Rookie's Dutch ties mean little in Netherlands
Boston Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts is one of the surprises of the World Series, and still almost unknown in the Netherlands despite his Dutch connection.
Dutch sports news shows have reported on his exploits on baseball's biggest stage and even sent a camera crew to his home town on the Caribbean island of Aruba in the Dutch Antilles, but he is still far from a household name.
Bogaerts, a shortstop or third baseman, was barely known in Boston until recently, but he's made his mark for the Red Sox in the World Series, helping his team take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Game 6 is Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
''He's in the news, but if he arrived at (Amsterdam's) Schiphol Airport tomorrow I don't think there'd be crowds of people waiting for him,'' said Peter Meijers, the Netherlands national baseball team manager who has worked with Bogaerts. ''He wouldn't be recognized on the street here. I think it will be a different story in Boston and on Aruba.''
Bogaerts became the third-youngest player to hit a triple in the World Series when he opened the fifth inning of Game 3 of the series with a shot to right-center. It was Bogaerts' first triple in the majors.
Only Hall of Famers Ty Cobb in 1907 and Mickey Mantle in 1952 were younger. Both were 20 when they hit World Series triples.
On Monday, Bogaerts helped start a Red Sox rally with a single in the top of the seventh inning that set his team on course for a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals.
All this from a kid who was only called up to the big leagues in August.
Despite being only 21, he has plenty of international experience. He was in the Netherlands team that won the World Championships in 2011 and lost 4-1 to the Dominican Republic in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic in March.
While baseball is a minor sport in the soccer-crazy Netherlands - about 24,000 people play baseball or softball - it is far more popular in the Netherlands Antilles, an island chain that includes Aruba.
Bogaerts is not the first Dutch national to make a splash in the World Series.
Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven won the World Series in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and again in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins. Andruw Jones lost in 1996 with the Atlanta Braves, although he did become the youngest player to hit a homer in the World Series at 19 - clearing the fence twice in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.
Now Bogaerts' success is putting Dutch baseball in the spotlight again, despite games being played in the middle of the night in the Netherlands and not being broadcast on free TV.
''People in the Netherlands like it when we do well, but they don't follow it really closely,'' Meijers said. ''I think that on Aruba, where Bogaerts comes from, it is crazy at the moment.''