Author (left) relaxes with all-star Cuban outfielder Freddie Cepeda during Monday’s Haarlem rain delay.
Greetings from wet and soggy Haarlem (Netherlands) where the 23rd edition of the showcase Haarlem Honkbal (Dutch for “baseball”) Week has gotten off to a rain-plagued if nonetheless exciting start. The first two days found all four games completed, though a couple were played under drizzily conditions. But the heavy rains have now set in, washing out last night’s Cuba-Chinese Taipei match and prompting a rare triple header for today’s fifth day of competitions. The rain has only worsened here on Tuesday morning, again cancelling the make-up Cuba-Taiwan contest and putting in doubt this afternoon’s (USA-Dutch Caribbean) and this evening’s (Netherlands-Japan) games as well. Another cancellation today will likely throw the week’s remaining schedule into chaos and necessitate the emergency use of a second smaller venue to keep the schedule on track. Semifinals were originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights, with the finals pencilled in for Sunday afternoon.
Two major upsets have already marked the early tournament on-field action, with host Netherlands (the Dutch Olympic team) falling 6-4 to Chinese Taipei (college all-stars), and favored Cuba being upended 1-0 by Team USA (also a collegiate all-star team bound for the World University Games in Prague later this month). The American win came courtesy of a strong starting pitching effort by Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor. It should be noted (not to take anything away from the strong American showing) that Cuba’s Olympic team is using this tournament as a final conditioning exercise for Beijing and thus focussing far more on morning workouts than on the afternoon-evening games themselves. The lack of Cuban hitting in the first two games (they earlier nipped Dutch Caribbean 2-1) may well be explained by the fact that the team is undergoing strenuous morning running and weight lifting regimens and each Cuban batter is also taking 200 swings of batting practice daily.
The full tournament action, including live play-by-play of all games for Team Cuba, can be found on our Cuban League website at www.baseballdecuba.com. The fortunes of Team USA can also be followed on www.usabaseball.com. Afternoon games here in Haarlem begin at 8 am EST (for North American followers interested in the play-by-play action) with night games starting at 1 pm EST. Tune in an and enjoy international baseball at its finest.