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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Softball Fil-Am talents must be doubly good

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Softball, more on the women’s side though, is one sport where the Philippines has competed at the world level with flying colors. That is if we use the past. In the late 60s to early 70s,  our men’s and women’s teams were at their best. The Blu Girls finished even third behind Japan and the United States in the world softball championship, hosted by Japan in Osaka. 

Two years later, we hosted the event in Marikina and the Blu Girls reached the Final 4 anew but ended up 4th only.

At the Asian level, both our teams were in the Top 4 standings then. Presently, we are 4th with Japan, China, and Chinese Taipei ahead of us in the women’s side.

At the regional level, the Blu Girls are untouchable and have reigned supreme at the SEA Games for the last 10 stagings, though the Blu Boys were shocked by Singapore in the finals in 2019 in Clark, Pampanga.

And prior to the pandemic, we were already ranked 11th, but due to our absence in international competitions the past two years, we have skidded down to 13th place from being just a slot away in the Top 10. The Blu Boys actually moved up to 17th place from 20th, but overall, the focus has been more on the Blu Girls.

I know for a fact, too, that some of our national players, both women’s and men’s, have been imported in the recent past by other Southeast Asian countries, Brunei in particular.

I had a long video chat with women’s team head coach Randy Dizer and he filled me in with a lot of things about local softball.

They have finished the national tryouts late last year and formed a training pool consisting of 12 veterans and 12 young players, who are also in the U-19 team, but there is a chance that it will change, admitting that the team has lost a lot of its veteran players.

Among the veterans retained are pitcher Royevel Palma, now with the University of Sto. Tomas, together with teammates Ann Antolihao and CJ Roa, and Adamson’s MJ Maguad and Ezra Jalandoni. Junior players on the senior team include Katrina Dichon from Smokey Mountain.

The Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines plans to have two tryouts in San Francisco and Los Angeles for Fil-Ams, who can be tapped if ever, but with a big IF for Randy.

He says our local players are at par with others as far as skills are concerned, but that they need to have better facilities here and more international exposure to improve further.

And that is why he said Fil-Ams to be tapped for the team should be doubly better than his homegrown talents. Otherwise, why get players who will just be at par with them, and he sure does have a point.

With an eye on the coming Asian Games in Hangzhou in China later this year, the plan is to bring the team for training and join actual tournaments again in Canada and the United States, then proceed directly to China.

Of course, this is dependent on actual conditions then. Right now, he says the team, even as it continues online training on its own, is missing the most important factor in training — they cannot do field practices.

But Randy has booked the Sto. Nino softball field in Marikina starting on February 1 and will resume field practice given the go-signal by the government.

I asked Randy where softball would be now had it not been for the worldwide pandemic. He said with certainty that the women’s squad should be in the Top 10 teams in the world already. For the men’s side, a few more years to reach the Top 10 level.

He shared that ASAPHIL president Jean Henri Lhuillier was very disappointed with the Blu Boys’ performance in the 2019 SEA Games, finishing only as runner-up.

Randy added it was avoidable had the team seen and read the signals properly prior to the SEA Games, Singapore beat them already, and in the SEAG, the well-prepared Singaporeans did not field its A-Team, we should have scouted them better he says.

As a result, the men’s team coaching staff is now headed by Apol Rosales, one of the best players the country has produced. He was a regular import of other South East Asian teams in his heydays, just to show how good he was then.

How both the Blu Boys and the Blu Girls perform in the Asian Games in China will determine the future plans for the team. It is good that it is Jean Henri who heads ASAPHIL as the guy spends his own money for softball.

I wish them good luck, the same way I wish this COVID-19 pandemic to end, so we can resume our normal lives, and sports goes back to normal, too.

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