When the first World Baseball Classic was played, Sharlon Schoop was an 18-year-old still getting acclimated to playing baseball in the United States for the San Francisco Giants organization. Now the Curacao native will get the chance to experience the Classic first-hand as part of the Netherlands squad.
That 2006 season saw Schoop hit .310 with a .427 on-base percentage in the Rookie-level Arizona League, putting the Willemstad native firmly on the prospect map. It's been a little uneven since, but considering he spent all of last year in the Class A Advanced California League at age 21, he's doing just fine.
"He's a good little player," Giants director of player personnel Bobby Evans said. "He's an athletic young kid who is very bright and loves the game. Wherever he goes, the main objective is to make sure he gets playing time."
That includes the upcoming Classic. Expectations might be a little higher for the Netherlands after the last time. Playing in a group with Puerto Rico, Cuba and Panama, the Dutch won a game, beating Panama behind Shairon Martis' no-hitter. Panama again is in the same pool as the Netherlands, along with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
"I just want him to get some playing time that will allow him to be tested," Evans said of the Classic. "It's a great event for baseball and the opportunity to see how the different teams get formed. They surprised people in the past, [with how they played] three years ago."
At the very least, Schoop should feel a sense of continuity. He spent a great deal of the offseason back home working with fellow Curacao native Hensley Meulens. Meulens, the first big leaguer to come from the island, will be a coach for the Netherlands during the Classic. And, to top it off, Meulens will be the hitting coach for Triple-A Fresno.
"I like it a lot," Evans said of the working relationship between the Willemstad natives. "It's good for the kid and Meulens was impressed. Meulens is a nice addition for us."
And it might help in more than just coaching. Having Meulens aboard could aid the Giants in finding more talent in the Dutch Antilles, something the organization would love to see. Bringing in more players like Schoop certainly wouldn't upset anyone.
"We're always opportunistic where we see players coming along," Evans said. "With Meulens over there, we have some ideas as to what's coming. Our scouts are doing their job as well. I find it to be a very interesting place to find talent."
Other Giants on Classic rosters
RHP Brooks McNiven
is a Canadian who spent most of the 2008 season with Double-A Connecticut. The 27-year-old University of British Columbia product had a 1.84 ERA over 58 2/3 Eastern League innings and also tossed 17 innings with Triple-A Fresno. He made two starts for Team Canada at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, winning one and allowing only two earned runs on three hits over eight innings.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.