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March 13, 2009
THE MODERATOR: For the Netherlands the two players, Rick VandenHurk and Sidney Ponson, are on their way. The manager and pitching coach will be here a little bit later.
Team Netherlands starting pitcher for tomorrow, Sidney Ponson, Rick VandenHurk, local, pitches for the Marlins.
Questions for either one.
Q. You have practiced a lot of Spanish, more or less my Spanish is pretty poor. How do you feel being in the second round in Miami in your own part?
SIDNEY PONSON: I'm very happy to be here. It's a very good feeling for me and my team.
Q. Question for either, how do you guys feel when your success is being compared to like Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson or the U.S. hockey team beating the Russians in 1980?
RICK VANDENHURK: It's always nice to be in the second round. You play to win. Even though we're the underdog, we're going to be the underdog over there too. I said in Puerto Rico we have to still go out and play to 27 outs. And we have one more round with the other team.
It's going to be a hard thing. Those teams over there, it's not easygoing. We'll have our hands full tomorrow. I think Rick is prepared for this next start, too, so we'll see what happens. I said 1:00 tomorrow everything starts and we'll go from there.
Q. Sidney, have you gotten ready for this game against Puerto Rico? You fared quite well against the Dominican Republic. How do you feel?
SIDNEY PONSON: We're going to play against Venezuela, the guys over there know me. I know them. Tomorrow I'll see. I don't know how I'm going to feel. Now I feel okay. Now, when I'll start pitching, I may have a little bit of pain here or there.
But they know me and I know them, so it's going to be a very interesting game. They are crazy about winning, and we are ready to win as well. So we're going to have some fun tomorrow.
Q. Talk a little bit about how the World Baseball Classic compares, the experience compares to MLB, the regular season, is there more excitement, and do you find that some of your (indiscernible)?
RICK VANDENHURK: Natural pride that comes with it and we bring to the table, not just us but especially in Puerto Rico. We played in Puerto Rico. There's 20,000 Puerto Ricans in the stands and everybody's going crazy. The environment is maybe in that aspect a little bit different.
It's been a great ride for us, and especially there too. I think over here this is going to be more Dutch French showing up than in Puerto Rico. It's going to be fun.
SIDNEY PONSON: It's going to be hard. It's going to be fun tomorrow. We're going to have more Dutch fans here, I know for sure a lot of people from Aruba coming and Curasol and a lot of people going to colleges here that are coming down from Florida to watch us play.
And hopefully we don't feel like we are the visitors, even though I think we will be. The community of Venezuela is so big down here. So it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it. I'm prepared mentally to have a good game tomorrow and we'll see what happens.
Q. Do you guys like to be the underdog? You were saying that you were on round one and you're also the underdog here. And do you think the pressure is more on Venezuela tomorrow than on you guys?
SIDNEY PONSON: Surprise is out, now we're going to play baseball. They want to win. We want to win. It's not going to be easy, as I said. I talked to some of the guys from Venezuela with Bobbie, Mervyn, Cabrera and so forth, they're ready to win and we are too.
Q. Can you talk about what your family and friends of yours that might be in Holland in the Netherlands, what their reaction to all this has been?
RICK VANDENHURK: My Facebook is going off the hook. That's all I can say. Per day I'm getting 100 messages. Like I said, it's pride. Experience in the Big Leagues is a whole different -- it's more emotional here. Every one counts. Every run you feel like we won the World Series, especially bringing a good team we knocked out Dominican, they were all stars. We just got lucky here and there. That's the only thing we needed. We got lucky here and there. Tomorrow, you never know what can happen.
SIDNEY PONSON: Just the same thing, getting text messages, e-mails, all that kind of stuff from family and friends back home. It's been pretty crazy. Everybody's looking at the games and watching us play and perform. So it's awesome that there's a lot of recognition now.
Q. Rick, as you've gone along in your professional career, how do teammates react when they find out you're Dutch, like do they ask do you wear wooden shoes, do they ask you dumb questions, do they treat you like you're from the moon or something?
RICK VANDENHURK: No, they ask all those kind of questions like what kind of clothes do you have and wooden shoes and windmills and all that stuff and all the things that people in Holland do. And they don't look at me different or anything. It's just that I'm from a different country, that's about it.
Q. Rick, how has your experience been being with the Marlins, the team that may be (indiscernible) the team now that's causing a lot of stir?
RICK VANDENHURK: I don't know. I guess it was a little bit similar, especially going to Puerto Rico with the Netherlands. I don't think anybody expected us to do well. So, I mean, like the Marlins last year, they came in third place. They won 85 games. Anything can happen in baseball.
