Dutch baseball · Dutch Hoofdklasse · Uncategorized

Hoofdklasse baseball: A more attractive league… But how and at what cost?

In the past five years it was rather easy to predict the top four in the Dutch Hoofdklasse baseball competition. Most of the time, Neptunus, Pirates, Kinheim and Pioniers were the ones that decided who would become the Dutch champion. 
To change this the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation (KNBSB for short), is trying to make the competition more attractive to draw more fans to the ballparks. But what is needed to do so?


After two rounds of the 2016 season, it looks like that the results are not to predict as easy as they were because more teams are each other’s match.It looks like if the competition has become more interesting because of the unpredictable results. Who had ever thought that De Glaskoning Twins would beat Curacao Neptunus. Who would think that HCAW is in fourth place after two rounds.
But with a more attractive competition, the game itself is not helped yet. What has happened so far is that the top four has become a top two. For the two remaining play off spots, more teams will compete. But this is not because those teams have gotten stronger.  It looks like if the level in the Hoofdklasse has deteriorated. Do you want proof? Well, in two rounds (24 games in total) the number of errors committed is a whopping 81. Eighty-one errors in just 24 games. That is an average of a bit more than three errors per game. Even a top team like Neptunus has committed six errors in the six games that they have played already.

Here is an overview of the number of errors committed per team after two rounds.

Neptunus 6
Pirates 10
Kinheim 15
Pioniers 7
Twins 5
HCAW 13
DSS 11
UVV 14
81

Eighty-one errors. IMO the level of play in the Dutch Hoofdklasse has been leveled down.Last year the average number of errors was 1.81 per game. Perhaps the cold weather will influence the number of errors but still it is a big raise.
When this will go on, countries like Germany and the Czech Republic may overtake the Netherlands. Don’t even talk about Italy, although it must be said that Italian baseball is not in a good shape either.

How to make the Hoofdklasse more attractive for fans?

What must happen to improve the level of play in the long run? Right now the richer teams can get the better players, so the gap between the top two and the rest widens. In my humble opinion a new set of rules should be implemented to prevent clubs from raiding other team’s rosters. The major part of a Hoofdklasse team should exist of home grown players; not players that have been “bought” but players that have been brought up through the club’s youth organization. I realize this will take time before all clubs have a decent baseball education system in place. But in this area, the baseball academies can be a big help with the expertise that they have. Of course there will always be positions that cannot be filled with home grown players. In those exceptions, clubs should be allowed to “buy” only one or two players from other clubs. In this way clubs will be prevented from being robbed from a lot of their best players. I realize that this rule will have all sorts of details and complications to be sorted out, but you have to start somewhere. In the long run the level in the Hoofdklasse will get better because the good players will play with various clubs and not only with the top two or top four. Also team Kingdom of the Netherlands can benefit from this in the long run.

Euro League Baseball

Another solution may be a better cooperation with the Euro League Baseball. The KNBSB has forbidden Dutch clubs to participate in 2016. If the Dutch members of the ELB are allowed to play, they will need more players, that must be borrowed from other Hoofdklasse clubs. If those players will play more games, they will get better, so their own clubs will benefit from it as well.

On – and off field entertainment

Right now, the games in the Hoofdklasse are hardly advertised. One sole exception may be Twins from Oosterhout that is promoting the games by visiting schools and homes of the elderly, with their mascot Sammy Slugger. In between the innings, silly games are played for the kids. If more clubs would have similar entertainment and promotions, the fans could come back to the ballparks. But of course a club must have enough volunteers to make all this happen. Without those, it is almost impossible to organize the on- and off field entertainment. Another thing that may help is the use of stewards , something that the Munich-Haar Disciples do. Those stewards wear yellow vests and if people with not much baseball knowledge have questions, they can turn to those stewards for information about the game and the rules. Perhaps silly minor league like promotions  or giveaways will attract fans. I realize that this will cost money, but doesn’t the proverb say that you have to spend money to make money?

Media

Many baseball fans including me are complaining about the little attention that our beloved sport gets in the Dutch media. But to make the media pay attention to our sport, we must make sure that more fans will visit the games in the Hoofdklasse. Without the necessary fans, the media will stay away too.

No doubt about it that there will be more ideas to draw more fans to the ballparks. But these are the ones that came to my mind and I thought that it was worth mentioning them. In the last couple of months, the KNBSB held brainstorming sessions and invited everyone who was interested. If these sessions have brought only one good idea, they are a success and a step into the right direction.

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5 thoughts on “Hoofdklasse baseball: A more attractive league… But how and at what cost?

  1. Just want to contribute my thoughts – I’ve been broadcasting the Disciples games for the last three years and our viewers both online and in the park have doubled each year. In my opinion, the idea that ‘if you can watch a game on the internet, the fans will stay away’ is 100% not true. MLB used to have this position 85 years ago, and they forbid local radio stations from covering the games. Funny thing was, the only people coming to games were gamblers, drunkards, and a generally rowdy bunch. Once radio broadcasts were allowed, suddenly entire families understood the game in a way they never had before, and MLB started attracting crowds 3x, 4x the size. Think of it this way – if you want to see a concert, would you rather watch it on TV or go see it live? The other thing the broadcasts do is help fans maintain a connection to their team. If the only way to follow a game is live in the stadium or over some play-by-play app, then only the absolute hardcore fans will remain loyal. You won’t attract casual fans. Fans in the modern era want to be able to follow their teams and experience the game. I became a huge baseball fan as a kid not because I was able to go to the games (too far away), but because I could listen on radio, and maybe once a week watch a game on TV. Fans want a connection to their team and broadcasts are one of the best ways to do that, along with all of the other things you mention in this post. Cheers, Tim

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      1. For the broadcasts so far this year we have had about 1000 on average. In the park around 250, even with some bad weather. Both are up from last year significantly.

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  2. I have mixed feelings about this. If you can watch a game on the internet, fans will stay away. But on the other hand it gives the much needed attention.
    I agree that the play-by-play on the website of the KNBSB is outdated. They should look at the play-by-play of the Minor Leagues. That one is clear. I realize it will cost money to improve it, but I think that the Federation owes that to the loyal fans.

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  3. Another point for me would be to online coverage. E.g. the German Bundesliga’s “liveticker”, is really professional (http://www.baseball-bundesliga.de/liveticker/) and you can follow play-by-play via the GameChanger website. Compared to that the Dutch live scores (http://www.knbsbstats.nl/2016/HB/scheduleHB.htm) look extremely “home made”. No offense to the person that implemented that, it was certainly good work in the early 2000, but now it looks very outdated.

    Also the web TV coverage: each week there are always several Bundesliga games live broadcast on the web, sometimes with remarkable quality.

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