SAN FRANCISCO -- On a team with an impressive collection of talent, it was a trio of 20-something kids from Curacao who most impressed Kingdom of the Netherlands team members in preparation of the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
That trio -- 23-year-old shortstop Andrelton Simmons, 21-year-old third baseman Jonathan Schoop and the barely 20-year-old second baseman Jurickson Profar -- are future stars of Major League Baseball and current stars for the Dutch.
"I was telling some guys, right now, defensively, they might be the best infield in the world," said relief pitcher Leon Boyd, who tossed a scoreless inning in Monday's 4-1 semifinal loss to the Dominican Republic.
"Even playing against [the Dominican], yeah, [Jose] Reyes and [Robinson] Cano, they are good, but watching some of our guys like Simmons and Schoop in batting practice when they are trying to do double plays, they are bringing out a stop watch and seeing how fast they can turn a double play."
Schoop, Profar and Simmons blossomed together as youngsters.
Schoop, a Baltimore Orioles prospect, and Profar, a Texas Rangers Minor Leaguer ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, were teammates on the 2004 Little League World Series champions. Profar homered in the championship game against Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Schoop earned the save in relief.
"It's pretty remarkable that these guys have ascended themselves into the elite of baseball in the last couple of years," Dutch manager Hensley Meulens said prior to Monday's loss. "It's a talented group. A group that we hope can stick together for future Classics, for this country."
They share that same boyhood love for the game that keeps the veterans for the Dutch National Team feeling young.
"I think it is more fun for them to play on this high level of stage together, almost like an All-Star game kind of thing," Jones said. "That's the motivation here. They all grew up together playing against each other in Curacao in Little League."
Sam King is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less