Who are these guys? Meet the Dutch
World getting familiar with players from The Netherlands
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
But even the most serious ball geeks have to shake their seamheads at the rest of the roster of The Netherlands team that has turned this World Baseball Classic on its head by eliminating the star-studded Dominican Republic team.
Just who are these guys?
Well, they're managed by Rod Delmonico, a longtime American college coach, and their pitching coach is Bert Blyleven, the Dutch-born curveball and clubhouse-prank artist who won 287 Major League games over a 22-year career and now serves as a popular TV broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins.
But in poring over the profiles of the players who have stunned the world over the past three days, one realizes that the Dutch team features an intriguing mixture of young, unproven talent currently toiling in the Minor Leagues or in Europe plus a salty core of veterans who know a thing or two about baseball's long road of hard knocks.
"What you've got to understand is these guys have played together in Curacao and Holland for a long time," Delmonico said. "We've got guys who have played together for 10 years. They care about each other and pull for one another. They actually love one another."
Here's a brief Who's Who of some of the key cogs of this surprising Netherlands second-round team:
Ponson, P: The burly 32-year-old Aruba native, who won 17 Major League games in 2003, is a free agent looking for a big-league job for 2009. He might have a better chance at employment after showing new-found maturity while being a leader of this club.
Simon, 1B: He hasn't played in the Majors since 2006, but the Curacao native played in the bigs for parts of eight seasons and had a career year for the Detroit Tigers in 2002, when he batted .301 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs.
Kingsale, OF: Another Aruban, Kingsale played for four Major League teams from 1996-2003, mostly as a reserve outfielder. He logged a career-high 219 at-bats in 2002 with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and batted .283 overall with nine stolen bases.
Dennis Neuman, P: He's 19 years old and spent part of last summer as a reliever on Boston's Single-A Lowell club. Neuman, who is from Curacao, was signed as an undrafted free agent in October 2006 and appeared in eight games for Lowell last year, going 2-0 with a 7.20 ERA and striking out 12 men in 15 innings.
Rob Cordemans, P: Dutch native Cordemans pitched in four straight Olympic Games for The Netherlands (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and has been the best pitcher in Hoofdklasse, the Dutch professional league, for years. Cordemans also pitched for his home country in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. The right-hander is 34 years old.
Leon Boyd, P: Boyd, the 25-year-old closer, is a starter in Hoofdklasse for the Neptunus club. He was born in Canada but has Dutch heritage from his mother, Wilma, who met his father, Sean, when Sean was playing hockey in Holland in the 1970s.
Tom Stuifbergen, P: Holland-born Stuifbergen, 20, was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted free agent in August 2006 and made his professional debut last year for the Twins' Gulf Coast League rookie team. He appeared in seven games as a reliever and struck out nine batters in 12 1/3 innings, limiting hitters to a .140 batting average and compiling a 2.19 ERA.
Rick VandenHurk, P: Born in The Netherlands, the 6-foot-5 right-hander is still considered a Florida Marlins prospect. He made 17 starts for the Marlins in 2007 after making the jump from Double-A and got the win in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game. He made four big-league starts in 2008.
Juan Carlos Sulbaran, P: Sulbaran, a Curacao native, turned 19 last November, a few months after being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 30th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander received a $500,000 signing bonus, a record for a 30th-round draftee. Sulbaran played high school baseball in Florida and went 11-0 with a 1.40 ERA for a state championship team in 2007.
Kenley Jansen, C: The 21-year-old catcher from Curacao played in 2008 for the Single-A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed Jansen as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Jansen batted .227 in 2008 but hit nine homers and drove in 27 runs in 247 at-bats over 79 games.
Yurendell de Caster, IF: The man who won Tuesday night's game over the Dominican Republic with an RBI single in the 11th inning has been a Minor League utility man since signing with Tampa Bay in 1996. Now 29, Curacao native de Caster signed a Minor League deal with the Detroit Tigers in February. He played for the Washington Nationals' Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2008.
Gregory Halman, OF: Netherlands native Halman, 21, was named the Seattle Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 2008 after hitting .272 with 95 runs scored, 29 doubles, five triples, 29 home runs, 83 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 128 games combined between Single-A High Desert and Double-A West Tennessee. Halman, who was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in June 2004, was rated the No. 13 prospect in the California League by Baseball America.
Doug Miller is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.