Our Spring 2018 Feature Star is Jorin van Amstel from Huizen Netherlands who just completed his Senior Year at Northwestern Oklahoma State University (NCAA Division II) – leading his team with 55 hits and a .340 batting average in 162 AB’s, while finishing second in Runs Batted In (RBI) with 35. Jorin also hit 12 doubles and 5 home runs, while being named second team All-Great American Conference. Jorin came to Northwest Oklahoma State from Odessa Junior College in Texas where he played 2 seasons for Coach Kurtis Lay. Jorin was recruited out of the very first International Stars Showcase in 2013 and overcame a great deal to play and excel in college baseball. During the Fall of his sophomore season at Odessa he suffered a horrific leg injury that caused him to miss the majority of the season and at times he wondered whether he would ever play baseball again. Through his hard work, both on and off the field, and in the classroom, he persevered and with support from his coaches, family, friends, and girlfriend. Jorin could have went back to his home in the Netherlands and used his injury as an excuse but he refused to give-up and came back to the U.S. and put together a fantastic season and is on pace to graduate with his bachelor degree in December. Jorin also played for the International Stars twice at Prague Baseball Week – first in 2013 with the inaugural team, as a huge catalyst in helping them defeat the world ranked Czech National Team in the Championship and then again in 2017 as a leader for the inaugural Future Stars team that placed 3rd in the tournament. Jorin is an incredible person with a fantastic story and we are so proud of him for how he represents the International Stars organization and what he has achieved.
Continue below to read his whole interview about his journey from The Netherlands to college baseball…
International Stars (IS): Can you tell us about your experiences growing up playing baseball in Holland?
Jorin van Amstel (JA): Growing up playing baseball in in the Netherlands was a little different. My brother (Niels Van Amstel) originally played soccer but realized that a fall sport in shorts was not really his thing. When he transferred from soccer to baseball I naturally came a long with him on a regular base. I started playing at JEKA in Breda, and after moving places for my Dad’s job I moved to Zuidvogels in Huizen. After playing there for a while I was invited to come play at the Scimitars Baseball Academy and this is where things started moving for me. I got invited for national team try-outs and made it to the U16, U18, and U23 national teams. I made my debut in the Dutch Major League at HCAW in Bussum, got selected for the all-star game, and played in multiple European and World championships representing my country.
IS: What made you want to pursue a career playing in America?
JA: I realized that I was always was a little more driven towards success in baseball than most others around me. I made my debut in the Dutch Major League at 16 years old and realized there was not much more to achieve in the Netherlands. I decided that I wanted to measure my baseball abilities with players in America because it is the most developed western baseball country in the world.
IS: What steps did you take to make it happen?
JA: I got invited to participate in the High School Power Showcase in Miami, Florida. Justin Prinstein invited me to come to the United States a little before the Power Showcase and offered me the chance to get in touch with various colleges around the country. I got in touch with a few extremely well known programs but together with Justin, decided that it would be best to attend a Junior College first. This ended up the best decision in my life.
IS: Your first step was at Odessa College in Texas. Can you tell us about this experience – how it went, how you played, what was college like, what were the biggest adjustments to living and going to school in America?
JA: I will never forget getting off the plane in Midland – Texas (half and hour drive from Odessa College) all by myself. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into and the first few weeks struggled to keep up with the pace of everyday life. Initially, I felt somewhat intimidated by all the American and Canadian guys on my team and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to reach that level of playing ever. However, after getting comfortable and finding my twist in the classroom (not making good grades means not playing) and on the field I was able to help the team reach the Conference Tournament in which we finished second. I was at the peak of my baseball career and have never been a better player then during my Freshman year at Odessa College.
IS: You suffered a pretty horrific injury in your 2nd year at Odessa? What happened? How did you overcome that?
JA: During a scrimmage game in the fall leading up to my Sophomore year I read a ball off the wall wrong while playing centerfield. I planted my left foot to change directions and heard a “pop” in my knee. I went down and remember that my knee was just completely locked and swollen.
After numerous off tests, scans, and specialists trying to determine what had actually happen it was clear that my meniscus had popped off the bone. I went in for surgery which was supposed to take for about 45 minutes, with the expectation I would be back on the field within 6 weeks of rehabilitation. However, I woke up 6 hours later than expected and got the message that not just my meniscus had came off the bone, but that I also had torn my ACL. This was by far the worst news I have ever gotten in my life, and I will never forget how devastated I was that the expected 6 weeks without baseball had turned into 8 months. However, with hard work and determination I was able to play the last few weeks of my Sophomore year and learned a very important lesson; Don’t you dare taking anything for granted, because it can be over in the blink of an eye.
IS: You ended up going to a 4-year university at Northwestern Oklahoma State. How did that happen? How was that experience for you? How was it different than Junior College?
JA: I decided to “quit” baseball after my two years at Odessa College because the low amount of games played after recovering from my injury were not enough to get a good offer from a 4-year university. Besides that, I was angry at the sport that I had always given everything for and my knee was just not healthy yet. I started working at a gas station in the Netherlands and had a really hard time in life. But after a few months I got an unexpected chance to come back to the United States to play at Northwestern Oklahoma State University and I took it with both hands. The biggest difference between Junior College and a 4-year university for me was the so called “grind”. In Junior College there are less restriction coming from the federation in regards of practice and work out times and moments. In Junior College you learn what it means to grind and because of more restrictions coming from the NCAA this different at the 4-year university.
IS: When you reflect on your college career – what did you learn on and off the field? How do you think the experiences have helped prepare you for life?
JA: I learned that if you want to achieve something you will have to work for it. If you give up, skip out on a rep, or come late to a workout, there will be plenty of guys lined up to take your spot. My college career thickened my skin and made me a better person all around. I learned how to be independent, how to make connections with people in completely new places, and that a set back no matter its size is NEVER the end of the story.
IS: How was your college baseball experience in America different than playing in Europe?
JA: College students eat, sleep, and breathe baseball. I have never experienced the level of dedication to the sport in Europe as I experienced it in the United States. People simply do not get enough of baseball and are willing to give up whatever it takes to become the best player they can be. It literally is the ideal environment to reach the highest potential you have as a player and it is an experience I would recommend to every baseball player who is ambitious.
IS: What things did you pick-up in America, from a cultural perspective – food, hobbies, lifestyle – was it very different than living in Europe?
JA: In the Netherlands I had always lived with my parents and had never been independent really. In college I learned that toothpaste doesn’t magically show up in the bathroom, and that your living place needs to be cleaned. Nobody is going to do it for you. My love for nature grew significantly because man, America is a beautiful country. And to my biggest surprise I have learned to appreciate country music! Europe and America are literally two different worlds, and even though I am fully dutch on my passport, I consider myself as being half American.
IS: Finally, what were your experiences with the International Stars? From College Showcase to Prague Baseball Week – what were they like for you and would you recommend them to others?
JA: The first time I got in touch with the International Stars was the first time they send a team out to the Prague Baseball Week. I originally was part of the “grown-man” team and we won the tournament. This team felt like a family and created the understanding that once you are part of the family, you always will. The college showcase I participated in before going to the Power Showcase in Miami served as the steps I needed to make the necessary connections in the American Baseball world. Besides having an absolute blast during each and every International Stars event I have participated in, I also learned a lot as a player, and got offered a full-scholarship at an American school. I absolutely recommend everybody who wants to take the next step in their baseball career the participate in the International Stars events, and will forever be grateful for the opportunities presented by Justin Prinstein and the rest of the IS family.