“I’m ordinary, not a star.”

“I’m ordinary, not a star.”

Didi Gregorius during the training match against the Czech Republic on Saturday, September 16.Bild Carla Voss

After the last exhibition match on Dutch soil, there is a moment of panic among the MLB management. Didi Gregorius has promised to speak to this newspaper for a while, but the meet-and-greet with Dutch fans along the Neptunus Stadium ended on a high note after the 6-1 training win over the Czechs. Gregory bears it all with that malicious smile. He makes hundreds of scribbles.

But does he still feel like chatting? And the association no longer dares to guarantee it 100 percent, because well… Didi is Didi. “Of course we’ll talk. Let me sit down for a moment,” Gregorius says, much to the staff’s relief, as he finally breaks away from the autograph seekers and heads toward the dugout. He smiles: “Are you still popular here?” Hey, a little…

A kind of family reunion

The 2011 World Champion Knight is a celebrity in the Dutch baseball world. Sir didi He played for the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. His five years with the Yankees were particularly strong. He had the thankless task of succeeding the brilliant Derek Jeter at shortstop, but he succeeded admirably.

With over a decade of major league experience and 134 home runs, Gregorius has been on top 10 lists of the highest-paid Dutch athletes for years. Now after a Mexican adventure and a short stint with the Seattle Mariners Free agent There is scope for participation in European Championships.

“My first European Championship, yes. And we will play to win, that is our goal. “No less, of course not,” promised Gregorius, who has said several times that playing in a Kingdom team where the majority are Antilles feels like a comeback. Home. “You go back to all those boys I knew when we were little. It feels like some kind of family reunion, yes. And it feels good, too, to give back to the sport.

National coach Evert Jant-Hoyne realizes that many stars no longer have an appetite for that once they have tasted the highest level. But his staff contacted Gregorius last month about the European Championship. He immediately said: I am coming. You know, it’s not a World Cup, it’s not a baseball classic, you’re not flying business class, we don’t have our own plane. But he’s not ashamed of it. never. “He wanted to come and I loved it.”

A kind of mentor

Naturally, the Amsterdam-born Curacao hero, who plays in orange, will not find the facilities he is used to. In the lead-up to the European Championship, he played three practice games at the Neptunus for a few hundred people, rather than at Yankee Stadium, which usually seats about 50,000. Has just slept next to the family pitch of the Rotterdam Premier League in a hotel (“Great Van der Valk, beds a bit small”) and at the European Championship selection he was surrounded by players playing in the Premier League and could only dream of his level.

“Of course I have to be sure Modifications “,” he says in a mixture of Dutch and some English jargon. “They may not throw as hard here. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier for me. I don’t know everyone either. For example, if I was faced with a jar that I didn’t see, the guys would help me with that Approaching. Everyone helps everyone here, like one big family.”

Schiedam pitcher Aaron De Groot (23) calls his childhood idol his “childhood idol.” Great leaderA kind of mentor. “He talks to everyone, gives advice and guidance, and tries to help the team,” says De Groot, who described it as a “great honour” to play in a team with Gregorius. National coach Thi Huen: “Of course the boys look up to him, but Didi is a natural Part of the team. He has a lot of experience, knows how to play under pressure, reads the game and gives that to the boys. In fact, it’s not a given, but it does.

A career not yet ready

In front of all those beautiful words, Gregory looked soberly at the ground. down to earth, he will say himself. “I’m just doing my job, just like everyone else here. I’m a very ordinary person, not a star. Helping these boys. And she’s me too.”

He is a millionaire who cares about others besides his career. For example, at his home in Tierra Cura, he created an ultra-modern baseball field for the youth of Curaçao in collaboration with the Diddy Didz Foundation. In the fall of his career he found time to play in the European Championships, after several World Cups. Defending champions Netherlands start against France on Sunday, and according to national team coach Thi Hoen, the Dutch remain the “logical favourites”. So there is a very good chance that Gregorius will soon be able to add a European title to his resume after his World Cup gold.

A potential major award for many of his teammates, but only one that beats a record as rich as Gregorius’. And this career in the promised baseball country of America is not over yet, all clubs can contact him. “What else do I want? Something…” he concludes, casting his eyes dreamily at the bases of Neptune. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, I’m open to everything. Really, it’s not ready for me yet,” he is sure. “I’m only 33, and I’m still young.”

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