Q. The excitement you guys are getting from back home, from the Netherlands itself, how does that compare with what the soccer team gets in the World Cups and things like that? Are you seeing similar kinds of reactions?
RICK VANDENHURK: No, you can't compare soccer with baseball in Holland. It's like comparing soccer with baseball here in the United States. It's not even close.
Q. Is there more talent coming from your country? I hear Major League clubs are looking into the area more. Are you seeing those kids like the little leaguers who won the Little League Championship coming up?
RICK VANDENHURK: Not only in Netherlands, also in Curasol and Aruba and those countries. I think there's a lot of young talent coming up and a lot of young kids now playing and coming over and want to come play here and play Major League Baseball.
Q. The Americans have (indiscernible) one or two weeks ago nobody knew the Dutch team. Can you see the difference now people talk with you, hey, in Holland they play baseball and people ask maybe other things?
SIDNEY PONSON: I think so. It's a big difference between two weeks and now, you know. I don't think anybody expected that. We went out there and played our hearts out and we were in the second round.
Q. Now that you guys have advanced to the next round, the stakes are higher, do any of the younger players, guys who might not be in Major League Baseball, do they look to you for guidance, advice, anything you can offer to them?
RICK VANDENHURK: This is a close-knit group. It's a good thing -- Vic's asked me questions, a bunch of pitchers asked me questions and I can hear around the young precision players, Randall Simon, Sharnol, they ask him questions, Gene Kingsale. Some of these guys play eight ball, and so they pick your brains even though I don't know everything. I'm still asking questions myself. That's why I have Burt over here.
It's good to have this guy over here. And he helps you in the bullpen. Help each other out. We're a close-knit team and hopefully it will transfer tomorrow and we'll play good and see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Pitchers have been joined by Burt Blyleven and Rod Delmonico.
Q. Burt, these guys obviously are in a position where folks are starting to ask a lot of questions about their background. You went through that years ago. Can you just talk about what this means for the Dutch to see the Netherlands team doing what they're doing?
BURT BLYLEVEN: I think it's an honor. As I said before, it's an honor to wear this uniform for Netherlands. And everybody that's from Curasol or Aruba or Holland should take a lot of pride from what these guys have accomplished to my right and the other 26 in the clubhouse.
Like Sidney talked about, we haven't been together that long. We started in February, middle of February, but there's that friendship that's bonding that you can create. And of course winning cures a lot of that. It helps that.
What we did in Puerto Rico nobody expected us to do. But these guys are the leaders right here. These two guys are the ones. Tomorrow we're looking for Sidney -- the pitch count goes up to 85. Hopefully he won't throw that many. But good thing for Rick, they still have -- this is a showcase for Sidney, so he's going to go out and bust his tail. For Rick he wants to be a starter for the Marlins right here in Florida.
So everybody has goals. And I'm just there to try to help him achieve those goals all the way through the pitching rotation and also I know offensively.
Q. Have you noticed any signs like when you arrived here at the airport or at your hotel or just out in the community where people were saying, identifying you all as a team that pulled an upset? Have you seen anything like that? That's for any of you here.
RICK VANDENHURK: I got to my hotel I got my bag and I went home. Brand-new baby at home and my wife and I wasn't waiting around with thousands of people. But a lot of people said that guy is playing with the Dutch. We can overhear them. These guys can answer that; I think they stayed at the hotel last night.
SIDNEY PONSON: I think so. A lot of guys know that also in Puerto Rico, the day we left a lot of people in the airport, the hotel that worked there, they compliment us and congratulate us on the great win we had.
BURT BLYLEVEN: I think the biggest thing is the players themselves from other countries have congratulated the Netherlands on what they accomplished in Puerto Rico, and I think that's, again, the tip of the hat to the players and to the manager and the whole staff what we were able to accomplish there.
And now that's one stepping stone. Now, we look at this round and hopefully the same David and Goliath theory will continue and good things will happen for us.
Q. I would like to know Venezuela has a very similar team to the Dominican Republic. They have some big stars that are well known. Is the mentality going in, A, if we can do it to the Dominican Republic, we can do it to Venezuela. Can you talk about that motivation that they're similar teams? You feel you match up well with them?
ROD DELMONICO: If you look on paper I think the three teams that we have to face are better than us. Portugal, Venezuela and U.S.A., they all have a lot of great players, a lot of big leaguers, a lot more experience than we have.
You can't focus too much on the team you're going to play. You can only focus on what you can control. And the only thing we can control is what we do individually, whether we finish or we hit or we run the bases or we play defense.
And we've got to keep it that simple. We can't focus on the other team, because to me if you start looking at the other players, you lose focus on what you're capable of doing. Not losing to the plays, committing to the pitch and knows where he has to throw it for each hitter. For me as the manager I think we've got to keep it simple and keep doing what we're doing.
