The Royal Dutch Baseball Federation has named former big leaguer Rick van den Hurk their new Head of Baseball Operations, the organization announced. Van den Hurk is a veteran baseball man, having logged time in parts of six big league seasons, as well as playing overseas in Korea and Japan. The 36-year-old will now pilot the Dutch program into a future that will include appearances in the World Baseball Classic, European A-Pool championship, Honkbalweek Haarlem, and perhaps even the 2028 Olympic Games.
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Rick van den Hurk made his major league debut on 10 April, 2007 with the Marlins, and went on to appear in each season through 2011 with the Marlins, Orioles and Pirates. Over 183.2 career big league innings the 6’5” right-hander logged a 6.08 ERA to go with 179 strikeouts and a 1.63 WHIP. Van den Hurk would go on to have more success in Korea with the Samsung Lions, and Japan with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Tokyo Yakult Swallows. He officially retired earlier this year, before transitioning into the role he now fills for the Royal Dutch Baseball Federation.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands finds itself in quite an advantageous position, as players hailing from baseball powerhouse Curaçao, as well as Aruba and Sint Maarten are eligible to suit up for the Dutch National Team. Curaçao has produced a bevy of MLB stars, including Braves legend Andruw Jones and modern-day stars Ozzie Albies and Kenley Jansen, among others. Aruba has a less illustrious baseball history, but has been put on the map in the last decade with the emergence of Red Sox superstar Xander Bogaerts. Sint Maarten has yet to export a major leaguer, but has developed a handful of Dutch national players and successful minor leaguers, most recently Giants and Mariners farmhand Franklin Van Gurp. As for the Netherlands proper, Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius is the only active player born in country. However, Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven was born in Holland before moving to the United States as a child. Much like in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be able to draw on a rich talent pool for future international competitions.
However, van den Hurk isn’t solely focused on the program’s established MLB talent. He also wants to keep growing the game at the youth level, stating, “This starts in the grass roots with local clubs and the output of talents within the national development programs. The target is clear: to get the Dutch youth to play baseball.” With a developing youth pipeline and a bevy of high-quality stars, the Royal Dutch Baseball Federation is in a great position moving forward. Van den Hurk has high hopes for the program, saying, “The athlete in me already has my sights set on the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were to win an Olympic medal as the Kingdom of the Netherlands? It’s my job to figure out how to build an infrastructure that will help us reach those goals and ambitions.”
The Dutch will take the field in the Netherlands in July for Honkbalweek Haarlem, squaring off against international juggernauts Cuba and Italy, as well as the USA Collegiate National Team. Next year, the focus will shift to the World Baseball Classic, where they’ll face off against the best baseball nations in the world. It’s an exciting time for Dutch baseball fans, and Rick van den Hurk is right at the center of it.