As the De La Salle University Green Batters were able to clinch their second championship in four years, head coach Joseph Orillana immediately looked for one man among the crowd.
And he found him among the sea of green that flooded the field of the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. Orillana threw a huge hug to him, afterward.
The man he was looking for was none other than Saki Bacarisas, his coach during his playing days and now his assistant coach with the Green Batters.
“Walang nagbago. Siya pa rin yung mentor ko,” expressed Orillana, who was the league’s Most Valuable Player back in 2003.
Back in Season 65, Bacarisas steered a rag-tag Green Batters squad, headed by Orillana, to the top of the collegiate world.
But in 2009, a new opportunity was given to the living baseball legend — building the National University baseball and softball program.
It was an offer he could not refuse.
Under Bacarisas’ watch, the Bulldogs were able to win it all during Season 74 and make it to another Finals a year later.
However, as the programs of La Salle, Ateneo, Adamson, and UST flourished, NU was left behind.
Needing a change, the Bulldogs decided to let go of Bacarisas during the summer of 2018.
The timing though could not be more perfect for La Salle.
“Timing lang din. Nung umalis si coach [Fongs] Rances — nag-take kasi siya ng ibang opportunity sa buhay niya. So nung time na yun, yun din yung exit ni coach Saki sa NU. Nung nakita kong floating siya, inoffer ko sa kanya na baka gusto niya bumalik sa La Salle muli,” recalled Orillana, a three-time SEA Games gold medalist.
“Inaccept niya since parehas namin kami ng sistema. Maganda naman yung combination namin.”
And just like the time when Orillana was La Salle’s ace pitcher, the partnership between him and Bacarisas proved to be golden.
Besides winning the baseball crown, the duo helped out new Lady Batters head coach Sid Abello as well, steering La Salle to a bronze finish.
Outside of the results, what Orillana is relishing the most is having his mentor on his side once again.
“Parang tatay ko na kasi si coach Saki e. Masarap sa feeling na yung mentor mo, araw-araw mo kasama,” continued Orillana.
“Hanggang ngayon, gina-guide pa rin niya ko kahit ako yung head coach. Lagi niya pa rin akong sinusuportahan.”