Netherlands interviews March 18
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with the Netherlands press conference.
Q. Hensley, with all of the youth on this team, Simmons and Schoop and Profar, can you talk about the future of this team, not just in this WBC final, or final championship round, but also four years from now, eight years from now and beyond.
HENSLEY MEULENS: Well, it's pretty remarkable that these guys have ascended themselves into the elite of baseball in the last couple of years. Profar reached the Big Leagues last year, so did Simmons, Schoop is on his way. Bogaerts is on his way. Hopefully Smith will get a chance to get there in the near future.
But it's a talented group. A group that we hope can stick together for future Classics, for this country. These guys, hopefully they can stay healthy and do the things that they do.
And they're slated to be long time Major League players. That's how talented they are. We're happy to have them this time on this team. That's why we got a chance to participate in the final round of the Classic. And with the addition of Profar for this final round, it made us better. No offense to de Caster or to Arsenio, who was taken off the roster, but we got two Big League players in return in Jansen and Profar. So hopefully they can stay focused tonight and enjoy the game and give us a good game tonight.
Q. Hensley, and to your players, can you imagine what the Dominicans still feel after losing to you guys in the first round four years ago and how that might motivate them just a little bit tonight?
HENSLEY MEULENS: Well, I said yesterday, that's four years ago, and we have definitely turned the page. I think that we have a much different team than that team. And I think that we have improved from 2009, just from some of the same names we mentioned before in the Profar, Balentien wasn't there, Andruw wasn't there, Roger Bernadina wasn't there. We pretty much have a whole new lineup. Jansen was our catcher, and now he's a closer. We have a new catcher.
So we just got to play our game, play a clean game. Make as few mistakes as we can to beat them. They're still a very, very good club. They're undefeated. They come in with the confidence. And hopefully they'll be thinking about 2009 still, but, no, we're not. We're ready to play this game tonight.
Q. We have learned in this tournament that anything can happen, especially in a short series or a single game. So many big teams have fallen. I wonder if last night, Puerto Rico beating Japan the two‑time champion, gave you guys like a little more incentive to say, Hey, you see, this could happen regardless of today.
HENSLEY MEULENS: Well, our mindset was already winning whoever we have to face. It doesn't matter on paper they might be stronger, the game is still being played on the field. And I told our guys before we even started practicing that we're going to go in there knowing that we're going to face some names and we're not going to let that bother us. We're going to go out there and play and let our talent shine on the field.
Hopefully at the end of the game, it will be good enough for us to win tonight.
Q. Hensley, I think Angel Pagan got this question a lot yesterday. All the games that you've seen here, are you able to impart much information, especially to your outfield, about some of the quirks of this stadium?
HENSLEY MEULENS: Yes, of course. We had a couple days to practice, and they all took a lot of balls, especially from the right field wall, balls off the wall. The ball can ricochet different directions. We have to cover that Triples Alley. We're probably going to concede the double down the right field line and protect the Triples Alley because it's three bases instead of two. So it could be huge, especially if you have guys on base, multiple guys on base. That means multiple runners scoring.
So we're going to protect that gap, for sure, and then make sure that the center fielder gets over there when the ball is hit off the wall so he can back the right fielder up in case it ricochets in a direction that he's not ready for.
So that's been talked about, that situation, and also the wind situation, the way the ball carries and how we have to protect the alley. That's the main part.
Q. Two questions, but this is first for the players, could you just address the intensity of this tournament, just how important these games are and what it's like just playing in front of these big crowds for this kind of tournament.
CURT SMITH: I think the most important part is stay calm. We prepared well and it's the same game, it's just more fans. So I think we just need to stay relaxed and play our game.
WLADIMIR BALENTIEN: Well, it's just like Curt said, it's a very big tournament, but the game is going to be the same. We got to play the same game. So all we got to do is no pressure, just go out there, relax, have fun. And I think when you have fun and play as a brother, like we have been playing all the tournaments so far, I think that it will be a lot of success in this game for us.
Q. Curt, being as you haven't played in the Big Leagues, is this almost the same as being in a Big League game for you, a game like tonight playing in a stadium like this in front of this kind of crowd?
CURT SMITH: Of course it is. It's like playing a Big League game. The Dominican Republic team is straight up Big League players, so it is. But I'm not going to let that get to me. I'm just going to play my own game, and with the help of my teammates, hopefully come out with a victory.
Q. Hensley, with Cano as hot as he's been, you have two lefties in your bullpen, Pawelek and Balentina, are those guys kind of specifically have they been preparing for Cano and how do you stop Robinson Cano?
HENSLEY MEULENS: Well, it's a very good middle‑of‑the‑order guy that's been really, really productive for a long time. He's been really hot this tournament. We know it. But we have some righties that are good against lefties, and those two guys that you mentioned also are capable of coming in and perhaps making some pitches on him.
