Panes: Softball hopes

By Joel Panes | Sun Star Baguio

THE Philippine Blu Girls went through a baptism of fire in the games at the 2014 World Cup of Softball held from July 7 at the Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine, California.

Seven international teams were entered in the 9th edition of this international softball tournament and these included first time participants, Mexico, Venezuela, Chinese-Taipei and the Philippines.

The national squad which are composed of young softbelles mainly from the UAAP’s best and seven Fil-Americans finished the tournament with a 1W-6L card; their sole victory earned at the expense of Venezuela (0-3).

For RP’s Blu Girls whose preparations are substantially bankrolled by Jean Henri Lhullier of the Cebuana Group of Companies, participating in the 9th World Cup of Softball is part of the national team's preparation for the upcoming 14th Asian Games in Inchon, Korea.

This year, through dedication, teamwork and love for country, the Southeast Asian champions hopes to better the country's 4th place performance in the 2013 Asian World Championship in Kaoshiung, Taiwan by at least a notch upward. A bronze medal for Philippine softball in the 14th Asian Games will mark the first time the country cracks the regional dominance of softball powerhouses China, Japan and Chinese-Taipei. These countries have at one time or another had been Asian champions.

In my sincerest perception, the mission that now befalls the coaches and players of our national squad is how to add the Chinese-Taipei softball team to the list of opponents the Blu Girls normally or routinely vanquishes in its Southeast Asian campaigns.

I have seen Filipino softball talent and do not doubt what it has accomplished but the customary question "Does it sufficiently have enough resolve, character and depth to win" nags me. Will this be mission possible or an impossible dream?

If by chance, the Blu Girl’s participation in the World Cup of Softball was intended to scout or measure the Chinese-Taipei for the Asian Games, the latter sent the Philippine contingent an unambiguous and unequivocal message.

Chinese-Taipei scored 13 runs in one inning and closed the game with 16 runs. Whether that particular performance in the tournament in California is by any means a gauge, indicator or a preview of what is to come, we should take serious notice. It is clear that after this encounter, our confidence had been seismically rattled. We have also been psychologically shaken.

At the end of game, the Philippine softball was humbled. Our softbelles who scored the first run and led for an inning, ended with the same.

And in respect of China, our chances of overcoming the defending champions are however better on the softball diamond than the country’s chances of winning our historical claim of the Spratly’s Islands.

Seriously, China has grown by leaps and bounds in sports. Their strengths have become as formidable as their Great Wall. In some ways, these can be as threatening as their naval forces guarding the disputed oil rich Nansha or Freedom Island reefs in the South China Sea.

What about Japan? Though it only placed 3rd in the 9th World Cup of Softball, their stature in international softball arena goes before them. Japan is always a force to reckon with. Led by Yukiko Ueno, a 120 km/h fastball pitcher, Japan dethroned the USA, the world's leading softball team in the last 2008 Summer Olympics. This Ueno incidentally pitched the first perfect game against China in the Olympics.

These considered and given our choices, overcoming Chinese-Taipei seems easier for the soul but the preparations for the game must mean the last victory over South Korea should be first duplicated. With a few more months to go before the Inchon-hosted Asian Games begin, the least we can do as softball aficionados is to hope that the country's Blu Girls’ scientific preparation in the USA bears desirable fruits; and new dimensions in their game are added and discovered.

In closing, #laban, the hashtag is good. Unlike the #puso so fashionably and abusively quoted to the point of silliness, I believe this will be better if it is accompanied with a mentality in the jurisdiction of the Lupang Hinirang's "ng mamatay ng dahil sa iyo." We have sung the national anthem a thousand times or more. Now, it is time to live it now like the way it was sung when our first freedoms were obtained. Yes, #morethanwords.

Source: Sun Star Baguio