The general consensus is that the Texas Rangers‘ Jurickson Profar is the #1 prospect in the game today, and he has been in the news lately concerning his decision to play or not play for the Netherlands in the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic. Initially Profar made it known that he would play for the Netherlands. Then as quickly as news surfaced that he decided not to play, he made it known that he was undecided.
That is where we stand now at the start of spring training.
The final rosters for the Classic have to be filed by next Wednesday February 20, and Profar is going to take his time to make his decision. He is receiving pressure from his native Curacao to suit up for the Netherlands, but he is also in a position to possibly compete for an spot on the Opening Day roster for the Texas Rangers.
So what should Profar do?
For the sake of the game, I hope he chooses to play for the Netherlands.
International baseball has suffered since the Olympic Committee dropped the sport after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Many countries cut funding for the sport since there was no Olympic program any longer.
Now the World Baseball Classic is the signature event in the international world, and for the good of the game the sport needs to continue to grow internationally.
The Netherlands played a huge part in the 2009 World Baseball Classic stunning the Dominican Republic twice while advancing to the second round of play. They were the only European team to advance, and they did it with pitching and defense.
The Netherlands never scored more than three runs in a game in the 2009 Classic. They did it with older players who were past their prime and with only a smattering of MLB experience. The most experienced hitter was Randall Simon, better known for hitting the Italian sausage in the Milwaukee Sausage Race with a bat. Simon hadn’t played in the Major Leagues for five seasons when he suited up for the Netherlands.
This go around the Netherlands have a lot more experience on the offensive side of the ball, and Profar would make a great addition to the lineup. He would be playing alongside the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons and the Nationals’ Roger Bernadina. Not to mention that former Major Leaguer Andruw Jones and a lot of great young prospects will be suiting up for the Dutch.
The time is now to help baseball in Europe continue to grow which, in turn, will only help Major League Baseball in the future.
In 2012, there were 243 players from other countries on Opening Day 25-man rosters. That computes to 28.4 percent of the players representing 15 countries and territories. That was the second most in the history of Major League Baseball trailing only the 246 in 2007.
Of those 243 players in 2012, four were from Curacao which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In total there were only five players from Europe (1 from Italy) on Opening Day rosters. The game needs to grow in Europe and the World Baseball Classic is the best way to accomplish that right now. It is virtually an untapped market right now with plenty of great athletes, and a strong showing from a European country will only help further the cause of the game on a worldwide level.
Perhaps a good showing will also help persuade the Olympic Committee to reinstate baseball as one of the sports for the 2020 Olympic Games this September when they will vote to include an additional sport or not.