In addition to its wealth of talent, Team Netherlands is one of the most cohesive squads in the tournament because many of its best players grew up together on the two islands, which have a combined population of just 250,000. Their coach, Hensley Meulens (known as “Bam Bam”), the first player from Curaçao to make it to the majors, tutored many of those currently on his roster, who consider him a godfather of sorts.
“I’ve probably given clinics to all of them over the last 25 years, and now they are helping me give clinics to little kids in the community,” said Meulens, who broke in with the Yankees in 1989. “I opened up the door, but these guys, you know, they’ve had some great years, and people look up to them.”
In addition to Bogaerts, Gregorius and Simmons, Meulens also has outfielder Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers, who hit a home run in the opener, the brothers Jonathan and Sharlon Schoop of the Orioles’ organization, and Wladimir Balentien, who holds the season home run record in Japan. Meulens’ team would have been stronger if two other players, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and Roger Bernadina, a fleet-footed outfielder who spent seven seasons in the major leagues before heading to South Korea, were on the roster.
Still, unlike the teams from, say, the Dominican Republic or Japan, Team Netherlands clearly has a polyglot roster. A handful of players, like van der Meer and Lars Huijer, are 100 percent Dutch and have played in the eight-team Dutch league, Koninklijke Nederlandse Baseball. Other Dutch players, like Rick van den Hurk, who started Tuesday’s game, played in M.L.B. before joining teams in Japan. Still others, like Kalian Sams, who was born in The…