WILLEMSTAD, CURAÇAO –
In February, Curaçao became the seventh country to welcome the MLB’s Elite Program, joining baseball powerhouses Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and South Africa.
The Elite Program is an MLB initiative supported by the Curaçao Tourist Board and the Curaçao Baseball Development Foundation that grooms and prepares 13-18 year old players to make U.S. high school, college or MLB teams through a series of intensive after-school training camps.
Curaçao’s MLB (Major League Baseball) Elite Program is guided by both international and local coaches. The youngsters enrolled in the program are prospects who can catch the attention of international scouts. Sports, and especially major-league baseball, are a main vehicle used by the CTB in marketing our island in the US market. As in July 2018, the CTB has signed a contract with the MLB and is working with local major-league players, for example the campaign launched early this year with our own Didi Gregorius.
The CTB supports the Curaçao MLB Elite project. These young players can already act as ambassadors of our island, and the CTB wishes them all the best with the program.
Most recently, Hensley Meulens, the manager of the San Francisco Giants and a native Curaçaoan, has been a driving force in petitioning the MLB to implement various programs that develop its youth players. Similarly, Hensley worked to bring the MLB’s R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities) program to Curaçao, making it one of a handful of international participants.
The program encourages teens to stay off the streets and educates them about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Besides those who paved the path like Hensley Meulens, Randall Simon, and Andruw Jones, Curaçao’s major league players stay true to their roots, returning to the island every November to mentor young players during Curaçao Baseball Week including Golden Glove award-winning Anaheim Angels’ Andrelton Simmons, Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius, Braves’ second baseman Ozzie Albies, Dodgers’ pitcher Kenley Jansen, Texas Rangers’ Jurickson Profar and Brewers’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
“There is something so special about seeing our Major League players coming home to the same fields they played on to teach our kids the fundamentals of the great sport of baseball,” said Hensley Meulens.
― Gwendell Mercelina, Jr. |