“What are you doing here, Hensley Mullins?” It’s a question the national coach of the Dutch baseball team rarely asks when touring Schiphol – Meulens is not usually recognized in the Netherlands. How different that is in his native island of Curaçao and in the United States, where he earned the Spurs as a major league baseball player and has been an acclaimed hitting coach at the highest level for years.
As a player, Meulens was nicknamed “Bam-Bam”, a reference to the extremely strong kid Bam-Bam from the animated series The FlintstonesBecause of its tremendous power. He was the first player from Curaçao to make his senior professional debut with the New York Yankees. He also later played for the Montreal Expos and Arizona Diamond Backs.
In Curaçao, this gave Meulens hero status. He is still seen on the island as a great example for young baseball players who also want to become professionals. In the major leagues, the 55-year-old Meulins has built a reputation as a hitting coach after his career. With the San Francisco Giants, he won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and last season his impact as an assistant hitting coach was remarkable with the New York Yankees, with Aaron Judge hitting 62 batters that year. Next season, Meulins will work with the Colorado Rockies hitting team.
Clinics and contests
Meulens is a celebrity in the US, in the Netherlands hardly anyone knows him. However, he has been prominently associated with the Dutch baseball team for a long time, albeit on a part-time basis. Twelve years ago, he was already part of the coaching staff of a team that became world champions in dramatic fashion, and in the last two World Baseball Classics, he reached the semi-finals with the Orange. “Although we are seventh in the world rankings, baseball was and remains a small sport in the Netherlands,” says Meulens. “It is difficult to compete with footballers in terms of popularity, but we can and must do more to be visible.”
Meulens has ideas on how to do this. “Our Major League players come to the Netherlands a lot. To visit family or friends, or for a short vacation. Nobody knows these superstars are there, while we can stage everything with these hats, from clinics to contests. I’m sure baseball fans of all Ages would love to see these guys in action.”
To increase visibility, it is important to continue performing with these big stars. On Wednesday, national coach Meulens Kopa will take on the Netherlands national team during the World Baseball Classic in Japan, an unofficial World Cup baseball tournament. Taiwan, Italy and Panama are the other first round contenders.
Fixation of the quarter
The Netherlands, registered as the Kingdom team, has a strong selection, with major league teams giving their professional players permission to participate in the tournament. This is rarely the case with the World Cup and European tournaments. So Mullens could call in Alexander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Jonathan Schopp, Jorickson Brovar and Andrelton Simons. And pitcher Kenley Jansen, who won the World Series in 2020 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be given the opportunity by his new club, the Boston Red Sox, to join the Orange from the quarterfinals.
In addition to the professional players, many baseball players from the Dutch Major League have also been called up. From the Amsterdam Pirates, pitcher Dylan Farley, catcher Seknarf Lobstock, and player Charlon Scoop were selected.
Meulens: “We can draw from a large arsenal of players. In Holland, especially in the Antilles and America, there are a lot of good players with Dutch roots. We can choose them all – and they want to. This is the only and biggest tournament in the world in which professionals can take part . Then you don’t need persuasion to convince the players, no matter how great they are.”
Meulens starts the tournament with high expectations. He wants more than semi-finals this time around. “We are dealing with strong teams, but we are also for our opponents. If you participate, you must dare to set the bar high for yourself. We just want to win this tournament.”
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