How To Become a Knight

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In 2011, The Kingdom of The Netherlands baseball team entered the World Cup as heavy, heavy underdogs.  I mean HEAVY … as in even their own national media gave them no chance. The Dutch media sent exactly zero representatives to Panama to cover the tournament.

In retrospect, The Netherlands had some talent. Three players, Didi Gregorius, Xander Boegarts, and Johnathan Schoop would go on to play in the major leagues, but at the time of the tournament, they were all in the low minors.  When the Dutch manager, Brian Farley took over the team 14 months earlier, no one in the baseball community believed The Netherlands could rise to the level of international powers.  And, even among the most optimistic fans — not even in their wildest dreams —  could have imagined The Dutch playing Cuba in the finals of the 2011 World Baseball Cup.  Manifesting the results of months of hard, smart work, The Dutchmen had shown flashes of brilliance in prior months, losing to the mighty Cubans in the semifinal. Still, not many in Holland, or in the world for that matter, had any confidence that the team would rise to the level of World Champion.

In 2011, things would be different.

The championship tournament, which featured the 16 best teams in the world and was held in Panama. It was the 39th and final Baseball World Cup. To make it to the final, the Netherlands beat the US, South Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Venezuela, Australia, Greece, and Cuba.  Their only loss was an extra-inning affair to Canada. After the team soundly defeated Venezuela on October 14th to get to the final, the Dutch media finally went on alert, frenetically packed their gear, and stormed the Panamanian island to cover the emerging “miracle in the jungle.”

The Netherlands’ opponent for the final, The Cuban National Team, was widely regarded in international baseball circles as one of the most invincible casts of superstars ever assembled. The Cuban team featured seven future major leaguers and a power-packed lineup of fastball pounding studs. The two teams had squared off just 2 days earlier, the Dutch claiming a shocking 4-1 upset win. Both teams entered the finals with 10-1 records for the tournament.  Everyone around the international game was keenly aware of one of the most daunting, intimidating, and seemingly insurmountable truths in international baseball:

The Cubans had never lost to a team twice in the same international event. Before the final game, Brian Farley gave the most inspirational pre-game speech in Dutch baseball history. And his team responded.

The pitcher for the Dutch was Rob Cordemans, an aging righty with a mid 80s  fastball, and a bugs bunny change-up.  In the 2010 Intercontinental Cup, Cordemans had faced the Cubans in the gold medal game but lasted less than 4 innings in a 4-1 loss.  That was 2010.  In 2011, the results would be different.

As I learned in a May 2018 Amsterdam dinner conversation with Tjerk Smeets (an assistant coach for the 2011 squad and now the Dutch National Team GM, weather wreaked havoc on the entire tournament and adversely impacted both teams leading up to and including the final game.  After warming up twice and then sitting to wait out consecutive 1-hour rain delays, Cordemans, Holland’s unlikely 37-year-old hero sat on a bucket in the dugout in a wide-based posture.  He stared into an abyss, eyes fixed on something far off but unseen.  He never made eye contact with anyone or engaged in even the slightest dialogue.  He barely even blinked.  He just sat there … staring into space and flipping a baseball 10 inches up into the air repeatedly with his fingers and wrist while resting his weary right arm on his thigh.

And he did it for 4 hours.

According to Brian Farley, the team had a policy that if a pitcher warmed up twice, he had to either go into the game or he was done for the day. However, in this case, “I wasn’t about to take him out of that game. He was LOCKED IN.  I had never seen anything like it.”

This was Rob Corderman’s day.

When the rain broke, Cordermans warmed up for the third time, then pitched one of the greatest games of his career. He held the mighty Cubans to just 2 hits and 1 run through 7 1/3rd innings on 119 pitches. The Dutch relievers closed the door leading to a Netherlands’ dogpile and a brisk ice-water dowsing of their manager.   The Kingdom of The Netherlands had claimed its first ever World Baseball Title!   Holland erupted with excitement! They held a parade and a celebratory dinner during which the head coach, Sir Brian Farley, and all of his players were officially knighted by the King himself!

When you consider the limited number of baseball players in the pool from which The Netherlands has to pull talent, it’s pretty incredible that they’ve risen to the upper echelon of worldwide performance in just a few years. Brian Farley and his staff were certainly innovative and highly effective at utilizing the leading edge skill acquisition concepts taught by their team of motor learning specialists.  Having seen the principles implemented first hand during my trip to Holland,  I believe Dutch Baseball is light years ahead of the rest of the world in its application of the science of skill acquisition and motor learning.  Their training is different and THAT is their separator.

And it can be a difference maker for you and your team as well.

On Sep 8th and 9th we are combining with The Dutch National Baseball Federation to present the first annual Florida Baseball Ranch and Dutch Baseball Skill Acquisition Summit.  This is going to be a game-changer for sure!




Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch®




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