SAN FRANCISCO -- Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven is best known for his years with the Minnesota Twins, but during this particular stretch of March, his identity is wrapped up in his native country.
Blyleven was born in the Netherlands where both of his parents were born and raised. The family moved to Canada when Blyleven was 2 and to California when he was 5.
Serving as the pitching coach to the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a tribute to his mom and dad, both of whom are deceased. His mother passed away in December; his dad, in 2004.
"Every time that Dutch national anthem is played, I think of them," he said. "I thank them for giving me an opportunity to play a game that I fell in love with."
Dutch manager right at home for title round
SAN FRANCISCO -- Kingdom of the Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens has been all over the place for the World Baseball Classic in the last month, but he's landed in a familiar spot for the most important round. As the hitting coach for the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, Meulens will be right at home when his team takes the field at AT&T Park on Monday.
Entering his fourth season with the Giants, Meulens will be in the opposite dugout from what he's used to, as the Kingdom of the Netherlands -- whose main uniform color is orange, just like the Giants -- will be the visiting team when it plays the Dominican Republic. But even if he is slightly displaced, still, there's no place like home, right?
"I think it's a great honor just to be able to be the manager of this team," Meulens said. "Moving into the final round here, into our park here where I work, where we won a championship two out of the last three years, wearing the same colors. ... I think that winning one more championship in the same color, that will be great."
Meulens' playing days too far removed for Profar
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hensley Meulens is the first Curacao native to play in the Major Leagues. He has rock star-like status in his native homeland. Do an Internet search of his name, and you'll find stories about his pending trip to outer space in 2014. (Truly. He was selected to be one of three celebrities to travel to space as a part of Space Expedition Curacao.)
But for many of the players he is managing in the World Baseball Classic, Meulens -- as a Major League player -- happened a little too long ago for them to remember.
The 45-year-old Meulens good-naturedly listened to his prized pupil, Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar, talk to assembled media about playing with Andruw Jones, a native of Curacao who is the elder statesman on the Kingdom of the Netherlands club.
"He had a lot of influence [on me]," Profar said. "We all grew up watching him play. Every player. He was the only one there when I grew up. So everyone was watching him, and everyone wanted to be like him."
Feigning incredulity, Meulens said, "What do you mean, you never watched me play?"
"Too old, man," Profar shot back, laughing.
"A lot of these guys [on Team Netherlands] grew up together. They played Little League. They played in the Little League World Series together. Now they're playing at a high level as far as the [World Baseball Classic].You see the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Japan -- teams that take a lot of pride in their country. I'm not saying the USA does not, but I don't think you can get a bunch of All-Stars together and all of a sudden let them develop within one or two days. We've had almost a month to get ready for this. That, I think, is one reason why we've been successful."
-- Bert Blyleven, on possible reasons why Team USA did not advance to the championship round.
• Manager Hensley Meulens is fluent in five languages: Dutch, English, Japanese, Spanish and Papiamento. He was given the nickname "Bam-Bam" after hitting left-handed in a softball game and launching shot after shot over the fence, prompting his friends to compare him to the "Flintstones" character.
• The fact that the Kingdom of the Netherlands players have been working together for so long may be a key factor in how well they've performed in the tournament. The players first started working out together as early as Feb. 9, even though their official first day on the job didn't arrive until Feb. 25.
• The players appear to be handling the jet-lag aspect of international travel well, taking extra precautions to get plenty of rest and eat well. The team spent nine days in Taiwan, one week in Japan and then was off to Phoenix for exhibition games with the Padres and Mariners before heading to San Francisco for the championship round.
• Infielder Jurickson Profar said he has been to Holland twice: once when he was six and again last year. "No baseball," he said. "It was too cold."