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.
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?
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.