March 16 Hensley Meulens and Jurickson Profar interview, Netherlands

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with questions for Jurickson Profar and manager Hensley Meulens.

Q.  Jurickson, have you ever played for the Netherlands?  And take us maybe through the process of becoming part of the team and what it's meant to you to join the team.

JURICKSON PROFAR:  This is going to be my first time playing for them.  It's a great honor for me.  I'm very happy to be here.  The first time I got here you, you can see right away why they're winning.  They have great guy, great manager, great coaches.  So I'm proud.

Q.  Hensley, in the second round, there was lots of questions about Jurickson and what you thought he would bring to the team if he was on team, and now that he's actually on the team, what do you feel like he brings to the fold?  What do you expect the process to be to integrate him into the chemistry that you guys have already built through the first two rounds?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  Like he said himself, the moment he walked into the clubhouse the other day, it was like he figured out that we got a special thing going and he blended right in.  It's not like he doesn't know these guys.  We workout every winter together on the island.  We have been doing it for years.  He's done it the last three years or so since he became a professional baseball player.

We got to go out and do some plays today, bunt plays, so he can work with Simmons up the middle and also the pitchers.  So he can figure out who can get the balls or not.

So those are the type of things that it's hard to simulate them because the game speed is different, but you need to work on them so we can get on the same page.  We have a couple of days to do that here.

Other than that, he had a pretty nice game yesterday.  He ended up with a base hit and set the stage for Wladimir three‑run homer in the first inning.  That's what we expect.  He's going to hit second.  Simmons will lead off.  He'll play second base.  I'm probably the happiest guy that he's here right now.

Q.  How special is it for you to be back with the Dutch team in San Francisco and this is like a home game for us because you know the secrets of this game more than any others.

HENSLEY MEULENS:  I think it's a great honor just to be able to be the manager of this team.  Moving into the final round here, into our park here where I work, where we won a championship two out of the last three years, wearing the same colors.  I think that winning one more championship in the same color, that will be great.

Q.  For Hensley, what do you think that getting here to the semi‑finals means for baseball in the Netherlands, not just in the islands but up in Holland as well?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  Well, this was the plan by Major League Baseball.  They're doing a great job of globalizing the game and this is just another example of how everybody's on the same level playing field.  We have had great players in the last few years come up to the Big Leagues.  He's one of them.  We have Simmons, Roger Bernadina.  Our biggest star is Andruw Jones, who had 10 straight Golden Gloves, five All Stars, closer for the Dodgers.

We have good players.  It was just a matter of, when we played in these tournaments, you play your best game to show people that the way Major League Baseball has expanded themselves all over the world is working and it's given countries an opportunity to show that they can play with any country.

So it will be a very special thing for the Netherlands.  It's a soccer‑based country, and for the first time I think the biggest TV stations have come out to cover us in the middle of soccer season in the Netherlands.  But we're turning heads.  They can't believe that we're getting this far, but that's fine.  They're getting used to us getting better.

The first Classic we only won one game, it was a no‑hitter.  The only no‑hitter in classic history so far.  The second classic, we beat Dominican twice to get into the second round and now we got into the semi‑finals.  So we have done a little bit better with each classic.  It's because of guys like this.  We have gotten better as well with great players.

Q.  Are you a little surprised, I mean you planned to be here, but not to see the Americans here?  Does that just go to what you were talking about, about globalization of this sport?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  That's correct.  I think that as you see that game yesterday, how tight it was, and how they had a chance to win and they didn't.  So it's another reason why Major League Baseball going all over the world, having all these academies and all these clinics, taking place all over the world so more kids can play all over the world.  It's showing why now the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Japan, us, we have gotten here and perhaps to show people that we can compete with the best team in baseball, which is the Team USA.

It's funny to say, but the talent shows up on the playing field and what you put on paper sometimes doesn't matter.  I'm part of a great team here with the Giants that we show people that we can beat the better teams on paper.  And that's the same case right now with the Classic.

Q.  May I ask you such a thing that, do you have some special tactics to matchup with Dominican on a Republic?  Do you like the Dominican team?  You beat them twice in the last previous World Baseball Classic.

HENSLEY MEULENS:  Well, it's a different team.  They're undefeated.  They have played very, very well.  We are going to have to play a very good game, pitch a very good game, play great defense like we have been playing, and get some offense.  They're a great team.  They have a lot of Major League players, more than we do.  We can't make mistakes against them, because they capitalize.

We're going to have to play a very clean game to be able to beat them.  Pitching is going to be critical for us, keep the ball down, keep them from hitting the ball in the air and out of the ballpark.  Because we have great defense with Simmons and Profar and Schoop, Bogaerts, these guys can catch the ball in the infield.

And in the outfield, with the speed of Bernadina, Sams, Oduber, has shown why they're good outfielders, because they can catch the ball.

And then whenever they pitch, I think we're going to have to have good at‑bats, grind‑out at‑bats to wear them down.  We've been doing a good job at that.  We played two very, very good exhibition games in Arizona against the Padres and the Mariners.  Got a bunch of hits, scored a bunch of runs.  And that's the way we're going to have to play to come out victorious on Monday.

Q.  Two questions:  First, have either of you actually been to Holland, and if so, can you talk about your experience there?

JURICKSON PROFAR:  Yes.  I been there twice, when I was six and last year.  It's great.  It's a great country.

