Panes: Safe disclosures

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, February 10, 2014


A YOUNG gentleman wearing a colorful bonnet and sitting on a long wooden chair opened a conversation as I was seated. “Are you a writer?” he queried. I stared at him and chose to play dumb. Immediately, I said to myself, "Is he talking to me?"

A follow up question ensued, "Are you a coach? A softball coach, right?"

The second question was more precise. This time, I was surer he was talking to me. I helplessly nodded and before I could make any disclaimers, he injected, “I read your article. It’s published every Tuesday, right?"

I replied in the affirmative. At this stage, I ceased being in denial.

William was his name. He was a tall young man in his early 20s and the words from his lips professed his familiarity for the game of softball.

I did not find this surprising at all after knowing that he and his ancestors hailed from Bontoc of the Montanosa. To the extent I have heard from first hand verbal accounts and narrations by acquaintances and aficionados, this province of ten municipalities 140 kilometers from Baguio City boasts of playing more softball than any other province in the Cordillera Administrative Region. With William, an exchange about softball was about to unfold. An interesting discussion from the fundamentals of the game to team management had begun.

Of the conduct of training, William asked, “How were you able to take the team to where it is?” Concerning equipment, he sought an answer to the question “Was it complete? Was everything provided?” Of preparation to compete for a national tournament, he asked, “How was it done?” About team chemistry, he inquired, “Is it necessary in softball? Were there problems within the team? How were individual egos managed?”

Most coaches in Baguio softball would echo a familiar and uniform plight about equipment. They would admit that gloves, bats and balls have always been short of necessary. Most of them draw from their own pockets to buy what their wards need. Notwithstanding requests for a significant increment of necessary paraphernalia, the officials behind the desks have not been receptive.

Ironically, the superiors have asked for a regional championship first which has eluded the city in the last few years as a condition before granting supply. This is a sad plight the game and its avid players suffer. The argument whether the equipment is a pre-requisite to winning or winning should come first then better equipment to follow should be reasonably and quickly resolved.

When the coaching seat was given to me 11 years ago, the softbelles had inherited left over gloves from their predecessors which were bigger than the girls’ little hands. Not all behind the desk would understand the awful feeling of slipping in a hand in an oversized glove but no one of them in his right sense would like to wear an extra large shirt for an extra small body frame. Yet they expect players to put up with this similar insanity.

Friends, acquaintances and former peers in the game’s circles saw the oddity of body and hands playing under the weight of discomfort yet there was the view of an irresistible promise. “You need size so and so gloves and size so and so bats,” a seasoned expert would whisper a sincere advise to my ear. After hearing him, I asked myself, “Did I bite more than I should chew?”

The list of necessities was overwhelming. It was a financially burdensome to fund a program that had yet to take off from the ground.

They asked me if I was willing to implement some changes. To be a better team, who wouldn’t? Whatever these friends and peers meant when they said these at that time, I was humbled by the offer. I willingly bit the bullet.

William appeared satisfied with the answer to one of his questions.
I asked him, “Do you play softball?”

He answered, “I watch the game being played in my town.” Quickly he adds a question, “Are aluminum bats still being used?”

The day of the aluminum bat had long entered its phase of obsolescence decades ago. I remember that even baseball was relieved to have had the aluminum bat introduced to replace the wooden bats. Wood would crack or break. Aluminum appeared durable. Its longer useful life made it a sensible preference.

Nowadays, multi-walled composite bats are used in the game. These technologically improved bats costing $300 each are being used by competitive teams to dispose high compression softball pitches. The return is more explosive. The distance is longer. In Baguio and Benguet, I have seen most collegiate teams have one. There was a time when a piece we could only dream having one.

This I remember. CAR softball players were favored to have loaned from West Visayas-CPU a Demarini CF4 from West Visayas who holds an impressive arsenal of these softball ICBMs. In our hands, the balls were hit hard and runs were scored. The CAR softbelles enjoyed experience.

Ironically, before that championship game against the equipment’s owner, the item had to be surrendered. With what it had, CAR collegiate softball managed to win. If we had more, I have always asked could we have been much better. Would we be elite? I may not be able to answer that question right now.

Prince William might. May this question be referred to you? What do you think?

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 11, 2014.

Sports

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