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Curaçao Finds Glory Days as a Baseball Destination

Do you know what country leads the world in producing the most Major League Baseball players per capita?

It’s not the United States or Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. To experience the nation that arguably possesses the most passion for America’s pastime you would have to travel to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. But not Amsterdam or Rotterdam in Europe.

Curaçao is an independent Dutch Caribbean island that is still part of Holland’s colonial empire. Its citizens hold passports from the Netherlands, speak Dutch, and honor King Willem-Alexander each April 27th with a festive holiday called King’s Night.

Ozzie_Albies_Braves

The Atlanta Braves’ Ozzie Albies is from Curacao’s capital of Willemstad. At top, the New York Yankees’ Didi Gregorious was born in Europe but grew up in Curacao, where he was introduced to baseball. (Wikicommons photos)

When it comes to sports, it’s a New World game that rules the island of 160,000 people. Curaçao produces more major leaguers as a percentage of its population than any other country. According to one database, its rate of “MLBers per million” people is 46.49, a whopping 30-plus points more than the second-place nation, the Dominican Republic, and far higher than the United States’ rate of 2.69.

Entering the start of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, Curaçao has six players on rosters. By comparison, Canada, a nation with approximately 35 million people, only has 11 players in the big leagues.

Discover More: Expert Advice on Visiting Curacao

The history of Curaçao’s affection for baseball dates more than eight decades, when visitors from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela — which is about 60 miles away — imported baseball to the island known for its namesake liqueur and European stylishness. Interest began to spike when Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens debuted with the New York Yankees in 1989, becoming the first player from Curaçao to make it to The Show. Baseball fever became an epidemic after Andruw Jones achieved superstardom with the Atlanta Braves, inspiring legions of Curaçaoan youth to follow in his footsteps.

In 2004, Curaçao won the Little League World Series with a team featuring future major leaguers. Since Meulens broke in with the Yankees, Curaçao has sent 14 more players to the major leagues.

Dodgers-Kenley_Jansen

Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen is one of six players from Curacao currently playing Major League Baseball. (Wikicommons photo)

While spring training draws spectators to Florida and Arizona each winter to catch baseball games in an intimate setting, fans have many reasons to plan a trip to Curaçao. In 2018, the nation’s tourist board signed an “official destination sponsorship agreement” focused on attracting baseball fans to the island, helping them understand why the game is so loved there.

Each November, Baseball Week takes over Curaçao as young players practice their skills while former and present major leaguers interact with fans and residents. Activities take place at Daou Ballpark and Blue Bay Resort.

A visit to Curaçao also has the large bonus of experiencing one of the finest and most unique Caribbean islands. Curaçao is noted for its Dutch culture, intimate beaches, and colourful and historic capital, Willemstad.

Baseball fans will certainly think they’ve scored big when they vacation on the island.

 This article was first published in the Trippzy.com Magazine.

Adrian is the founder of VacayNetwork.com and Vacay.ca, and the co-founder of the travel-trivia app, Trippzy. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction. He has worked with leading destination marketing organizations, developing digital and social media strategies, and providing them with content marketing solutions. He has visited more than 40 countries and spearheaded the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada annual list that debuted in 2012.

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