Q.  In terms of family or baseball?

JURICKSON PROFAR:  Family.

Q.  So you sense a baseball atmosphere when you go or you just ‑‑

JURICKSON PROFAR:  There was no baseball, it was too cold.

(Laughter.)

Q.  The other thing, for either of you, given the strength of all the folks from the islands, Puerto Rico, if they can have a team independent of the United States, have you thought of having a team just from the islands?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  Well, to answer your first question first, I've been to the Netherlands many times.  I was there in January, just check on the program.  We have had two different sites where the guys were working out because half of the team basically lives in Curacao and half of the team lives on the island.  So we have training camp going on in Curacao and then a training camp going on in Holland.  So I had to go check out both baseball wise.

I've been there before for the European championships, done the qualifying games for the 2004 Olympics when I was a coach on the staff as well.  And I've been there a few times for baseball mainly.

I have siblings that have lived there for a long time.  So a little bit of both.

Second question, what was it again?

Q.  If Puerto Rico can have a team ‑‑

HENSLEY MEULENS:  Oh, right.  You know, our strength is to be the Kingdom.  That's why the name was changed.  It's to be United, we're still under the government of the Kingdom and it's hard.  I think it's hard if you're going to divide the two and just try to do it with one, just Netherlands and just Curacao.  I think it's going to be harder.  I think the plan that we have with the pitching, most of the Dutch guys are pitchers and the position players are from the islands.  It's hard to match if you break that up.

Robert and I decided that this is the best team that we can assemble, to keep everybody together and keep it going this way.  We're all Dutch.  We have all Dutch passports and this is the best way to have the strongest team.

Q.  Hensley, we are here at the championship round and it's in the United States, but there's no American team playing now.  Do you think this tournament needs an American team in the championship round to be successful in the future Or continue to be successful?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  I think it's gotten to where Major League Baseball again is globalizing the game and you can't tell who is going to be in the finals.  The better teams who play better are going to be here.

And that's what's happening this year.  The teams that played better than the United States have played, no knock against them, but that's the beauty of having competition within countries.  To say they should be here?  Maybe yes, but at this point they're not.  So I think that that's another way to look at it.

The branching out of the MLB program to go oversees and then bring them back here to play tournaments like this, anybody can win.  So it might hurt ticket sales or whatnot for these next two games, but I think that countries overseas have shown that they can compete as well in a high stage like this and they have good players as well that are playing in the major leagues.

Q.  Jurickson, can you talk about the influence that Andruw Jones had on you as a young kid coming up and also what does it mean for you to be on that field with him and playing with him?

JURICKSON PROFAR:  He had a lot of influence.  We all grew up watching him play.  Every player.  He was the only one there when I grew up.  So everyone was watching him and everyone wanted to be like him.

HENSLEY MEULENS:  What do you mean, you never watched me play?

(Laughter.)

JURICKSON PROFAR:  Too old, man.

(Laughter.)

HENSLEY MEULENS:  I'm too old.

Q.  What does it mean to be able to play with him out there on the field?

JURICKSON PROFAR:  Great.  He's a great guy.  When I signed with the Rangers, he was playing with the Rangers.  He's a great guy.  A great personality and it's an honor for me to play with him.

Q.  A mentor?

JURICKSON PROFAR:  Sure.

Q.  Hensley, you alluded to it earlier, you've been in the underdog role before very recently with the Giants, coming back in two post‑season series.  How has that experience helped in this tournament, and also, can you compare the chemistry from that team and this clubhouse now?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  I think that us going into the second round in 2009, has given us the assurance that we can compete on this high level with the better countries.  Coming back to this year, I think once we passed the first round beating Korea, which is a powerhouse, and beating Australia to get to Tokyo, then beating Cuba twice there to get here, that's just a sign that we have arrived as a country, that people have to make sure that they take us into consideration when we're playing them.

It's hard to explain how you get the camaraderie that's existed in the clubhouse, compare it with what we had with the Giants.  It's very similar, it's very similar.  The only thing that Papiamento is being spoken a lot in the clubhouse.  But the guys are, as a group, as a family, you can see them eating together.  If you come to the hotel, you go to any of the hallways, you can see them all outside the hallways chatting.

Family, they're playing cards, they're having a great time.  And we have had a really great time since Taiwan, and then going into Tokyo, and then here.

You asked about Andruw.  Andruw has pulled this since August of last year, calling guys, texting guys, having guys play because he wanted to play with them ‑ and they want to play with him.  And if you see him move around, you see everybody following.  And not only that, he's done it on the field.  He's been our most consistent hitter in this tournament and he's leading by example.  The camaraderie that he brings into the clubhouse, it's unmatched.

Q.  He's your Hunter Pence?

HENSLEY MEULENS:  He's our Hunter Pence, so to speak, but kind of a bit different flavor.  But still it's very special for me to see him act like that.  Because the first time he was with us in 2006, he was a little different.  He was a superstar at the time, at the top of his game.  Now he's a little older, more mature, and more of a leader.  That's why, like what he said, he's a mentor and everybody's really happy to be together as a group right now.

Doesn't matter where we come from, guys from the Netherlands, guys from Aruba, Curacao, St. Martins, Statia, we're one big family right now and trying to win this thing.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, guys, very much.