There should have been a triple celebration at the Villages in Mabalacat, Pampanga last Sunday.
The RP Blu Girls had copped their 10th Southeast Asian Games gold. Then later in the day, the Philippine Men’s Baseball Team had won the country’s third gold in the biennial meet. The campaigns of both squads were clearly dominant, routing their opponents left and right — including their gold medal matches.
However, the RP Blu Boys could not secure the same feat, falling to Singapore, 6-1 — their third defeat to the them in a span of five months — to settle for silver.
The once-sure gold squad had suffered their first championship round loss since 1997.
And for team manager Ofring Dela Cruz, this was a wake-up call not just for the team but for the players themselves.
“It is a wake-up call and an eye-opener na kinakailangan na huwag tayo tumigil sa pag-develop ng future. Hindi basta-basta ‘yung kalaban kasi nag-tretraining sila sa Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Tapos bitin pa tayo sa height,” he lamented.
“Gagawan natin ng paraan ‘yan at hahanap tayo ng leads kung saan tayo makakabawi at makasabay sa kanila.”
The Blu Girls have an average age of 25 years old, while the core of the Baseball Team are composed of either current UAAP players or fresh graduates.
“Trying to look at it, the prime of softball players are 28 to 30 kaya tataas pa ‘yung laro nila,” said Blu Girls head coach Randy Dizer about his team.
“Ito, new generation na ito. Apat na veterans na lang tinira. Mostly diyan, current players or fresh graduate kaya kailangan pa namin develop mga players namin para umangat pa lalo,” remarked Baseball NT head coach Lando Binarao about his squad.
On the other hand, the Blu Boys have been an ageing bunch. Leading the way was playing-head coach Apol Rosales, who is already 42 years old. Though there are young guns like 16-year-old Justine Rosales and 21-year-old Julius Diaz in the team, the two — plus the majority of the team’s rookies — are really baseball players.
On the other side, Singapore was a young bunch led by 18-year-old, 6-foot-1 pitcher Aloysius Ong, who only allowed just a single hit in the finals.
“Bata sila eh,” said Dela Cruz when asked about what made the Singapore team tough.
Unlike women’s softball and men’s baseball, there are few tournaments for men’s softball in the country. The NCAA has discontinued the sport since 1986, while the UAAP only offers women’s softball, and boys’ and men’s baseball.
With this predicament, Dela Cruz hopes that the Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Sports Commission can come up with more grassroots tournaments to develop the next generation of male softball players.
“Dati ‘pag walang event, walang program. Pero ngayon nangako ang ating presidente [Jean Henri Lhuillier]. Sabi niya, binigay namin ang lahat. Kaya ngayon, natalo kami pero babangon tayo,” he said.
“‘Yun ‘yung purpose natin ngayon, na magkaroon ng mga batang player. At the end of the day, magme-merge ‘yan sa veterans at young players. At least ‘pag may nag-graduate may papalit kaagad.”
As they say, evolve or be extinct.