Panes: UP grand slam memories

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, December 2, 2013

TO YOUNG men and ladies in college struggling to make the passing mark in a subject, I had the honor of frequently sharing that some thirty years ago I was just like them having moments which were not all good and for all to keep on.

With them, I had recounted a time when a rich kid had excluded me from a marketing case study group for reasons of being intellectually challenged. That time, I had good sense to understand the discrimination had a lot do with being a varsity baseball player. Left to join a group of left outs, I harnessed all my strengths and wit from the pain and insanely volunteered to do all the cases.

Embracing the game in college was like an adolescent under a spell of infatuation. Teenage love can dull the intellect and hours of field practice with a fraternity of passionate baseball brothers under the direction of Coach Temyong Isidro can leave one enervated to do assignments in the evening. Though each year was characteristically the same during practice as it was during my freshman year and every year thereafter, this year was more than ordinary. This was 1981, the year that UP Diliman’s Maroons baseball team campaigned to earn its 4th consecutive title in the UAAP. This would be UP baseball’s crowning glory, its first grand slam, an epic feat only the legendary FEU Tamaraws distinctly owned.

The hardships and sacrifice were worth the taking. At the end of the season, Coach Temyong Isidro led UP Maroons baseball to its first ever grand slam. Under his tutelage from my freshman year with Tagaro, Reyes, Sandoval, Campos and Dahino, it was providential to have been on the same team as Toto Fernando and hulky Joey Abad Santos who were scions of Supreme Court Chief Justices; Ted Vermaas, the team’s starting pitcher; Gaston Ortigas, Patricio Dumlao, Salvador Salacup Jr., and brothers Tom and Oscar Molina.

In the following years, Coach Temyong would add high school standouts. There were the Garcia brothers, Nedal and Pante. Also, there was the speedy versatile Chuck Boyd. With him, the Dizer cousins, Anthony and Rani came. They were at that time Philippine Little League baseball’s astute defenders and strong hitters. Catcher Rolando Rosal were also enlisted.

Being around all these team mates on and off the field through countless ups and downs was a collection of marvelous experiences. I will always be grateful to be a part. But there will always be for my survival and moments of excellence, the Molina brothers. From cold beer and roasted peanuts to official games, these brothers who earned their stripes playing little league baseball in Japan had nurtured and mentored me. I never asked them why. On weekends, Oscar would drive his car for an hour from White Plains to pick me up in my father’s home in Fort Bonifacio to join early morning 10-kilometer runs, hours of lifting weights and Major League baseball games on TV. The routine for four years under competent mentors had become a way of life. Under them, it was a distinct and rare honor to have learned and played four years of championship baseball.

And the aftermath of the rejection? I told the class the prettiest from the group which put me away approached and apologized. “Hindi ka naman pala bobo,” she said after the case study our motley group presentation was verbosely lauded by the marketing guru.

There was a feeling of consolation and vindication. The truth was her words flattered me. This was the speech from the lips of a recently crowned beauty queen. The class would erupt in laughter.

Anyway, I was glad other than my mother, someone else realized I wasn’t a numbskull. I had rebounded from a strike out to earning a game winning hit. Life is good but its administration is not always fair. Not all men are vested with uprightness. Not all men will give fair calls but one hit in the strike zone can be the game changer. Babe Ruth was right. “Never let the fear of striking out keep you out of the game.” This was one lesson the students did not have to memorize. Life is in many ways truly like a baseball game.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 03, 2013.


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