- Bats Right, Throws Right
René Rijst set a Hoofdklasse record for durability. He was an active player an amazing 21 years after being named MVP.
Rijst debuted in 1980 with the Giants Diemen, going 0 for 4 and allowing two unearned runs in 1 2/3 innings at age 16. In '81, he was already doing well, hitting .333 and slugging over .500 but was just 1-6 with a 4.57 ERA on the mound. The Amsterdam native batted .245/?/.409 in 1982 and went 0-1 with a 4.12 ERA. In '83, he fell to .173 while not pitching well either (3-4, 6.71) and was back in the minor Eerste Klasse for all of 1984.
In 1985, René was back in the Hoofdklasse, hitting .231/?/.505 for Kinheim and going 6-7 with a 4.73 ERA. The next year, he batted .301/?/.445 and had a 2-4, 3.60 record. He made his debut for the Dutch national team in a major event during the 1986 Amateur World Series (he had been with them for a minor event in '85).
Rijst hit .305/?/.484 for HCAW in 1987 and went 1-3 with a 3.99 ERA. He was back with Kinheim in '88. He had his best season in 1989, when the 25-year-old batted .393, slugged .659, cracked 11 homers, scored 35 runs and drove in 43 in 36 games. He only pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run, focusing on his hitting. The outfielder led the league in home runs (tied with Raymond Soerka) and RBI and won the MVP award. He struggled in the playoffs, though, going 5 for 24 without a long ball. He played for the Netherlands in the 1989 European Championship and they won the Silver Medal.
In his 9th season in the Hoofdklasse, he hit .323/?/.549 with 10 HR and 40 RBI for Kinheim. He was 2-3 with a 4.23 ERA as a pitcher. Rijst allowed 7 runs in six playoff innings and was 3 for 9 at the plate. He played in the 1990 Haarlem Baseball Week and 1990 Baseball World Cup. In the latter event, he allowed three runs in two innings as the worst Dutch pitcher but hit very well, going 4 for 6 with two doubles while backing up Marcel Kruyt in right field and Eric de Bruin at first base. It would be eight years until his next stint with the national team.
Rijst hit .338/?/.564 with 40 RBI in 38 games for Kinheim in 1991 while going 3-0 with a 3.62 ERA. In '92, he fell all the way to .222/?/.389 and he allowed 15 runs in 7 1/3 innings. He was just 2 for 18 in the playoffs but somehow drove in five runs as Kinheim made it to the Holland Series. He was 4 for 15 with a double and a homer in the Series, but Kinheim fell to ADO.
The veteran performer was not yet halfway done with his career in 1993 when he batted .290/?/.516 with 9 home runs and 38 RBI in 41 games. In the playoffs, he was 4 for 22 but with five runs and four RBI in four games. In the 1993 Holland Series, Rijst was 2 for 9 but Kinheim lost out to Neptunus. In '94, he hit only .243/?/.346. He was 2 for 6 in the playoffs then two for 16 in the 1994 Holland Series; Kinheim won its first Series despite his woes offensively.
René hit .406 and slugged .607 upon moving to HCAW in 1995, his second stint with the team, then followed with a .316 average in the playoffs. The next year, he batted .311 and slugged .398 for the club followed by .333 with five RBI in four playoff games. In the 1996 Holland Series, he was 5 for 15 with two doubles, a homer and 7 RBI as his team won it all, their first Series title.
Rijst batted .358/?/.596 in 1997 and was 1-1 with a 6.84 ERA in 7 games as a pitcher; he had totaled only eight games pitched over the prior five seasons. He was 0 for 4 in the playoffs but tossed a shutout in his lone start. He went 1 for 7 in the 1997 Holland Series and got a win, but his club fell to the Pioniers.
In '98, the 34-year-old hit .229/?/.457 in a reduced role as a batter, but was pitching more now, going 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA in finding new life as a hurler 18 years after he broke into Dutch baseball. He was 0 for 6 in the postseason but won games in both the playoffs and 1998 Holland Series to help HCAW take its second pennant.
Rijst returned to the national team that year after an eight-year absence. He tossed 2 2/3 shutout innings in the 1998 Haarlem Baseball Week, getting credit for one of the two Dutch wins. He gave up three runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in the 1998 Baseball World Cup; only Jurriaan Lobbezoo notched a lower ERA for the Netherlands.
Rijst was almost exclusively a pitcher in 1999, going 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA while going two for six at the plate. He won his only playoff game and had a 4.15 ERA in three appearances in the 1999 Holland Series, which was won by Neptunus instead. He tossed two shutout innings in the 1999 European Championship, won by the Netherlands. In the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, he appeared in a team-high four games, allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings as a short reliever.
Through 1999, Rijst had hit .298 and slugged .494 in 553 Hoofdklasse games, with 80 home runs and 341 RBI; by contrast, he hit only .220 in 36 playoff contests. He was 29-35 with a 4.48 ERA in 162 regular season games as a pitcher but was 6-0 in the postseason.
In 2000, the 36-year-old right-hander notched a Hoofdklasse-leading 12 saves while returning to Kinheim for a second tour of duty. It was his second time leading the league in a major department, having paced in homers and RBI 11 years prior. Rijst saved three games for Almere in 2004, tying Dave Draijer for 7th in the league. He was 0-3 with a 3.26 ERA in '05; he was 7 for 25 with a double and a homer in his last regular action at the plate. He broke Han Urbanus's decades-old record of 24 seasons played in the top Dutch circuit. The next year, he went 2-5 with two saves and a 4.73 ERA in 18 games, including eight starts. At age 42, he was 10th in strikeouts (42) and tied for 7th in saves.
Rijst saw limited action after that. He threw 3 1/3 shutout innings for Almere in 2007, going 1-0 with a save. He also appeared with a scoreless inning on June 22, 2010, retiring former US minor leaguers Dwayne Kemp and Danny Rombley. It made him the fourth four-decade player in league history after Urbanus, Marcel Kruyt and Marcel Joost.