The Netherlands women's national softball team will take part in the 10th annual John Radtke Memorial Women's Fastpitch Classic softball tournament this weekend at the Elgin Sports Complex.
Holland will play in a featured game at 8 p.m. Saturday against Portage, Michigan-based Hooters, a team comprised of numerous current and former Division I softball players. Hooters has been a mainstay in the Radtke Memorial, which dates back to 2005, winning the tournament title three times.
The Netherlands team's trip to Elgin is part of a monthlong training schedule in the United States and also includes stops at the Chicago Bandits stadium in Rosemont and in downstate Bloomington.
The team, coached by Craig Montvidas, is preparing to host its first world championship tournament in mid-August.
"This Illinois trip here will prepare us quite well," Montvidas said. "It's a good opportunity to play good teams. We're definitely looking forward to it."
Holland's team dates back to the 1970s. The squad defeated Italy in 2007 to earn Europe's spot in the 2008 Summer Olympics, which was the last time the sport was featured on that stage.
The team also has enjoyed recent success, winning three consecutive European championships and placing sixth in the 2002 world championships.
"Japan, the U.S., China, Australia and Canada are the five most powerful countries for softball," Montvidas said. "It's been that way for a long time. One of our goals has been to become the best of the rest. There are a lot of good teams in that 6 through 15 category. We're making progress."
Montvidas said the size of The Netherlands is both a positive and negative for the program.
"Our biggest disadvantage is we come from a very small country. You can drive east to west and north to south in about three hours," he said. "Softball isn't a big sport in Holland, whereas a country like the U.S. has a huge pool to choose from. We're competing against other countries where there is a big softball culture. That's not the case here."
This is Holland's second trip to the U.S. this year. The team spent 25 days in March in Clearwater, Florida.
Longtime Hooters coach John Bacho, who started coaching women's fastpitch softball in 1977 and is a member of the Michigan Amateur Hall of Fame as a coach, is looking forward to playing the Dutch national team.
"The tournament (John Radtke Memorial) is always great. It draws a lot of good teams," Bacho said. "John (Northern Illinois Lightning President and General Manager John Radtke Jr.) always gets good teams. If you travel, you want to play games and that always happens there. These are some of the teams we'll see at nationals. It's always a solidly run tournament."
Tournament games take place Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at the Elgin Sports Complex, 709 Sports Way, Elgin. No games will be played on the Fourth of July.