MABALACAT, PAMPANGA — When the RP Blu Girls clinched the team’s 10th straight Southeast Asian Games championship last Sunday, Cheska Altomonte looked around the field of the Villages.
She felt both decided and at ease.
“This is my last tournament. I said I’m gonna stop playing how many times. But this is going to be my last tournament as a Blu Girl.”
Ever since graduating Ateneo back in 2014, Cheska — who comes from a family of baseball players — has dedicated her life to the sport.
By how much?
Well back in 2016, Altomonte left a high-paying job at Solar Entertainment to go full-time with the Blu Girls. And it was all for the Olympic dream.
“You also have to put your life also on hold to commit to this team. To think I’ve put so many years, full-out commitment with this team. You know, yeah? I mean, every day, having to train every day, like, having to put yourself through the entire process. It really is a daily sacrifice. Towards the end, I have been helping out with managing,” the 25-year-old catcher shared.
“It’s been a bit rough.”
For the past few years, the Blu Girls have been a well-traveled bunch. The team has had no days off, going from country to country to either train or compete.
They’ve played in numerous SEA Games, Asian Games, World Championships, and even competed in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Besides her role the team’s skipper, Altomonte also helps out in every aspect of the team’s operations — including marketing.
But seeing the fresh batch of Blu Girls, Altomonte knows that she can now step aside for the next generation.
“I think I already gave everything I could for the team. From leading it, managing it [laughs]. Doing at least the good stuff. We’ve already played in every tournament. The Asian Games… We [also] tried to qualify for the Olympics. And it will be, this will be a good time for the younger pool to come in and train for the next tournaments because it’s going to be a longer turn training,” said Altomonte, who is also the secretary-general of the POC’s Athlete’s Commission.
“In the Asian Games, it’s going to be in 2022. Three years is going to be a long time for the younger kids to start now. And I think, with, whoever’s going to stay will be able to pass on what we have learned already.”
Just like all goodbyes though, it will be hard.
For the last 13 years, Altomonte and Randy Dizer have formed a father and daughter relationship, enough that Coach Randy is like her second dad.
“Yeah, coach Randy has been a really been a part of my… growth,” said Altomonte, turning emotional.
“It’s going to be tough on him. Yeah, but knowing coach Randy, I’m the player I am today because of coach Randy and coach Ana [Santiago]. They’re supportive also. They know it’s also time for me to stop playing and move on to the next phase of my life, whatever that is.”
After their game against Indonesia, Dizer was still in denial, hoping that Altomonte would have a change of heart before the Blu Girls’ next journey begins.
“She’s not stopping. She’s only 25, she’s my baby. She will stay,” he quipped.
Still, Altomonte vows that she won’t leave her team completely.
“I believe what this team can do so I didn’t mind at all. I don’t think I’m going to let go completely. As a player, I’m done, but I will always be able to help the team in whatever aspect.”