Live

Highlights on Off The Ball

12:00 PM-01:00 PM

Highlights on Off The Ball
The Dutch football legends who...
Soccer

The Dutch football legends who were decent at baseball

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

17:00 11 May 2017

It's not a particularly well known fact but Netherlands is the home for baseball in Europe.

While the game comes nowhere near to soccer in the land of Total Football, the Dutch are powerhouses of the US sport on this continent, regularly winning European Championships at youth and senior level.

Indeed, they are currently ranked ninth in the WBSC World Baseball Rankings, making them the second highest ranked European nation ahead of Italy where the game is also relatively popular.  

What is even less well known is that many legendary Dutch footballers exhibited prowess with baseball bats during their childhood and teens and it's something we put to Johan Neeskens in an interview with the 1974 and '78 World Cup great on this week's Newstalk's Team 33.

Indeed, Neeskens who would win three European Cups as a footballer with Ajax in the mid-70s, was quite good at baseball.

"I grew up of course with football and I started in a club when I was 8 years old but then in the same club, they also played baseball," he said.

"I started playing baseball when I was 9 years old and I kept playing baseball until I was 16 years old and I also played in the national youth team of the Netherlands in baseball and I played in my first team when I was 15 and just before I signed with Ajax Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to go on stage for three months to the United States to Chicago Cubs.

"But I preferred to play a little bit more football than baseball and I decided to go on only for the football."

Indeed, Neeskens would win the best batsman award while with Netherlands baseball team at a European Youth Baseball Championship during the 1960s.

"At the age of 14, we played with the national team over there in Rome and I was the best hitter of the tournament."

He's not the only Dutch football icon to have played baseball regularly as a youth. Neeskens' former Netherlands, Ajax and Barcelona team-mate Johan Cruyff discussed his love for the game in his posthumous autobiography and even felt that it contributed to how he saw football, saying, "Playing baseball I learned many details that were useful to football, when you determine the flight of the pitch and judging it as a catcher without a perfect view. That sharpened one of my strengths as a footballer, having a wider field of vision. I learned to think ahead. It has many parallels with football: speed, acceleration, adaptation, balance, spatial awareness, anticipation, and more."

A book called Baseball In Europe: A Country By Country History, also notes that Cruyff attended the 2007 European Baseball Championships in Barcelona, while it also highlights former Dutch sportsman Cor Wilders as a player who combined football with baseball.

Download the brand new OTB Sports App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

Subscribe to Off The Ball's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.


Read more about

Soccer

Live: Title

Description

Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share

Next up in queue

Title
Description
Duration

There are currently no podcasts in the queue

Go to podcasts

On Air

Highlights on Off The Ball

Highlights on Off The Ball

12:00 PM-01:00 PM

Share

Up next

OTB Gold

OTB Gold

01:00 PM-02:00 PM

Share

Highlights on Off The Ball

Highlights on Off The Ball

02:00 PM-03:00 PM

Share

LIVE: Friday Night Racing

LIVE: Friday Night Racing

03:00 PM-04:00 PM

Share

Team 33 Gold

Team 33 Gold

04:00 PM-05:00 PM

Share

Highlights on Off The Ball

Highlights on Off The Ball

05:00 PM-06:00 PM

Share

OTB Gold

OTB Gold

06:00 PM-07:00 PM

Share

LIVE: Off The Ball

LIVE: Off The Ball

07:00 PM-08:00 PM

Share

Repeat: Friday Night Racing

Repeat: Friday Night Racing

08:00 PM-09:00 PM

Share

Team 33

Team 33

09:00 PM-10:00 PM

Share

Repeat: Off The Ball

Repeat: Off The Ball

10:00 PM-12:00 AM

Share

Repeat: OTB AM

Repeat: OTB AM

12:00 AM-02:00 AM

Share

Repeat: Off The Ball

Repeat: Off The Ball

02:00 AM-05:00 AM

Share

Repeat: OTB AM

Repeat: OTB AM

05:00 AM-07:00 AM

Share

Highlights on Off The Ball

Highlights on Off The Ball

07:00 AM-01:00 PM

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on