball in Belgium I was given a vague comparison of the level of the Dutch semi-pro league. I was told it was somewhere between single A to double A level of American minor league baseball. Throughout my 2 seasons in Holland I had no way to actually compare the two, other than basing Team USA's double A level players skill level to how we did against them in the World Championship and Olympics. Realistically though, all those players are now major leaguers' and they don't give an accurate read on all of double A. After 36 games here playing for New Hampshire in the Eastern League I have a more rounded idea of the caliber.

To be able to compare this league with the Dutch hoofdklasse (headclass or top division baseball in Holland) isn't fair. The level is overall very even at this level, at least with the 3 teams we've played over and over. Pitchers are all 87-92 with movement, the guys throwing 95 throw straight. Hitters are all fairly polished, they spit on sliders in the dirt, take 0-2 fastballs at the letters and hit mistakes well. Every team has first rounders and possess players who are close or ready for the show.

The Hoofdklasse is a league full of solid players, a league led by defence. The top offensive teams tends to make the finals, and Neptunus, my club club team for the past couple of years, gave up less than 200 runs in 84 games over 2 years, and we didn't even make the finals. Currently through 16 games for each team and 6 starts for starters there are 4 starters with era's below 1.00. The caliber in the top teams could rival a single A or double A club whereas the the 4-6 place teams have potential, and if they were able to play daily they would not be far behind the caliber I have seen so far in the Eastern League.

Time to play the Portland Sea Dogs for the first time this year. They are the double A affiliate to the Boston Red Sox, so we're facing the next wave of Papelbon's, Papi's and Pedrioa's. Wish us luck.


Home sweet home?

I throw pretty much all submarine these days, they like it and it seems to be effective. (Todd Bliss photo)

We are 2 games into our home stand back here in Manchester, New Hampshire, and have split those games so far. This is not a abnormal trend for us thus far this year. We have a 17-12 record, but have done much better on the road than at home, surprisingly.

Last nights game provided viewers or listeners of the game with about the best offensive game for a single player I've ever witnessed. Our first baseman Brian Dopirak went 5 for 6 with 2 home runs, 2 doubles and a triple, and 8 RBI's. He needed a single for the cycle in the last at bat, but chose to stretch his rocket down the left field line into a double saying after "I wanted to play it right". Very commendable.

Anyways, we won 18-6, and since there I hadn't had any save chances or good opportunities to get into games over the past 4 games I got a mop up inning in the 9th. After starting the first batter off 3-0, I came back to get 2 fly outs and a ground out.

Today we didn't have quite the same offensive outburst as yesterday, and lost 4-2. My room mate Marc Rzepczynski lost his second game of the year, putting him at a highly respectable 5-2 this year, but is still leading double A in strikeouts (and walks, but we don't talk about that stat, actually yes we do, I give him crap about it regularly).

Over the next couple of of weeks we will be having several major league pitchers coming through Manchester on rehabilitation assignments. Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen and Blue Jays closer BJ Ryan will be taking some of our innings over the upcoming games, which is expected, and absolutely fine.

I was interviewed this week by the National Post, one of Canada's most widespread newspapers. Writer John Lott called me in my hotel room on our previous road trip while we were in Binghamton, he asked questions and interviewed me for about 25 minutes and ended up writing this article in today's national post.
The pictures posted on this blog have all been taken by people who have posted them on my facebook page, they are from all aspects of the game from anthems, to autographs to action...
Doing what I can to protect the bullpens from possible foul balls (on the left)...
Signing some autographs for the kids, there are a lot of autograph seekers at our games, looking for my John Hancock on anything from bats, to hats, to gloves, to paper, to arms...
One of my odd smirks, must have just seen one of the bullpen pitchers do something really dumb, or funny...
Our 'Battlestance' it's a bullpen thing. Not sure how we started it, but we do this during every anthem, we also sing our freaking hearts out.
The average bullpen scene.
Me apparently feeling quite nonshalont about doing the bullpen chart for the day...


Back at it

Hi again people.

Back on the road again, in New Britain for the second time already this year. We´ve played 24 games so far and have compiled at 15-9 record, have solid starting pitching a fairly good pen, and the offence and defence have been doing quite well so far. We have a team with a couple big name prospects, but overall have a mix of just solid players. So far everyone has been playing their parts on the team, RBI guys are knocking people in, starters are going their 5-7 innings, relievers are doing their jobs to keep us in ballgames. We just need to keep on keeping on.

We just left Binghamton, New York where we took two or three from the Mets double-A affiliate. Binghamton is a team featuring 4 Canadians, which is probably the most on any one team in the minor leagues. So far every team we´ve played have had a Canadian on them. Interestingly enough, every team we´ve played have a Canadian who played int he same prep league I came up through in BC, the Premier league. Today we face off against the twins featuring 3 hole hitter Rene Tosoni from Coquitlam BC. Our last games against the Mets featured their 5 hole power threat Shawn Bowman, also of Coquitlam, BC. We´ve played the Connecticut Defenders a couple of times, and their ace is Brooks McNevin of Kelowna, BC. We´re everywhere, watch out.

I´m going to try and blog more often... yep, I say that a lot, I know, but I need to keep you people more informed, and I realize this. I´ll try to get shorty to pop a few pictures here and there at games, and whatnot around Manchester when I get back from this road trip so that you can have an idea of how we´re seeing life right now.

Til next blog.