Panes: Bane and boon

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, February 3, 2014


A SUNDAY of UAAP action at the fabled Rizal Memorial Stadium in Vito Cruz in Manila was seemingly what a hurting soul needed to be refreshed from an acrid BBEAL softball weekend. This hallowed ground fifteen minutes walk from Taft Avenue brought many fond memories.

Before high school graduation, my coach took me here. I was to be introduced to coach Artemio Isidro of the University of the Philippines baseball team. The state university squad happened to have a scheduled scrimmage against another squad. After brief verbal exchanges, coach Temyong called me at the dugout to play 2nd base.

After I made an impressive diving catch of a low flying looper just behind the base bag in the course of the game, a cloud of dust rose as my body skid the ground. I had sensed I had made the team. True enough, I became a UPD Maroon weeks later.

Sometime in 1979, I proudly got my first break in college baseball. On the mound where the country’s best pitchers had made their mark, I stood. In this stadium, I had seen fireballers like Tuazon and Guevarra. In time I would meet, the fabled Ylanan who struck out the Great Bambino.

Against Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles who had left NCAA’s fold, I pitched my first UAAP game. The Katipunan-based batters were, around this time UAAP’s newbies. Less than nine innings after, I had won my first game by abbreviation. It was short duel but one that left a greenhorn immensely satisfied. To a pitcher, the winning experience is one of his life’s big moments. It’s like a first kiss which cannot easily be forgotten.

Thirty years after, the feeling of entering the same hallowed halls was sublime. Though the façade and its interior remained familiar and looked the same; and the physical and structural improvements were negligible, the pervading spirit of Philippine baseball had retouched my soul. Its rich history and aura of team competitiveness filled the air. The Blu Boys have Southeast Asia powerhouse for years. The excitement was still there. This time however, there were add-ons. Cheerers from opposing teams were busy outdoing each other on the stands - drumbeat vs. drumbeat and cheers vs. cheers. There were more reasons now for dampened spirits to be uplifted and for protagonists to keep on. This atmosphere was patently UAAP.

Ethan, my nine year old son who had caught the game’s fancy after watching Angels in the Outfield, Rookie and 42, a true to life account of the legendary Jacky Robinson was bored until some letters painted 500 feet from the VIP box caught his attention. One would be familiar to him. “Babe Ruth played here?” he asked.

I nodded. “The names on the walls represented the areas where a homerun was hit,” I added. His next response would be, “Wow!”

A few minutes after, I would ask him to read a name written somewhere on the wall at the end of the left field foul line. Clearly, he would pronounce, “Filomeno Codinera?”

I pointed to a man in his early 70s holding a cane seated inside the stadium’s press box. “That’s him.” He would look at me in disbelief. I asked him if he would like a picture with the legend. Overwhelmed with shyness, he did not agree.

Then, I pointed another section of the wall and asked him, “Can you read the name?” Confidently, he read, “Noel Bumatay.” I asked him to turn around and see who was behind us. “Ethan, please say hello to coach Noel,” I said. “That’s him. This is coach Noel Bumatay.”

“Buhay pa pala ang mga legends of Philippine baseball, dad?” he whispered.

“That’s why I brought you here,” I replied. “This is where the best of Philippine baseball and softball play.” After a hearty lunch, he embraced the opportunity to have a few pictures taken with the best players of Philippine baseball for posterity. Hopefully, he will remember.

After watching three games, I knew I was in a good place. After observing the conduct of the recent BBEAL softball games, I had thought the rules of the games had changed. Here, the games started on time. It was always so. The officiating officials were present and distinctly clothed and identifiable. It was a professional sight. They were also there on time. Most importantly, I saw the Tournament Manager supervising the official game in progress.

Arghhh! In the most recent BBEAL games at the BSU Athletic Oval, the scheduled 8 o’clock playing time for the first game was played around 9 o’clock. It sure felt like Benguet was on a new time zone: DWT – daylight wasting time. The umpires were late for whatever reason only known to Gladys Knight and the Pips. Interestingly, I saw a tournament manager and a team coach umpire in an official game. Have the rules changed?

For a tournament highly touted as the north’s version of NCR’s UAAP, I had once felt good but that high claim is true. To have been in Manila for the UAAP softball games was a providential experience. To have watched the order, discipline and competitiveness of the teams and shared notes with its tournament officials was uplifting. After some reflections on the conduct of the last BBEAL softball tournament, I cannot respectfully concur.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 04, 2014.

Sports

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