Special from Pim van Nes (www.mister-baseball.com)
Julio 27, 2012
At approximately half an hour flying from London, the ten days Week of international baseball in Haarlem was completed last Sunday.
The 26th edition of Haarlemse Honkbal Week is considered as a successful baseball event with almost 60.000 fans for six nations from 3 continents: from the Americas USA, Cuba and Puerto Rico, from Asia Japan and Chinese Taipei and from good old Europe the Netherlands. 20 games were scheduled, 19 were played, 16 with a score gap of 3 runs or less This small gap also applied to all games of Chinese Taipei, the team that remained without a victory during the ten days in Haarlem. The Americas took the first three spots in final ranking: Cuba for gold, Puerto Rico for silver and USA for bronze. First without medals was Europe with the Netherlands and second and third without medals were the Asian delegations from Japan and Chinese Taipei.
The tournament started with a rain delay, however on Friday 13th that is just usual bad luck. But the rain came back on Saturday and Sunday and every day the two games scheduled were postponed for only an hour or so. The fans in Haarlem kept on walking, biking and driving to the stadium despite of rain falling down on them those days. On Monday, conditions got much worse and the two games were re-scheduled to next two days, without causing double-headers for any team involved. Wednesday night clash Netherlands-Cuba was the last game to be re-scheduled due to rain. To this purpose one final ranking game was cancelled definitely: the one for fifth place.
Writer Peter C. Bjarkman (right) in representation of BaseballdeCuba.com was requested to present the Press Prize to veteran Cuban catcher Ariel Pestano.
During these wet and cold days Cuba had lost their first two games: 2-3 versus Puerto Rico and 2-5 versus USA. In their game 3, delayed to Tuesday, the reputed players of manager Victor Mesa were close to their third defeat, when trailing 0-1 against Chinese Taipei. Then the Red Machine warmed itself up in the last two innings: 2-1 final. By beating Japan 12-1 on Thursday and the Netherlands 4-0 on Friday, Cuba speeded up from last in ranking to third before the play-offs. Paired with USA (second) and having come back from 0-3 behind, they used the tie breaking tenth inning to win the game (5-3), to clinch a spot in the gold medal finale and to win by 4-3 the seven games series versus USA, which had started with five games in Havana.
Puerto Rico was a pretty latin surprise in Haarlem, where the organization was still remembering the no-show by Venezuela two years ago. Puerto Rico did show up in the Netherlands this month and immediately stunned the local fans with a well deserved victory over Cuba: 3-2. Already on Day 2 they were the sole leader in the ranking, because also the Netherlands were defeated: 5-2. Puerto Rico conserved this position till the end of the preliminary round with all 5 games won. In Saturday’s semi finale the Netherlands were beaten once more by Puerto Rico, which entered the gold medal finale on Sunday as the favorite for many fans in the stadium. Puerto Rico went ahead 1-2, but Cuba tied the score and won the game by 4-2.
The tournament was quite balanced. Six out of fifteen games of the preliminary round resulted in 1 run difference, nine games had a maximum difference of two runs or less and twelve had 3 runs or less difference in the final score. Even all games losing Chinese Taipei always finished short after the winner with 3 runs or less difference. Apart from the 0-4 for Cuba against the Netherlands, the only two big gaps were 18-3 for the Netherlands against Japan and 12-1 for Cuba also against Japan. After their 18 runs against Japan, the Netherlands suffered from a 3 games streak of shut-outs: 0-1 against USA and Puerto Rico and 0-4 against Cuba. However, Dutch short stop Michael Duursma turned out to be the best hitter of the six teams tournament with a batting average of .429.
Milestones in over 50 years of history for Haarlem Honkbal Week were run 4000 scored by Antonio Candelaria (Puerto Rico), homerun 700 by Frederich Cepeda (Cuba) and hit 7000 by Ariel Pestano (Cuba). Pestano (38 years of age) also got awarded the Press Prize of Haarlem Week tournament, which invited a jury of five baseball writers who had attended the entire schedule, included the rain-outs: those of Haarlems Dagblad, Haarlems Weekblad, USASports.nl, BaseballdeCuba.com and Mister-Baseball.com. The senior of this jury, 71 years old Peter Bjarkman from USA was requested to present this press prize to Pestano during the cheerful closing ceremony after the fifth Cuban victory in the tournament: the gold medal finale versus Puerto Rico (4-2).
On Friday in London, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge will open officially the first Olympic Games of this century without baseball and softball.