This year, in 2024, Playball Europe is celebrating its 30th anniversary as the leading baseball academy in Europe.
Instead of having to fly to Florida, it is now possible to travel by bus or train to visit a baseball academy with professional coaches. By bringing Major and Minor League instructors to Europe, Playball Europe turns the American dream into a reality. Playball Europe organizes clinics in several European countries and hosts an International Baseball Academy in Amsterdam NL. The founder of Playball Europe is Karel "Charly" Crouwel.
Karel began playing baseball as a catcher in Amsterdam with the Cats (OVVO) when he was just 9 years old. By the age of 15, he was already playing in the Dutch Top Division and was selected for the Dutch National Team at 16. He also played for the Haarlem Nicols, and his last team was Kinheim, also based in Haarlem. Karel concluded his playing career as a Manager/Coach and won the National Championship with the Kinheim team in 1978.
In 1977, Karel and Rob Muller, one of the earliest sponsors (Aktie ’68) of Dutch baseball, invited Hank Aaron (755 Home Runs) to Holland. During his four-day visit, Karel showed Hank the tourist attractions, including taking pictures in traditional Dutch National dress. They organized a major press conference at the Hilton Amsterdam, and on the final night, they held a home run contest and a game in a fully packed Haarlem stadium. Hank played as a guest player for four innings on the Dutch National Team against a team of American players who competed in the Dutch competition.
Karel also spent 10 years working with the Dutch National Ice Hockey Team. Some of the highlights of his tenure were winning the World Championship in the final game against former East Germany in 1979, participating in the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid in 1980, and playing in the "A" Poule in Sweden in 1981.
During his busy sports career, Karel also served as the manager and trainer for a top division (Kinzo) basketball team for three years.
With all these experiences, it was just one step for Karel to realize his dream of starting Playball Europe. The first Playball clinic was held from Friday, September 29th, to Monday, October 2nd, 1995, in Amsterdam.
"Playball" To Day
Throughout the 30 years of its existence, Playball has had numerous instructors and players from abroad who have contributed to its success. It is now recognized as the longest-standing and most renowned baseball academy in Europe. In the early years, several MLB instructors were involved, and to this day, many well-known Dutch internationals and Dutch MLB players serve as the primary Playball instructors. One of the first instructors were Chicho Jesurun(†) and MLB Scout for the Montreal Expos and Miami Marlins Randy Kierce, who is mentioned below.
Playball Europe and MLB
Playball Europe has established associations with several MLB organizations in the USA. In the past, some players who joined the Playball Europe Academy went on to sign professional contracts with Major League organizations.
One of the first instructors to visit Playball Europe was Randy Kierce in 1996 and 1997. Randy had previously worked as a scout for the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins. He was the instructor who advised Rick van de Hurk an MLB pitcher, to switch from being a catcher to a pitcher—an advice that Rick considered the best he ever received (Rick said)