But before we get to those guys, we need Diegomar to calm them down, and Diegomar is going to be executing his game plan against him, and, hopefully, we can keep him quiet and not let him beat us. So that's the way we're going to approach the game. And if he's got guys on base we got a chance to walk him, we will.
Q. Hensley, on a lighter note, you're throwing out the ceremonial first pitch tonight. You're in your home ballpark, this has a Giants flavor, you'll be throwing it with Felipe Alou, who obviously has a great history here. Can you talk about what that means to you?
HENSLEY MEULENS: It's a great deal. I think that people take it lightly. I'm not. I think I'm the only person in the stadium today that has a bind with all three parties. My mother is Dominican, born in Santiago, raised in the capital and has lived the last 50 years of her life in Curacao. I'm the manager for the Dutch team and I'm the hitting coach for the Giants. So I don't think there is any other person in the stadium today that can claim all three.
So it's special. Especially with Felipe there. I played for Felipe in '97 in Montreal. He's been a great mentor since. He's a great mentor now as a special assistant to Brian Sabean. He gives us a lot of good information and we pick his brain all the time.
But I have a lot of relatives in the Dominican Republic today cheering for the Dominican Republic, but also cheering for me as a cousin, as their family member. Of course in Curacao Holland, Aruba, all over the Kingdom, people are just cheering for us to win this game. But they're very emotional about the Giants choosing me to throw out the first pitch today, and for me, as it's a very special moment as well.
Q. Hensley, what's the experience been like for you just in terms of managing a team? Is this something that you can see yourself pursuing in Major League Baseball, this position?
HENSLEY MEULENS: It's been amazing. I tell you what, when you have good talent and they make you win, I think it's a great deal of respect to have for players. I played 17 years myself, but I've been coaching now for 10, 11 years. But having to run a team, it's quite different. I've enjoyed it a lot. If in the future somebody wants to give me a chance, I'll definitely give it a shot.
But as of right now, I'm still the hitting coach for the Giants. That's what I know how to do best. But in the future, I'll take calls if they want to say, Hey, this guy can manage (Laughter).
Q. For Hensley, everybody was in the postgame conference last night was kind of in awe of what Yadier Molina did for Team Puerto Rico, and I was just hoping you can comment on his intangible of the intensity he brings to the field. And if you could talk about the players that have brought the most intensity to your team and to your clubhouse throughout the tournament, and if that's something that is a force that needs to be reckoned with for teams that are going to be up against them in the championship game.
HENSLEY MEULENS: Well, just from being on the other side of the field watching him play the last few years, he's a great player. He's been one of the mainstays in the Cardinals organization. And, he's a perennial all star. So he's a guy that commands a lot of respect because of his prowess behind the plate. He knows how to call a game, he stops your running game because he can really throw, and he can block with the best of them.
So this guy, that's why he's winning Gold Gloves, several Gold Gloves. He's got a great mind to the game, he's a student of the game. He's hard to beat. He's a competitor. So I have a lot of respect for him. We always talk when we see each other, say hello. We had his brother over here for a long time as well and they're the same type of people. They're a baseball type of family with great background in it. It's hard to say anything bad about the guy.
But if we have to face him, I'll tell my guys what I know about him, how he likes to call the game, and I have a little bit of information myself on how to counter‑attack his plans, so to speak. We kind of did that with the Giants over the last couple of years. And we come back from a 3‑1 deficit last year in the playoffs.
So for my guys, I think our catcher is a little younger guy, he's more low key, but he's done a great job for us this tournament. This is a guy that hasn't played past A‑ball in his career and has managed the pitching staff remarkably well. And I talked to him earlier today, he's calm, he's going to have to remain calm tonight to call a good game and make sure that he keeps the pitchers calm, because as he goes, the pitcher goes.
But on the field, the leader has been Andruw. He's been the leader on the field and off the field. He's done great job with Coco. Those two guys are the oldest guys on the team with more experience and also has had more success in their career. So they have been taking all these young guys under their wings and showed them the way, and I'm sure it will be no different in this game tonight.
Q. Curt, and Wladimir, could you share one or two things that have made Hensley a great manager during this special run for your country?
WLADIMIR BALENTIEN: The confidence.
HENSLEY MEULENS: Watch what you say.
WLADIMIR BALENTIEN: No, it's just the confidence that he gives us. He's a manager, he's a player, he knows how this goes, so he knows how to treat his players. And I think that's the biggest thing for us, because if you have a manager that treats you the way that you're supposed to be treated because he played the game, so that gives us a lot of confidence. We go up there, we play hard, and we give them everything we have because he deserves it, the way he treats us. So to have him on the club, it's big for us.
CURT SMITH: He respects all his players and we respect him, so it makes it easier on us. And it all started in Spring Training when we start preparing, how he prepared us for this tournament. And then it all just went well from there. And he just got this group together and we trust each other and that's the main thing.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, guys, very much for your time. Appreciate it.
Good luck with the first pitch tonight, Hensley.
HENSLEY MEULENS: Thank you. I might throw it left‑handed.