Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sky's the limit for Van Mil

TRENTON – At 7-foot-1, Van Mil, a Dutch-born reliever who signed with the Twins, is the tallest player in baseball history. Over the last year or so, however, he’s also been one of the unluckiest.

He was selected for the 2009 Summer Olympics, but an injury suffered when Team Netherlands’ off-day plans were derailed cost him a chance for national pride.

“We were supposed to go to the Great Wall, but there was some kind of circuit set out for cyclists or something, so we decided to practice that day and do the Great Wall another day,” Van Mil recalled. “During that practice, something popped in my elbow and it ended up being a torn ligament.”

The tear not only wiped out his Olympic dreams, but also put the kibosh on playing for Team Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. As it turned out, the Dutch pulled one of the young tournament’s great upsets by ousting the Dominican Republic, of the game’s great international powers, from competition.

To put in perspective the vastness between the countries’ respective proclivities for the sport, one doesn’t need to look far. The Thunder’s roster has three Dominican-born players – Hector Noesi, Wilkin De La Rosa and Wilkins Arias. By contrast, just seven people from the Netherlands have cracked a big league roster.

So it should come as no surprise that, despite the hullabaloo it caused on this continent, the win in the WBC was treated as no big deal in Van Mil’s home.

“Nobody really cared,” Van Mil said. “It wasn’t big news in Holland. … I was rehabbing in Fort Myers, and I remember talking to people back home who were saying ‘Yeah, it was in the news, but nobody knows what it means.’”

One of the players on the team that dethroned the Dominicans last season is Sharlon Schoop, an infielder San Francisco’s system who has spent time with Van Mil in the Eastern League. In fact, the pair was supposed to play in last year’s World Cup, but once again Van Mil was kept out of competition.

This time, however, it wasn’t injury, but the mere threat of injury that caused the Twins to keep him off the field.

“We were supposed to play in the World Cup last year. He went to Holland, I went to Holland, but our coach decided it was too big of a risk to play me because of the risk of injury (even though) I was fine, so that was weird.

“They flew me back to Holland two weeks before the season ended. I missed the playoffs (with the Rock Cats), and the coach says ‘We’re not playing you because we think you’re going to get injured.”

The numbers are not good for Van Mil this season. He’s walked 15 in 27 1/3 innings, and has posted a ghastly 7.57 ERA in between stops at Fort Myers and New Britain. Still, with his unprecedented height advantage, coupled with a mid-90s fastball, the sky is the limit.

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