Photo: Michelanka Zwiverlohn
August 29, 2023 | Michelanka Zwiverlon and John Samson
Curaçao’s young baseball players became international champions in the United States for the second time in a row. They were ceremonially received on the island. “This is very special for such a small island!”
The airport arrivals hall is crowded. Several children in baseball uniforms distribute Curaçao flags to the audience. In the distance carnival trailers and buses wait, while tourists wonder what’s going on.
Suddenly it was announced that the Curaçao minor league team is here. Boys aged 11-12 have become ‘international champions’ after beating all the major nations. They couldn’t win the last match, on record against America, so they can’t call themselves ‘world champions’.
“This is so special!”
Curaçao has a population of about 150,000, and it struggles against large countries like Australia (25 million people) and Japan (125 million people). “It’s hard to find our island on a world map. And then you beat a country so big!” says baseball fan Miguel. “Very special!”
Baseball is one of the favorite sports in Curaçao. Curaçao, along with the Dominican Republic, is the main supplier of top players to the United States. Many students dream of becoming a professional Major League Baseball player in the United States, which is the absolute pinnacle.
This victory means something big to the boys and their families. “They threw themselves into the international spotlight, and now they can only grow up,” said Miguel.
Willemstad is decorated all over
After a number of interviews at the airport, the boys board the trailers and follow the carnival route to Brionplaine in Otrobanda, where the official opening takes place. The city is decorated with the colors of the Curaçao flag. A stage is set up where the musical instruments are ready. After the speeches there will be a party until late at night.
Dayron Martina is the coach’s cousin. “When I was a kid, I played against Zino Everett, and now he’s leading this winning team!” he says proudly. According to him, Al Jazeera is also ready for more positive news out of all the negative news. “It inspires us and shows us as a people that we can achieve great things.”
In the past 20 years, Curaçao has reached the finals of the World Junior Championships no fewer than five times. times more than any other team.
What makes Curaçao special is that it is not played on grass, but on hard sand. The island will not have the luxury budget of baseball, as it does in the United States. Meanwhile, Dayron Youth hopes their sports facilities will improve. He believes that young people will then achieve more. “I think because of this great achievement, our politicians will now invest more in sports.”
Money for a new baseball stadium
The Besas Cabinet brings news during the festive ceremony later in the evening: 3 million guilders will be released to upgrade the Little League Ballpark, where youngsters train and hold competitions.
Four team managers get a day pass at an all-inclusive hotel. All winning boys will get daily entry tickets to the water park resort.
A few weeks ago, the Curaçao baseball team also became champions of the Senior League. Even world champion. Cabinet decided Giving all civil servants half a day off for this opening. The Curaçao Businessmen’s Association and the Chamber of Commerce have called on politicians to save more on tax money.
“Promotion in the US is invaluable”
It could also be economically profitable for the island, Sports Minister Sethrie van Heedron believes. The island survives on tourism, and the attention the island has received among Americans is “something we can’t afford”. “We attract attention everywhere. In restaurants people stand up to applaud and congratulate us. Even police officers.”
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