Curaçao Emerges as Baseball Powerhouse in 2018 MLB Playoffs

Four World Series Hopefuls Hail from Curaçao

WILLEMSTAD, CURAÇAOThe tiny Caribbean island of Curaçao, traditionally known for its Blue liqueur, colorful architecture and year-round sunshine, is making a splash in another arena: Major League Baseball.

Four Curaçaoan players – including Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius; Braves’ second baseman Ozzie Albies; Dodgers’ pitcher Kenley Jansen; and Brewers’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop – are currently competing in the 2018 MLB Playoffs and vying for a coveted spot in the Major League World Series, which kicks off October 23.

Jonathan Schoop from Curaçao emerges as baseball powerhouse in MLB Playoffs

Jonathan Schoop

Each coming from humble beginnings, Didi, Ozzie, Kenley and Jonathan have made a name for themselves in Major League Baseball, and are listed in the starting line-ups for their respective teams. Going into post-season, Didi Gregorius is healthy following a cartilage tear, while Ozzie Albies made his playoff debut against the Dodgers on Thursday night.

With only 10 of 32 teams making it the MLB playoffs each year, Curaçao’s presence on four of the remaining teams, speaks to the high-caliber talent emerging from the island. Curaçao, measuring only 172 square miles or a seventh of the size of Rhode Island, is the highest producing MLB country per capita.

This vibrant country has evolved as a hub for baseball talent and was named an “Official Destination of Major League Baseball” in July. The Minister of Economic Development, Dr. Steven Martina, and Curaçao Tourist Board’s Deputy Director Hugo Clarinda, signed a two-year agreement that promotes Curaçao as an ideal destination for emerging players and baseball fans.

“In Curaçao, baseball is more than a sport. It’s an avenue for our residents and fans to connect with one another and enjoy one of the world’s greatest pastimes,” said Clarinda. “That is why earning the designation as an Official MLB Destination is so important in sharing Curaçao’s message on a wider, international scale.”

Most recently, Hensley Meulens, the manager of the San Francisco Giants and a native Curaçaoan, has been a driving force in petitioning the MLB to implement various programs that develop its youth players.

In February, Curaçao became the seventh country to welcome the MLB’s Elite Program, joining baseball powerhouses Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and South Africa.

The Elite Program is an MLB initiative supported by the Curaçao Tourist Board and the Curaçao Baseball Development Foundation that grooms and prepares 13-18 year old players to make U.S. high school, college or MLB teams through a series of intensive after-school training camps.

Similarly, Hensley worked to bring the MLB’s R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities) program to Curaçao, making it one of a handful of international participants.

The program encourages teens to stay off the streets and educates them about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Even with more fame and World Series hopes on the horizon, Curaçao’s major league players stay true to their roots, returning to the island every November to mentor young players during Curaçao Baseball Week.

“There is something so special about seeing our Major League players coming home to the same fields they played on to teach our kids the fundamentals of the great sport of baseball,” said Hensley Meulens. “The guys are an integral part of putting Curaçao on the map, and I wish the four of them good luck in the playoffs!”

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