photo: EXTRA

The youth baseball players of Curacao became international champions in the US for the second time in a row. On the island, they were received festively. “This is remarkable for such a small island!”

It is busy in the entrance hall of the airport. Many children in basketball outfits hand out little flags of Curaçao amongst the public. Carnaval trailers and busses stand waiting at a distance, while tourists wonder what is going on.

Suddenly an announcement is made that the Curaçao Little League team has arrived. The boys of 11 and 12 years of age have become ‘international champions’ after they won from all the big countries. In the last match, which is always against America, they failed to win, therefore they cannot call themselves ‘world champion’.

“This is super special!”

Curaçao has about 150,000 inhabitants and plays against big countries like Australia (25 million inhabitants) and Japan (125 million inhabitants). “You can hardly find our island on the world map, and to then beat such a big country,” says baseball fan Miguel “Very, very remarkable.”

Baseball is one of the favorite sports in Curaçao. Curaçao, next to the Dominican Republic, is one of the main suppliers of top players to the United States. Many schoolboys dream of becoming a professional players in ‘major league baseball’ in the US, the absolute top.

This victory means something big for the boys and their families. “They have put themselves in the international spotlights, and so can only become even greater” says Miguel.

Willemstad decorated everywhere

After doing some interviews at the airport the boys get on the trailers and follow the carnival route to the Brionplein in Otrobanda, where they will be officially honored. The city is decorated in the colors of the flag of Curaçao. A stage has been built and musical instruments stand waiting. There will be partying till late at night after the speeches are over.

Dayron Martina is a cousin of the coach. “As a child, I played against Zaino Everett and now he guides this winning team”, he says with pride. According to him, the island was in need of some positive news after all the negative. “It is inspiring and shows us as a people that we are capable of achieving great things.”

In the last twenty years, Curaçao participated no less than five times in the Little League World Series Championship. That is more times than any other team ever.

What is characteristic of Curaçao is that there is no playing on grass but on the hard sand. The island does not have the budget for luxuries in baseball like the US has. In the meantime, Dayron hopes for the youth that their sports facilities will improve. He thinks the youth could then achieve even more. “I think that because of this huge performance, our politicians will invest more in sports.”

The promotion in the US is priceless

A few weeks before the Curaçao senior league softball team also became champions, World champions even. The government decided to give all the civil servants a half day off for the inauguration. The Business Association of Curaçao and the Chamber of Commerce summoned the government to be more careful with taxpayers’ money.

It could also lead to economic profits for the island, thinks sports minister Sithree van Heydoorn. The island depends on tourism and the attention it got from the Americans “is something we could never afford to pay for”. Everywhere we go we get attention. In restaurants, people get up to applaud and congratulate us. Even police officers.”

Money for a new baseball stadium

The Pisas cabinet delivers the news later in the evening during the festivities: 3 million guilders will be allocated to an upgrade of the baseball park where the youth of the island trains and plays competitions.”

Four team managers get a day pass to an all-inclusive hotel. The victorious boys all get a day pass to a waterpark resort.