Panes: A strategic myopia

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, December 9, 2013

THE cast has almost been set for next year's CARAA softball games, which Benguet hosts. The grounds at the Wangal Sports Complex looked friendlier to players this year. During the National Open Softball Championships which the good governor hosted three years ago, it was all brown earth and gray pebbles; clouds of dust would rise when runners slid to complete a steal and when it rained and it did a lot during the afternoon, mud would be cleave like leg weights on the players' cleats.

During the most recent Benguet's provincial meet, the sight of the desert-like field had become a thing of yesterday. A thin carpet of green grass had grown and should make the impact of the sliding leg less painful to a runner hitting the dirt. On the farther end, an unfinished but impressive colossal structure stood near the tennis courts. If my memory serves me right, this would be the Cordillera’s largest basketball gymnasium being erected ingeniously by the province of Benguet without the temptation of debt.

In this provincial meet, Mankayan secondary softball topped La Trinidad and earned the right to represent Benguet in the upcoming CARAA this February. It was good to be reacquainted with Jackson Fagyan, team Mankayan’s trainer and father of Jade who is a member of the Cordillera’s first national PRISAA National Champions in softball. On this same ground five years ago, I had vigorously courted, recruited and shared the vision of winning a national championship which was at this time, not yet. Jade was one of the team’s building blocks. During her secondary years, she pitched for Mankayan National High School. With the team that won the PRISAA national championship in Lingayen, playing left field had become her forte.

In the other provincial meets in the Cordilleras, Mataraggan’s defense bested a hard-hitting Luba squad to earn the right to represent Abra province in secondary softball. Coach Ed Balucas’ wards who in prior times represented CAR in the Palarong Pambansa promised to give Kalinga, 2013 defending champion a run for their money despite training and playing with tattered gloves and archaic aluminum bats.

In Baguio City’s Palarong Panglungsod, BCNHS dominated Pines City National High School during hostilities in secondary softball at the city’s Athletic Bowl to earn the right to represent Baguio in the CARAA. The final list is almost complete. Only the results of the remaining provincial meets in the provinces of Ifugao and Apayao are pending.

In the collegiate level, BSU hosts the CARASUC games this week. BSU which is tournament’s top softball squad is expected to easily top the annual event after its strong showing during the launching of the Little League Baguio-Ofoob Cup. In all likelihood, it will represent the Cordilleras in the National SCUAA.

In last year’s SCUAA national games in Zamboanga del Norte, the Wildcats placed 5th while NCR represented by a core mainly from Polytechnic University of the Philippines under coach Ofring dela Cruz earned the top honors. This year however coach Atil Velasco’s RTU wards surprised PUP and will represent the National Capital Region. NCR should keep the national SCUAA title for softball when state universities and colleges compete during their national games in Palawan.

Somewhere north, the University of Vigan Sharks under the watchful eyes of coach Matilde Concordia and trainor Arnel Basa have set their eyes to oust Batac-based three-time defending champions of Region 1-SCUAA Mariano Marcos State University. With a series of tune-ups against teams from Baguio and Abra, the fruits of UNP’s softbelles’ preparation and hardships to win the SCUAA regional championship will be seen this January 2014.

On the sidelines, recruitment for talent to bolster next year’s lineups has now become heightened. After losing two prized stalwarts, SLU softball coach Jocson was seen during the Baguio DepEd’s Palarong Panglunsod. SLU suffered the loss of Taynec and Buking from Mountain Province and had offset the quality recruitment of Cagalawan of BCNHS, a promising player. With them, the Navigators would have been strong contenders to win the crown this year.

Other recruiters were of course also at Wangal. These times are never too early to seal the deal but after the 2014 CARAA games, the ink will set and be indelible. For some, it will be the Palarong Pambansa in Laguna. One famous coach said, "In order to win, you have to recruit." Only those suffering from strategic myopia do not believe.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 10, 2013.


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