LOS ANGELES – Wladimir Balentien was a unanimous selection to the World Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team after an outstanding performance for the Netherlands, while teammate Jurickson Profar was only a step behind. Balentien hit .615, setting WBC records with 12 RBI and 16 hits in a single Classic, including a 3-for-4 semifinal game in which he launched his fourth home run. Profar, on the other hand, was second on the club with a. 464 average and a team-leading five doubles.
Balentien is now tied for second all-time in RBI (17), third in average (.469), and fifth all-time in hits (23) after only two tournaments. The outfielder has been playing in Japan for the last six years, and has excelled for the Yakult Swallows, hitting 185 home runs over roughly five seasons, including a record-breaking 60 in 2014. Profar has been struck by the injury big since debuting at 19 with Rangers, but the versatile 24-year old will be Texas’ leftfielder this year.
After the Orange were eliminated in a 4-3, 11-inning heartbreaker, both players spoke briefly with reporters in the tunnels outside the Netherlands’ clubhouse.
Tony DeMarco, Fanrag Sports: Can you talk about Balentien and the tournament he had? Have you seen him that much before?
Jurickson Profar: Yeah I saw him, but he had a great tournament and I hope he gets a chance to come back to the States and play in the major leagues. I think he can do it. He is a great hitter, not only power, but a great hitter.
TD: Can you just talk about the tournament you had? You had an incredible tournament on a world stage. I know you’re signed with Yakult, but do think about the future beyond that?
Wladimir Balentien: I am always thinking that I can get a second chance to play in the major leagues and I think to be at this tournament at this level—I worked for this, I was focussed, I want to win. I don’t know if I will be here in four years, I’m getting older, but I did all I can do for my country to hope to finish what we left four years ago. It don’t end the way we want, but we’ll regroup and come back.
Gabriel Fidler: What’s it going to take for the Netherlands to get that one step closer, that one out, that one run closer for the next World Baseball Classic?
JP: We had a great chance tonight. We were there, it’s not like we got blown away. It was a great game. It could have gone either way.
WB: We have to continue to play the way we do. It’s just that one hit. We had that chance in the tenth inning with the bases loaded. They had that great pitcher on the mound, [those are] things that can happen. We need to focus more, try to get that hit when we really need it. I think if we keep this group like it is right now, we have a chance to do something special next time.
GF: And what does this mean back home in the Caribbean islands and maybe also in the Netherlands for the development [of baseball]?
JP: It means a lot. Fans back home watch us since we were little kids and now they have a chance to watch us on T.V. We’re doing a great job, we have a lot of players. Soon we are going to have a lot more major leaguers.
WB: It means a lot. Viewers all over the country, the Netherlands and Curaçao, a lot of young boys are looking at us. This kind of tournament and the way we played inspires a lot of young kids so I think we did a great job and hopefully we get those guys to do positive things and continue to stay in the positive way and, hopefully, in four years or eight years, they will be the one playing for our country.
GF: I’ve seen several writers in the last tournament, everyone was very surprised that in the last tournament that the Netherlands team was good. In this tournament, people are no longer surprised, because you proved yourself last tournament. You come just a few feet away from advancing to the final. What are your thoughts on the way that people’s thoughts on Dutch baseball have changed in four years?
JP: People are very proud of us. We play for the Netherlands, but a lot of us are from Curaçao, a very small island and to have good players like we do is a big thing for the island.
GF: Are you conscious of the fact that you’re representing a European country as well as your home island? Not actually having grown up in Europe, how do you feel about that?
JP: It’s normal for us. All of my family lives in the Netherlands, so I go there every off-season. It’s normal.
GF: Thanks very much.
The two players will likely not don the Orange-and-Black together until the 2021 World Baseball Classic, where the Netherlands will seek to advance to the WBC championship game for the first time ever after back-to-back semi-final losses.