MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the last eight years, the Netherlands’ national baseball team has seen something of a youth movement, with players like Andruw Jones, Gene Kingsale, and Sidney Ponson retiring, and players like Andrelton Simmons and Kenley Jansen become leaders. The next wave of talent is already on the way, and Jiandido Tromp is the latest in a growing number of Dutch Caribbean players to reach the high minors.
Tromp signed with the Phillies in 2011 when he was 17, and began play the following year in the Gulf Coast League. By 2013, he was a New York-Penn League All-Star, hitting .299/.353/.430, and repeated the feat the following season when he hit .266/.325/.498.
Despite the two previous All-Star selections and the raw tools he has flashed throughout his minor league career, it was not last season that Tromp started to truly tap into his talents. Between two levels of A-ball, the outfielder hit .258/.313/.483, adding 14 stolen bases.
This year, however, has seen the Aruban native truly break out. Tromp earned the promotion to Double-A after his solid 2016 and has rewarded the Phillies’ vote of confidence with a huge season. Including a three-game stint in Triple-A, the now 23-year-old is slashing .293/.343/.521 while showing excellent range at both corner outfield positions.
As a result, Tromp was tabbed to his third All-Star Game, but first in three seasons. Tied for twelfth in home runs and No. 13 in slugging percentage for the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the young Aruban was also asked to suit up for the Game’s Home Run Derby.
We had our first look at Tromp in Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. For more on the event, check out our recap. Tromp, standing at 5-11 and 175 pounds, looked relaxed and confident as he stepped to the plate wearing his red socks up to his knees and only a Reading cap on his head.
Showcasing a line drive swing and a lithe body, Tromp’s attempts saw multiple balls stroked into the gaps, mostly to the right-hander’s pull side, with plenty up-the-middle. In two minutes, Tromp availed himself well, ripping five out of the park, but was eliminated by Gabriel Quintana, who slugged the most longballs of any player in the derby. A day later, he started for the Eastern League’s East Division as the designated hitter, batting fifth, and played five innings, going 0-for-3, playing a few frames in left.
Afterwards, we spoke to the thoughtful and focussed Tromp while he signed autographs. He was happy to discuss baseball in Aruba, the World Baseball Classic, and his season, and our chat is worth a listen on our Soundcloud station or below.
Gabriel Fidler: We’re here with Jiandido Tromp at the Eastern League All-Star Game, just finished the Home Run Derby. Jiandido, you got selected to play in the Home Run Derby, and it looked like you were having some fun out there.
Jiandido Tromp: Yeah, it was fun! It’s an honour, it’s a big field with no fun, but it was definitely fun.
GF: Did you feel relaxed out there or did you feel like you needed to put on a display?
JT: Not really, I was just going to have fun, it’s still baseball and whatever you do in baseball, you gotta have fun. So, whatever happens, happens.
GF: You’re originally from Aruba, and with the success of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the last couple World Baseball Classics as well dating back further to the Baseball World Cup, baseball in Dutch-speaking nations is really on the rise. Can you reflect on what your place is in this growth of baseball in the Dutch Caribbean and in the Netherlands?
JT: In the Caribbean and with the Dutch we have a lot of young talent, a lot of good young players that are coming up, and what I will say is, expect more from us—not just to get to the semis in the Classic, but we might have a team to win the whole thing in a couple years.
GF: I was speaking with Andrelton Simmons in LA a couple months ago (link), and we were talking about just the same thing. It’s almost like the tip of the iceberg right now with the young talent. He mentioned that you all grew up watching Andruw Jones and he was really the first after Hensley Meulens to really make it big. Is it easier now growing up in Aruba and playing baseball?
JT: Yes, because just like [Andrelton] said, he grew up watching Andruw Jones, and we now have more players to look up to, and that’s what the young players are doing and they’re doing their best to get to professional baseball and keep progressing. I believe in the coming future, we will be pretty good.
GF: One of the main concerns, as I understand it, in the Dutch-speaking islands in the Caribbean is funding. Kenley Jansen was telling me (link) that a lot of places still don’t have great facilities and things like bats and balls are mostly donated by players. Can you talk about baseball fields and equipment in Aruba?
JT: He’s right. All that he said was right, but hopefully, we can get more facilities down there in Aruba and Curaçao so we can develop more young players and more future stars.
GF: And what do you think is the significance back home for events like the World Baseball Classic for fans and for people who don’t follow baseball as much back home?
JT: It means a lot when you have someone from your country playing for your team and reaching that far, it’s a promotion to your country, too. The people from Aruba and Curaçao are just happy to see their native players play on that stage.
GF: And do you think as a result of that it’s become more normal to think of baseball as an Aruban and a Curaçaoan sport?
JT: Hopefully it does so we can get more promotion, but I believe it will.
GF: This year the Netherlands came so, so close to advancing to the finals for the first time in the WBC. It was really just one hit, one play away, but that’s not to say that they didn’t play well enough. They played incredibly against a team that hadn’t even lost. What were you feeling as you were watching this?
JT: I was hyped! I was watching that at the house, and I got excited. A part of me felt like I wanted to be there to witness that, but that’s not all. You can see right there that we are progressing, and I think we will win the whole thing one day!
GF: Your confidence is echoed by a lot of your potential future teammates that I was speaking to, and watching guys like Wladimir Balentien hitting that massive home run early in the game to get the Dutch on the board and the entire exploding out of the dugout—I’m guessing you, just watching from a television, felt your heart filling with excitement and pride.
JT: I got a chance to meet [Wladimir] in person two years ago, and he is a big guy! I know what he’s capable of and he showed it in this World Baseball Classic. It was a pretty cool experience!
GF: Now back to you, you’ve got a nice little moment here yourself. This is your third All-Star Game, your first at the Double-A level, and you’re really starting to progress up the ladder early in your career. What are your thoughts about the All-Star Game tomorrow?
JT: I’m just going to try and have fun with it—I’ve been here before—that’s baseball and you’ve gotta have fun doing it while you’re still capable of doing it. I’m just going to keep progressing and just try to help my team win as many games as possible and see what happens.
GF: And what are your goals for the rest of the season?
JT: Just try to stay consistent and try to help the team win.
GF: Good luck tomorrow, I’m looking forward to seeing you play and maybe, potentially, if things are breaking right, might see you playing with a Dutch jersey across your chest, which I’m sure would be a thrill for you.
JT: Yeah, it would!
GF: Thanks very much.
Not long after the All-Star Game, we broke the news (link) that the Red Sox had signed Brandon Rincones, an Aruban shortstop that, if he reaches his full potential, may one day replace another Aruban at the position, Xander Bogaerts.