TwinsDaily learned that another player they were interested in, Dutch 3B Ruar Verkerk, signed shortly thereafter. We had a chance to exchange some questions with the young Dutchman earlier this week.
Verkerk, after signing, with Twins Head of
International Scouting Howard Norsetter.
TwinsDaily: Ruar, thanks for the taking the time to help introduce yourself to this community of Twins fans. The International Free Agency system is something that we get less exposure to, so it's nice to be able to get some answers from someone who was acquired this way.
Obviously, coming from Europe where the most popular sport is soccer (to us anyway, football to you), what was it about baseball that hooked you and when?
Ruar Verkerk: I came in contact with baseball because my dad was a baseball player. Also, my (older) brother played and I joined him and his team at the age of 3 or 4 years.
TD: Did you ever play soccer?
RV: No, only a few games with school on a tournament.
TD: How familiar are you with Major League Baseball? The Twins have a pretty significant presence in Europe, were you more familiar with them?
RV:Of course I know Major League Baseball. We often watch games on ESPN. I wasn’t more familiar to one team or another.
TD: The process that ultimately led you to signing with the Twins. When did that begin? How many teams were involved? When did you know you would be signing with the Twins?
RV: I have heard that they started following me at the age of 14. From my agent, I heard that five teams showed interest in me. But the Twins really made an effort to sign me. They have a good development plan for me and they want to give me time to adjust to play pro ball.
TD: You told me the day the signing period opened that you were strongly considering waiting until after the European Championships later this month to sign. What changed your mind?
RV: Things went fast after the 2nd of July. (The) Twins made a good offer and they really want to take care of me and sign me, so I decided not to wait until after the EC.
Now I am more relaxed and I want to do my best (in) the Championship. My focus is now to win the EC with the Dutch team.
TD: Before the period opens there are all sort of projections about what guys will eventually sign for. The dollar amount I saw hung on you was $500,000. Is that what you got?
RV: The Twins have made a fair offer. I am not in the game for money. I am satisfied and happy. The information about the bonus I (would like to) keep to myself.
TD: So what's next? I've heard all the "signees" head to Fort Myers, Florida, for a physical and an age verification/background check. Is that what's on tap for you? How does the rest of the year look? How much have they told you?
RV: Because I am very young and not used to (playing) in the heat, I will go to Australia for a couple of months this winter. In April, I will travel to Florida. After that, I am not sure. It depends on my development.
TD: The Twins have a Dutch presence currently, with P Tom Stuifbergen pitching in AA, Shairon Martis in AAA and Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven in the press box. They also recently released Curt Smith. Do you know any of these guys and have they contacted you since signing?
RV: Yes I have had contact with Tom Stuifbergen. I saw him at the training in Holland this winter. Of course, I know Bert Blijleven (Editor: maybe the Dutch spelling, which is cool) by name . I have never met him, but I hope I will have a chance to meet him one day.
TD: Was there any of your other teammates that signed with the Twins or another team?
RV: A teammate from the Dutch AAA team got signed by the Baltimore Orioles.
TD: Obviously, you're 16, so there is still a lot to "project" with you. Can you give us a scouting report on yourself?
RV: I have a lot to learn, that’s for sure. I am a tall guy. I like to hit. I am a left-handed hitter, with - so I am told - a very good, smooth swing. I have a strong arm. I got the advice to go dancing, because my footwork needs improvement. Furthermore, I have to work on my speed (and) strength.
I am very proud to be a Minnesota Twin. I want to work hard and my goal is to play for the Twins in the Majors one day.Thank you for the interest in me.
TD: And, thank you, Ruar, for taking your time to introduce yourself to us.
If you're interested in following Ruar on Twitter, you can do so @ruarverkerk.