Panes: Exporting softball-A A +A
By Joel Panes
Monday, May 19, 2014
SERIES 8 of the National Softball Open Championships also called Summer Grand Slam launched and faithfully managed by the Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines in a strategic partnership with Cebuana Lhullier Group of Companies closed another successful campaign at the Marikina softball diamonds. The country’s most prestigious tournament had attracted 41 softball teams, local and international. This was a new high, a new level of interest and a continuing testimony of the vision, passion and energy of ASAPHIL’s president Jean Henri Lhullier.
After seven days of intense competition in searing temperatures of 36 degrees, Chikara of Brunei became the first foreign team to win the Women’s Open Division championship plum. Chikara which is powered by some of Philippine softball’s national stars in the recent times such as pitchers Syrel Ramos and Gedda Valencia have made history on both ends. These lady softbelles and many others armed with baccalaureate degrees earned during their playing years in the UAAP had found employment in the oil-rich sultanate. These lady softball players are living testaments of the state of the game of softball in the country.
In a way, they have become the country’s softball eminent ambassadors.
Of Syrel, I watched her pitch a game under heavy rain with a wet and slippery softball without the loss of speed and control. For someone who works from the pitching circle, that is a difficult and amazing feat. Her fingers must have the traction of a spider’s legs to keep the ball in place while zooming toward its target.
Of Gedda, one of CAR’s softbelles described her as burly. With the UST Tigers seven years ago, she pitched against UC-BCF’s men’s softball squad at the Baguio City Athletic Bowl. That was for me a game of great and pivotal interest. I was on my 2nd or 3rd year coaching the game here. Gedda who was UST’s starter, held the multi-titled BBEAL men’s softball champions down to a score of only one and handily won that feisty game.
Yes, it was feisty. When a man barely hits a woman’s pitch with a bat or simply whizzes past him is as shameful as an unknown lady slapping a man’s face in full public view. Though the defeat of men’s BBEAL softball team (supposedly Cordillera’s best) in the hands of a UAAP women’s softball squad years ago is not really an assault against Cordilleran masculinity and brawn (that is not being questioned), the manner by which it was played and the results albeit it was a tune game at that specific time spoke volumes.
Syrel Ramos formerly of Adamson University and Gedda Valencia of University of Sto. Tomas whom the ladies of Cordillera softball had seen and played against in previous tournaments of ASAPHIL’s Summer Grand Slam are not alone as talented exports of the Philippine softball game. In Indonesia, there is now Esmy Tayag of the University of Sto. Tomas Golden Tigers. She plays with Lakidende Softball. In Singapore, there is also Joy Lasquite of the University of the East Warriors. She is the head coach of a secondary school softball team. Truly, these ladies from Philippine softball have become the game’s eminent ambassadors.
Of Brunie’s Chikara in Summer Grand Slam’s 8th year, it had dislodged the Adamson University Falcons, the defending champions of the National Open Softball Championship for the last few years. The Lady Falcons were champions for three consecutive years from Benguet’s Wangal Sports Complex’ stint to Pampanga’s Clark Development’s hosting for two consecutive years. Their loss does not threaten or diminish the stature of the team or the strength of Philippine softball at all in the short term. It merely affirms Philippine softball has talent. It also shows there is a surplus of talent which are finding places outside its shores to excel and preach the gospel of the game. Over the years, these lasses could be agents of change in the game of softball in Brunei or wherever they may be. We would have fostered unity among ASEAN states but softball in the greater region will surely not be the same.
In other categories such as the Club Division–Women which players in the rosters have not had the status of a national player (Blu Girl Squad) the University of Sto. Tomas Golden Tigers defended its National Open title it won over Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles last year. In this Series 8, the Sandy Barredo-coached squad had denied the Davao-based University of Mindanao (UM). In the last two years, the University of Mindanao softball team had surged to prominence. In the National PRISAA, they had been perennial bridesmaids to UST before the age-old stranglehold was momentarily broken by the Cordilleras. In the past two years however, they have been finding resolve and support to strengthen its softball program. UM-Davao’s participation in the ASAPHIL’s 2014 National Open Softball Championships is definitely one step to gain the prior stature. About the Cordilleras whether it be in the person of the UC, SLU, BSU or UB? For a region that prides itself in the batted balls’ game, not one team or its shadow was there.
Of softball, there is truly merit and opportunity. Education is not just about books, exams and labor skills. Life is infinitely greater.
My prayer has always been is that Cordilleras in the near future won’t look back to see what it had missed and agonizingly say, “Had we did it, we could have been.” For ten, work was done and it humbles me still to know we were once national softball champions. Though, it ain’t now, the passion for the game still burns and thrills me endlessly.
From Sydney, cheers mayt!
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 20, 2014.