Panes: Baseball’s rising and Belisle

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, August 25, 2014


SOMEWHERE in South Williamsport in Pennsylvania the Little League World Series in baseball has elevated the level of sportsmanship to new and enviable heights. For the LLWSC or the Little League World Series Championships, South Korea will be playing versus Illinois (Chicago) to become the best Little League baseball team in the world in 2014.

For some out there who are not exactly Little League savvy or maybe simply suffering from baseball deficiency syndrome or BDS, this tournament for 11 to 13 years olds which is being played all over the world since 1947 has reached an astounding 5.5 million viewers this year according to ESPN, the media giant. This year’s figure, excluding the championship game which is yet to be played as of this writing is 155% higher than last year’s numbers. Yeah Onskiuss, the game of baseball is fast rising.

More than the excitement generated and exponential interest for the games worldwide, the Little League World Series through the lens of ESPN had also caught on camera a tender, moving and classic baseball moment between a coach and his sobbing team of young men. The team representing New England failed to overcome a one run deficit in their last and final at bat and from the race to the best of the best, the boys of Cumberland were eliminated.

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Yes, Chicago won and has surprisingly won more crucial games to reach the LLWS finals. The Jacky Robinson West Little League team’s accomplishment will be another glorious story but what New England coach David Belisle did and said to the boys of summer during the postgame huddle is classic. His words from a true coach’s heart will resonate throughout sports history and every athlete regardless of discipline as one not merely awesome but awesome plus.

To his young men, David Belisle says, “Heads up high! Heads up high!” We in baseball, softball or any other athletic event should take that.

For those young and old who because of poor sports programs, mismanagement and administrative incompetency have suffered from BDS or in other words, have plainly become baseball ignorant or have been denied to know and play the game, the postgame huddle of coach David Belisle with the youthful Rhode Islanders opens eyes to what the baseball and the Little League mission, true and uncorrupted is all about.

“I’ve gotta see your eyes, guys, coach Belisle adds. “There’s no disappointment in your effort.” Having lost a close game, the young Rhode Island boys were sobbing. They were in tears. The sight was “rhema” to me.

Many years ago when Cordillera softbelles lost what could have been a won semi-finals game against Davao during the Naga PRISAA, the young ladies I coached wept profusely. A win would have catapulted Cordillera softball to the championship versus NCR on their maiden year in a national tournament outright. That however wouldn’t be the last time I would see tears. In every year which followed, there were more tears but those who remained became better.

In highlighting the astuteness of coach Belisle, the earnest question being tossed is who in Cordillera baseball and softball literally cries? Can blood be squeezed out of a turnip? Unless the prophet Moses returns, the stones will not yield water. Here, the young and aspiring baseball and softball legions play the game dispassionately while following the lead of coaches and superiors, some retaining the sight of GSM imbibed at a nearby backstop or the memory of a victory being railroaded via a letter instead of an actual game. These and many more young athletes in their stewardship will remember. Onskiuss, to them (perhaps to you) the awesomeness of this game they barely know.

The rule rather than the exception it appears is that management, its middle managers, directors and coaches in these days do not have the eyes to look at their athletes’ eyes. “Eyes please,” coach Belisle calls. Through the eyes of their ascendant superiors, athletes even in their youth perceive a contradiction of speech and action. The mask worn over their souls has not been thick enough. “All grown-ups were once children,” St. Antoine de Exupery (The Little Prince) said, “but only a few remember it.”

Seriously Onskiuss, no sport on earth besides baseball and softball uses the opportunity presented in every game situation to draw some parallel from real life. Good baseball management consciously develops and imparts some timeless values to young players. David Belisle’s 500 words exemplify such. His address should be read and taught, taken to heart and shared it liberally. Lives will be positively changed. I have borrowed only three of those lines and from Melbourne far away, I am intensely purified and charged.

You see, there are many who have played and many are still playing without first knowing that the game they embrace is more beautiful than any sport. Yes, baseball is beautiful. Softball is beautiful. Coach Belisle and his words will resonate and echo through many hearts here.

Many in this game will listen and remember his words, “We fought. We came to the last out. We didn’t quit. That’s us! That’s us!” The value and spirit of baseball is like that Onskiuss. As in life, those who play in baseball do not quit. We fight. There are times the umpire may call us out but in time, the same umpire will also say, “Batter’s up!” Now, that simply means we will be back better and stronger.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 26, 2014.

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