Student Linda Gerritsen played in the baseball world cup championships in Venezuela this summer. Things really hotted up when a player was hit by a bullet.
'The first story was that a soldier had been cleaning a gun' continued Linde, who is in the second year of her BSc in Food Technology at Wageningen University. 'But the bullet entered her calf high up and ended up at the lower end of her leg. So it travelled right down her leg from top to bottom. Because of that trajectory, and because it was a pistol bullet, the conclusion drawn that evening was that it must have been a stray bullet from the slum behind the stadium.'
Linde and her team were still in shock at that point. 'It could have been one of us, and another five centimeters and the bullet would have entered her head.' She wondered whether she should go home. The tournament was suspended for a day. Luckily, the organization quickly decided not to use that stadium any more and to shift the whole tournament to another city, Maracay. 'I didn't feel unsafe there. We had personal security, police escorts for the bus, and we were allowed to say what security measures we wanted taken, such as closed stadiums and crowd surveillance.'
The crowd's enthusiasm helped them to get over the shock. It was quite different to the Netherlands, where ladies' baseball doesn't get much support from the union, and crowds are thin. 'We went to watch Venezuela play the US. The stadium was full, ten thousand people. But I couldn't see a thing, we were so busy giving autographs and everyone wanted their picture taken with us. It was strangely quiet when we got back to the Netherlands.'
Baseball is not much of a women's game in the Netherlands. 'Women here tend to play softball. 'Until they are twelve girls play with the boys, but after that they go over to softball.' The differences are that in softball bowling is underarm instead of overarm, the field is smaller and there are fewer innings in a match. 'Only at my club in Rotterdam there weren't enough girls for a softball team', says Linde, who has played baseball since she was eight. She carried on playing baseball with the boys, the only girl in the team. Until she saw a flyer three years ago and found out that there were women's teams. Now she plays in a women's team in the men's competition in South Holland - a situation reminiscent of the way it used to be for women footballers. Linde has also been in the Dutch national team - formed last year - from the start. Girls come to Zwijndrecht to train from all over the Netherlands.
But competing in the world cup championships between 12 and 22 August proved to be a bit ambitious for the Dutch team. They lost all their matches and came tenth and last. 'Not that we were put off our stroke by that incident in the second match,' says Linde, 'but we simply missed some chances. We'll just have to see it as a learning experience. Now we are going to train really hard. There's another World Cup in two years' time.'