Panes: Grand slam plus

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, June 30, 2014


IN LAST week's column, I had the opportunity to be thankful about having part of the UP-Diliman Varsity baseball team, which to this date holds the distinction of being a grand slam champion in the UAAP, the nation’s leading collegiate athletic tournament. By elucidation, a grand slam in baseball is a game situation where there are three runners on three bases (bases are loaded) and the batter on deck hits a home run. The long ball off the batter’s bat which was not defended by the fielding team effectually scores in four runs in, the fourth run belonging to the batter.

If a homerun is by itself a rare feat in the game of baseball and softball, then a grand slam is rarer. In big leagues, filing the bases has no comparison most ball games. I have both seen and felt every coach’s frustration of runners stranded and failing to score. I have seen four homeruns belted successively in one inning by my former wards in a BBEAL softball game. That was an unforgettable experience. But I still have yet to see a genuinely earned grand slam in Cordilleras’ college batted ball games.

In Major League Baseball this year, Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles leads the pack with 25 homeruns together with Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.
Of these top “beyond the fence” sluggers, Cruz has earned two grand slams to his name. This elite club of grand slam hitters includes Brandon Moss of the Oakland Athletics, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati Reds and Ike Davis of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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In lawn tennis, the term “grand slam” is also commonly used. According to tennis authorities, it is the distinction of winning four (4) of the world’s major tournaments namely the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in one single year. The feat is just as rare. Bjorn Borg (11), Pete Sampras (14) and Roger Federer (17) may have won record majors but only Rod Laver (1962, 1969) and Don Budge (1938) own the distinction of tennis’ grand slam champions.

In the UAAP since its inception in 1938, only three collegiate baseball teams have owned the rare honour – FEU, UP and UST. In UAAP softball, there are only two – FEU and Adamson University.

The FEU Tamaraws were the UAAP baseball’s first grand slam champions in 1952. They repeated the feat in 1977. In 1978 they won their 5th consecutive crown as co-champions with the UP Maroons but this would be their last hurrah.

This co-championship was also UP baseball’s first title since pre-war years (1938). UP took the UAAP by storm under coach Artemio Isidro and achieved the rare grand slam in 1982.

Then like FEU, the Maroons won another championship in 1983, their 5th consecutive title.

UST’s Golden Tigers are also became a member of the elite grand slam club after winning won four baseball crowns from 1982 to 1986.

For UAAP softball, Adamson has three grand slam credits to its name, the first in 2001; the 2nd in 2007 and the 3rd in 2014. It should be worth mentioning that prior to the Lady Falcon’s latter time domination, FEU won for 11 consecutive years, that is from 1973 to 1985.

Anyway, Rolando Rosal of San Diego, a team mate who was one of UPD’s cannon-like arm catchers during that time read Optic Yellow’s “One Year” last week. Lan which is nickname quickly brought the fact of the 5th consecutive championship to my attention. Hence, I admit it was my bad. I humbly acknowledge the oversight.

Like FEU, UP baseball, its coach and players had earned not just four consecutive championships (or a grand slam) but were good to go to make it five straight.

Not many can share in the honour. The truism applies - many are called but only a few are chosen. Such feats are truly rare distinctions now indelibly and irreversibly etched in the annals of the game’s history.

Divine Providence was gracious indeed to have chosen young men and women to be counted in this dispensation of grace. Even if their names are anonymous to the population, Cordilleran batted ball proponents should draw inspiration from these feats and its youngsters in the game should learn the games’ history. These are its building blocks and to reach for the sky, we must build on the past’s successes, not our failures.

Now, if four consecutive titles make a grand slam, then what would five straight championships be? What would your answer be?

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 01, 2014.

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