Panes: Making history

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, May 5, 2014


ASAPHIL's National Open Softball Championships held yearly in different venues in the country unfolds this May 12 until the May 18 at the City Government of Marikina which has recently hosted softball events such as the National Inter-Collegiate Softball Championships, National Inter-Secondary Softball Championships and the recent Philippine Series of Little League Philippines.

ASAPHIL’s Summer Grand Slam has been underwritten by Cebuana Lhullier's top honcho, Jean Henri Lhullier, who at the same time serves as the energetic president of the softball NSA. On its 8th year, the country’s most prestigious tournament will feature forty one (41) participating teams, the biggest number of entries in the history of the Summer Grand Slam series.

According to Jun Veloso, ASAPHIL’s Operations Manager, this does not include any softball team from the Cordillera Administrative Region and Region 1 and the window for scheduling is fast closing.

The game of softball has truly been growing unprecedentedly nationwide under ASAPHIL president Jean Henri Lhullier's vision and direction. Through coaching and officiating seminars, the conduct of regular tournaments, partnership with prestigious softball loving organizations such as the UAAP and Little League Philippines and cooperation of enthusiastic local governments, grass roots development in the game outside the traditional powerhouses of Bacolod and Manila has been taking shape. The lives of the youth are being changed and their dreams are being fulfilled by the game of softball. On the secondary level, I see the provinces of Tarlac of Central Luzon, Cagayan de Oro and Davao in Mindanao and Tuguegarao in Northern Luzon contending in the secondary level though funds and equipment could are constraints against its boom. The provinces of Iloilo, Muntinlupa and Laguna have showed remarkable improvement in the last few years and joined the ranks of the Philippine softball elite. In the Philippine Series, Iloilo cornered the Little League and Junior League title; Gawad Kalinga (GK) Smokey Mountain topped Senior League Softball; and Manila South topped the Big League Softball Division. All these qualifiers will represent the country in the Asia Pacific and Middle East Little League Series.

Under Jean Henri Lhullier, Philippine softball has truly taken good strides.

A thrust to return to international glory is concretely being undertaken.

The Blu Girls, after beating Korea and Hong Kong for a 4th place finish in Asian Women’s Softball Championship last December in Taipei, has set its sights to match or better the bronze place finish its predecessors accomplished in the 1970s in the upcoming 17th Asian Games in Incheon, Korea.

Overcoming China or Japan has always been a tall order. The Philippines may not defeat China’s navy fleet with our scrappy military arsenal of a few battleships in Spratlys even with the strength of the recent Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. I am not a political analyst but nonetheless I analyse. Good sense will show that with the USA $17 trillion dollars in debt and China holding $1.317 trillion of that US debt, America under His Excellency President Obama cannot afford to enter into an armed conflict with Communist China.

To directly engage in war outside its borders will put the precarious US economy funded by printed money instead of genuine revenue from international trade and taxes in a dangerous tailspin. If so, the greenback will lose more of its value and more US companies which will be deprived of credit will shut down. Unemployment will then rise and there will be chaos in the many urban centres. Professional sports will take a beating and highly paid sports pros who love the game more than the pay will take pay cuts for the love of the game. I’m glad Lebron, Chris and Dwayne did such years ago. From this sports column, I am convinced that the wings of the mighty American eagle we have known as the USA has been momentarily clipped.

We may not be able to duplicate a win against China’s behemoth laden national basketball squad with Brooklyn Net Andre Blatche reinforcing Pilipinas Gilas as a naturalized Filipino but perhaps with blue blooded and title hungry Filipinos, the Philippines can achieve victory.

This coming July the national team under Jean Henri Lhullier’s guiding hand has scheduled softball matches against teams in California, Nevada and Texas in addition to scientific training in the ISF headquarters in Florida.

That’s never been done before. Whether or not the exposure of the Blu Girls in the USA brings immediate dividends, Philippine softball will surely become better. This trailblazing initiative of an incisive corporate mind will bring substantial knowledge and the benefits which will trickle down to the regions.

As for Baguio, Benguet and the Cordilleras, I had felt that way when I first saw young Baguio lasses like Maricel Urbano, Marz Rachel Ozo and Elvira Kelly respond positively to training challenges. Succeeding batches have shown the promise. There are talents on the field needing serious development unless its overseers glory in the title of being addressed as club officers and being part of a junket without moving to improvement in the way the young play the game. Mindsets, methods and approaches of the game’s managers must change for better.

I had seen coaches on the elementary and secondary levels do a gargantuan job in recruiting young people to play and stay in the game instead of the children gaming in internet shops and being influenced by drug peddlers.

Their personal commitment and sacrifice is laudable but the support received from principals, athletic directors and institutional managers have been lukewarm. For a better CAR softball, this must also change.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 06, 2014.

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