Q. Could you take me through maybe like the last three months you were an assistant at SIU and now you're managing this team. It's really surprising folks. What's it been like? Is this something that you were planning hoping to do this or something an opportunity that appeared? How did that happen?
ROD DELMONICO: I wasn't planning on doing this. In fact I got a speeding ticket in Palm Beach right before I left. Got it in the mail and found out about that.
That speeding ticket to here, you just can't plan this. I had the opportunity (indiscernible) gave me an opportunity to come over here and manage. And we just got together and started working real hard. There was really no answer to what has happened.
They keep asking us how we did this. I really wish I could say this is exactly what happened and, boom, it happened. It's really the dynamics of a team when it comes together. We had all the right parts. And the players committed. The coaching staff worked hard and committed. Hey, we want to try to be the best we can be.
And that's all we had control of. We can't commit to say, hey, we are going to win this game. All we can do is be the best we can be and give our best effort. And what the coaching staff did, what the players did, and it's a credit to the players coming together as a unit.
Q. Between the fact, for looking for a job and that shirt, how important is tomorrow's game for you? And how do you compare this to other times in your career?
SIDNEY PONSON: I have a job tomorrow with the X team in the Big Leagues. I would play hard for them, but tomorrow my focus is to go out there and try to win. If you go into the Venezuela locker room and ask them, they're going to tell you for sure we're going to beat Sidney Ponson. I have the same mentality, no one has used war, because it could go either way. But we're going to play competitively tomorrow against those guys.
Like I said, I'm mentally focused. I threw a good bullpen the other day and I'm ready to rock and roll. That's all I can say.
Q. Mr. Blyleven, you work with the bullpen, of course, we've seen some young pitchers, 17 years old, 19 years old, pitching for other teams, actually in the minor leagues. Have you been hearing from their coaches about their performance, congratulations and that type of stuff? Do you have contact with them?
BURT BLYLEVEN: No, I have really not. You're talking about J.C. Sulbaran and Dennis Neuman, two guys who have great arms. Sulbaran with the Cincinnati Reds and Alexander Smit has pitched well. He's with the Reds. Neuman with the Boston Red Sox. The only one I've stayed in contact is Mark Wylie, the pitching coach here in Florida.
Mark and I have been in contact because mainly he gave me a program for Rick, and Rick and I talked about it and we're just trying to stay within that program that Mark wants. So when the thing is over with, when we come back from LA, that he's right back to where he should be.
Q. You have faced a lot of the players that you will see tomorrow in the game. Do you give them in the back of your mind someone like Cabrera, he doesn't like the pitching fire or something like that, that can help you for tomorrow's game?
RICK VANDENHURK: I know his strengths and weaknesses, so he knows mine too. I faced him plenty of times in my career. He got his days hit, I got him out. And anything can happen. Ground ball to shortstop, I throw down away, hit opposite a home run. That's how you play this game. It's a weird game. I keep telling everybody it's a round ball that comes in a square box where anything can happen.
Q. I'm curious about any kind of traditions that exist in baseball when it's played in Curasol or Aruba or Netherlands, whether there's any kind of chants that go on in the clubhouse or the stands, anything that's unique that you can think about?
SIDNEY PONSON: We're more verbal in Aruba and Curasol. If you could see us, those guys from those two islands the way we interact with each other, like a good example, Randy Simon got thrown out at home plate. He was the agent. I was joking with him. He didn't get pissed, but over here if you do that to another player he might take it the wrong way. Eleven players somewhere might take it the wrong way.
But you have to have fun in this game. It's a game. You go out there. We'll kick it hard. A grown man kicks it hard, and we want to play and we want to win and it's not backyard baseball, but it's baseball for one goal and one goal only is to win.
And the only thing we have been able to -- everybody's thinking are we going to win, are we going to win. But we have to go out there and get 27 outs and we have to have one more run. That's the way I look at it. I've been with these guys the past three weeks and I think everybody bought into it. Andrew's been doing the same thing. Rick's been doing the same thing. These young kids in the Minor League look up to us, ask questions.
But I'm telling you, too, we have Dennis Neuman and Sulbaran. I love the way they pitch. They're not afraid of nobody. They go out there, they throw strikes. We have a couple of guys from like Cordemans, never heard of, but I met him here. He's not afraid of anybody. He's not 99, but he knows how to pitch. He knows how to throw his 88-miles-an-hour fastball and a changeup and a couple of curve balls slower than the first one he throwed you.
That's what it comes down to. Know how to pitch. These guys know how to pitch. I just met these guys and we're having fun.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts