Rob Hoffman Vallei - Bussum HCAW
Photo by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Rob Hoffman Vallei Zanderijweg, 1403 XV Bussum, Netherlands
Year Opened: 1971 Capacity: 1,000
Baseball in the Valley
Baseball in Bussum has a long history, starting pre-WWII as the HC’38 club in 1938. After some post war name changes, the HCAW club (HonkbalClub Allen Weerbaar) founded officially in 1957 and has been active since then, even absorbing their big league rival the Amstel Tigers in the late 80s, playing as the HCAW-Tigers until 1995, when they became HCAW alone once again.
In 1971, HCAW moved into their own complex, “The Baseball Valley.” As with many other Dutch ballparks, this is a multi-field complex for both top-level baseball and softball, along with other fields for lower-level and youth competition. It stands apart, however, because the “valley” was a baseball-only facility, and not part of a multi-sport “sportpark” athletic complex like nearly the rest of the Honkbal Hoofdklasse. The 1,000-seat main stadium and the entire valley were more recently renamed to Rob Hoffman Vallei to honor long-time local pitching great, Rob Hoffman.
Rob Hoffman Vallei isn’t the biggest or best ballparks in The Netherlands, but it is a baseball-only facility with solid services, good value, and relatively easy to access.
[All prices are in Euros. At the time of writing, one Euro is worth about $1.15.]
Food & Beverage 3
Keeping with Honkbal Hoofdklasse standard, all food and drinks are served from the team’s clubhouse. A combined bar and grill sit behind the counter in the trophy and memorabilia-strewn building. You can bring the food out to your seat, or park up on picnic-type tables in the clubhouse itself.
The standard Dutch ballpark fare is on offer. There’s a selection of burgers, hot dogs, and other sausages (€3 and under), and a selection of Dutch broodjes sandwiches (€3). You can argue selection, but you can’t argue prices.
All your drinks come from the same place, with the same limited options and unassailable prices. Heineken, Hoegaarden, Rose, Radler, and Palm (along with wine) are just €2 a piece. Fans load up by the case before the first pitch and bring their empties back in the same case after the game. Coke is the non-alcoholic drink family of choice.
You’re in The Netherlands, so you might as well have a Heineken. If you’re not feeling like a hot dog or brat, try out a Dutch broodje and go a little native.
Rob Hoffman Vallei is one of the few baseball-only facilities in The Netherlands, but its physical buildings aren’t quite as advanced or top-notch as some others in the league.
The fields in the valley are almost all made of chain link fence walls. There are three main buildings by the Honkbal Hoofdklasse field: player locker rooms beyond first base, the clubhouse and team store behind home place, and the attached “Buccaneers Business Club” running down the third baseline. A small press box shed sits halfway between home plate and first base. Unlike many fields in Honkbal Hoofdklasse, visitors can walk around to beyond the center field chain link fence and look in on the game. The main seating area is on a narrow drop from the clubhouse plaza, consisting of two-piece molded plastic seats running in five rows from half-way to first base to half-way to third base. There is an additional row of seats in front of the Business Club on the third base side.
A small digital scoreboard just records the score, balls, strikes, outs, and inning in right-center field. Trees rise above the chain link outfield wall, broken up only by the large conditioning and training building beyond left field. Smoking is very much still a thing in the otherwise progressive Netherlands, and there are several picnic tables in the plaza in front of the clubhouse with ash trays built in to accommodate smokers.
As is the case in most Honkbal Hoofdklasse games, there are no mascots or between-innings entertainment that permeate all levels of US baseball. You get in-stadium PA announcements, batter walk-up music, and the seventh inning stretch, period. The Dutch don’t even play the national anthem before games or usually fly their flag. Since this is a step up from club ball, however, there are some nice vestiges of sportsmanship. Each batter coming the plate for the first time usually shakes the hand of the umpire and the opposing catcher.
You can sit wherever you want except in the dugout, so choose whatever suits your mood. Hang out at the picnic tables with a crate of beer, or grab a seat right behind home plate and see a game closer than you could even dream about in America.
Bussum is a small suburb and commuter town, and while it is convenient to transit, there’s not a ton going on by the ballpark.
A short distance north in the city center, there are at least a decent selection of restaurants. La Cubanita Bussum, Restaurant LUEK, Nobel, Soigne, Mah Wah, Restaurant ‘tKOOKt, and several others are all to be found near downtown.
But there’s not much going on around Rob Hoffam Vallei. The nearest point of interest is the medieval fort city Utrechtse Poort about ten minutes to the north. Seek greener pastures for activities beyond baseball.
There are only three hotels relatively close to the park. The closest is the Bastion Hotel Bussum, within walking distance. The Bed & Breakfast Bussum is to the north, and the Hotel NH Bussum Jan Tabak is further to the northeast. There are many more choices to the south in Hilversum.
Baseball (or honkbal, as it is known locally) is very much a fringe sport in The Netherlands, and for all of Europe for that matter. The Dutch Honkbal Hoofdklasse is one of the only semi pro/professional leagues on the continent, sharing the distinction with the Italian Baseball League.
HCAW seems to draw on the top-end of the average Dutch baseball crowds across the league (between 100-250 people per game). After games and practices at the surrounding fields end, the players and spectators come over to watch the top-level men play their games. Another out-of-the-ordinary status quo is that there are usually pet dogs at every game. It is a welcome change for dog lovers, less so if you don’t like them.
The HCAW fan base stands out quite prominently as being ardent fans. They are very into the games and pay close attention to the on-field action. The numbers especially stand out since this is one of the only parks in The Netherlands that charge admission.
Located in a small town in the central Netherlands, Rob Hoffman Vallei is easy to get to by mass transit and easy to get around in once you arrive.
Rob Hoffman Vallei has the benefit of being a short walk from a Dutch train station, Station Bussum Zuid. It is literally one stop from the city center (3 minutes, €2.40), a half hour by train from Amsterdam Centraal (€5.30), and 20 minutes from Utrecht Centraal (€5.10). It is a five minute drive, cab, or ride share from downtown Bussum (or about a 20-minute walk), and about a half-hour drive, cab, or ride share from Amsterdam or Utrecht.
There is a small parking lot and street parking by the ballpark, and there is plenty of free bicycle parking. Cabs and ride shares can drop you off right at the entrance.
There is one entrance to the facility through the main gate and ticket window. This is the only choke point in the entire park, as it opens out onto a plaza and wide walkways that connect it with all the other fields and facilities in the complex.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices into the baseball valley are €5 for adult and €2.50 for children. While it is one of the only parks to charge admission in Honkbal Hoofdklasse, it is still quite a value.
All of the food and drinks are €3 or under, and you just can’t beat those prices.
As with all the Dutch stadiums, extras are at a minimum. The clubhouse has a selection of baseball memorabilia, as well as club trophies and awards. There is a rather unique baseball couch in the clubhouse that is worth a look. The team store is in an attached building to the clubhouse, selling general baseball equipment and a small selection of team gear, but it is often closed, even during games.
There is a screened picture of the valley’s namesake at the entrance to the park, a dedication plaque for the park, and a large team mural on one of the clubhouse buildings that you walk through on the way to the fields. There is also a dedication to Toon Otte on one of the locker room buildings and four retired numbers (1, 10, 12, 24) on the left field wall.
As Dutch clubhouse personnel are almost all volunteers, they are polite and helpful to a person and are always glad to talk to and assist visitors.
While Rob Hoffman Vallei isn’t the newest or shiniest ballpark in The Netherlands, it is a baseball-only environment with a sizeable Dutch fan base, great value and access, and all the bases covered.