Baseball loses no time in preparing for SEAG

By tito talao
March 10, 2004, 8:00am

THE NAMES in black print are still visible from a distance on the right-field wall of the Rizal Memorial ballpark:

‘’Lou Gehrig, 1st Homerun, Dec. 2, 1934; Babe Ruth, 2nd Homerun, Dec. 2, 1934.’’

Gehrig and Ruth, two of baseball’s greatest players, slugging homeruns on the same day in a stadium half a globe away must have been a historic moment for Filipinos 70 years ago.

Especially after Gehrig belted a second homer seven days later at deep right 303 feet from the home plate.

Now only memories remain. And the writings on the wall.

Yesterday, about 30 men in blue and in white uniforms, forming two teams, took turns chasing a dream: A Southeast Asian Games title.

‘’We hope to form the team by the end of March,’’ said Ricardo Jimenez, assistant-playing coach of the RP Blu Boys. ‘’Pero mahaba pa ‘tong tryouts na ‘to.’’

After the SEAG federation approved last week the inclusion of baseball in the 2005 Games in Manila, the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association, which has campaigned vigorously for the favorable vote, lost no time summoning the best provincial, city and collegiate players in the country.

‘’Twenty-one games ang schedule namin at nasa pang-sampu pa lang ito,’’ said Jimenez, at 33 a nine-year national player and the RP squad’s centerfielder.

Leaning on a concrete post in one of the dugouts overlooking Gehrig’s and Ruth’s records, Jimenez hollers at one of the pitchers to ‘’find your target!’’

Above them, the stadium seats are empty except for two cleaning ladies who come daily to sweep the dust-coated floor, mop the light-blue wooden seats and wipe the beige-and-brick-red walls.

‘’Meron pa po kaming kasama na apat na lalaki na naka-assign sa field,’’ said Bebeth, a member of the ballpark cleaning crew for the last two years. ‘’Pinapatag po nila yung lupa at saka nagdidilig tuwing umaga.’’

From high up in the bleachers, the field looked fine. But up close, the parched surface were revealed its inadequacies.

‘’Kailangan ng dagdag na elevation at saka drainage para di naiipon ang tubig dito sa gilid pag umuulan,’’ said Jimenez. ‘’At masyadong matigas ang lupa sa may bases. Nagkakasugat tuloy yong mga players pag nag-slide.’’

Having been a member of the RP team that finished fourth in the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Sapporo, Japan last November, Jimenez is optimistic of the Blu Boys’ chances in this maiden SEAG voyage for baseball.