Good luck to the Blu Boys

LAST Monday, the Blu Boys left for New Zealand where the 2013 International Softball Federation (ISF) Men’s World Softball Championship will be held from March 1 to 10 in Auckland.

The Philippines qualified for the world championships by finishing second to Japan in last year’s Asian Championship but will be up against even stronger teams in New Zealand, including defending champion Australia, the United States, Canada, and the host country among others, not to mention the European representatives.

For the record, New Zealand and the United States are tied for the most number of world championships held in the men’s division with 5 each while Canada has won thrice and Australia once.

But ASAPHIL president Jean Henri Lhuillier has set a more realistic but still difficult goal for the Blu Boys, a quarterfinals slot, he says, meaning we should make it to the last 8 out of 16 teams playing in the tournament.

After all, we placed 10th in the last edition and JHL is making sure that the boys are more prepared physically and emotionally now, acclimatized too that is why he is giving them an extra two weeks to train in New Zealand.

At the same time, he got the services of former Australian national player Maurice Paraha, now a club team head coach in Queensland, Australia to help train the team on all aspects of the game.

I was fortunate to have been able to talk to Maurice after the 4 day seminar ASAPHIL asked him to conduct at the PSC for local coaches, and I got good feedback from the participants, mostly school coaches and some national players.

I asked him pointblank what he thought of our team’s chances of making it to the quarterfinals and he replied we have a good chance, describing the team as a skilled one but that there is a need to shift to the new trend in international softball of playing a short game rather than a power game.

That aspect of the game was what he taught among other in the seminar, making an observation too after watching a UAAP softball game that our players have a tendency to react rather than to initiate the action and take control of the game.

His words of advise to the Blu Boys were to go back to the basics of the game, strengthening them, focus, and consistency, he thinks the team will be competitive at the club level in Australia and he was even eyeing a few players that he says can play in club leagues back home in Queensland.

But the most pressing thing that the team needs he feel is regular exposure to international tournaments, citing his own club team that joins at least 6 international tournaments every year, something that here in the Philippines is dream not just for softball but for all the other sports.

I also talked to Blu Boys coach Roberto Ituralde, a former Blu Boys in the 70’s and he said that the Australian coach has been a big help particularly with his advise on shifting style of game internationally, Ituralde also believes that the team, depending on the groupin it lands, will have a fighting chance of making it to the quarter finals.

He was very thankful to JHL for allowing the team to leave earlier and acclimatize, saying that was one of the concerns of the players, adapting to the weather conditions there.