Peninsula pitcher Leon Boyd has another accolade to add to his resume – and this one is the biggest yet.
Boyd, a 28-year-old White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association alum, was a key member of the Dutch national team that shocked the international baseball world with a 2-1 upset win over Cuba in Baseball World Cup finals Oct. 15 in Panama City.
The victory marked the first time since England won the Cup 1938 – when just two countries competed – that a European nation had captured the title. No European country ever won in the Olympics or World Baseball Classic, either.
“It hasn’t really sunk it yet,” said Boyd last week, after returning to Surrey. “It’s been a crazy couple weeks though, beating some of the best teams in the world.”
In addition to edging Cuba in the finals, the Netherlands defeated Venezuela 12-2 a day prior, and earlier in the tournament beat powerhouse teams Japan and Chinese-Taipei. They also beat Cuba earlier in the tournament.
“We never expected to do this well. We figured we’d maybe finish in the top eight,” said Boyd.
“But we started 3-0, beat Japan – which we didn’t expect, either – and just got into a groove and kept going.”
Boyd served as a relief pitcher for the Dutch squad, and pitched a total of five-and-two-thirds innings throughout the course of the tournament. Primarily used as a setup guy in the seventh or eighth innings, he even picked up a save in the team’s first win over Cuba.
It’s not the first time Boyd and his national team mates have found themselves in the spotlight after pulling off an upset on the ball diamond.
At the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Boyd’s Dutch squad earned notoriety after two victories over the Dominican Republic, a team chock full of Major League Baseball all-stars. Boyd figured prominently in both wins – he earned a save in one, and was credited with the win in the other.
His performance there led to a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he was released after the 2009 season, and returned to Doors Neptunus of the Dutch league, before returning home to the Lower Mainland this season.
Like the World Baseball Classic – which features numerous Major Leaguer players – rosters for the World Cup are also made up of professional players, but ones who are not on the 40-man rosters of any MLB team.
Boyd’s crew, for example, was made up of 10 players from the U.S. minor leagues, 14 players from the Dutch pro league, “and then me,” Boyd laughed.
Tired of the constant travel required of a self-proclaimed “journeyman pitcher”, and because of a desire to “get on with life, and starting a family” with his wife Jeana, he returned to South Surrey this year to work, coach youth baseball and play senior men’s league ball for the Burnaby Bulldogs. The Bulldogs, whose roster is made up of mostly ex-college players, play in the Lower Mainland-based Pacific Metro Baseball League.
“I made a deal with the coaches and (management) of the national team – I asked if I could go home and play, but still play for them in these (international) tournaments,” Boyd explained.
“They agreed, because I promised I’d be ready – I told them I’d show up two weeks early (to tournaments) if they needed me to – but I don’t know if they’d have done it for anybody else.”