MANILA, Philippines, December 8 ------ The RP Blu Boys certainly made heads turn for finishing 10th out of 12 countries in the Softball World Cup that was held recently in Auckland, New Zealand. As a result, the Blu Boys made a significant jump from No. 21 to No. 10 in the world rankings. “We’re very proud of our players,” said coaches Ray Pagkaliwagan and Sid Abello in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Making up the team are pitchers Marlon Pagkaliwagan, Leo Barredo, Reagan Parco, Julius dela Cruz and Lyonas de Leon; catchers Melvin de Castro and Kenneth Torres; infielders Jerome Bacarisas, Michael Pagkaliwagan, Julius Diaz and Justin Jhon Rosales; and outfielders Denmark Bathan, Gerone Riparip, Francis Generoso, Mark Gaspi and Efril Mercado.
The coaches said the Blu Boys, the lowest-ranked team in the field, made a very good impression, and that the other countries with seasoned players were surprised to see how young they were. “Nagulat talaga slla na parang Under-23 team ang pinadala natin sa World Cup,” said Pagkaliwagan in the forum presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“Kaya sinabi ko na lang sa players natin na wag ma-pressure and just enjoy kasi we had nothing to lose,” said Abello, now counting on the support of Philippine Sports Commission chairman Noli Eala. “Exposure and support talaga ang kailangan namin,” he added. “Kulang kasi talaga tayo sa exposure kaya sa Group A, first time natin naka-encounter ng ganun kabilis na bola at mga variation,” he said of pitches flying as fast as 132 kph. “And sila kasi, sila-sila ang palaging magkalaban kaya sanay na sila sa mabilis na bola. Tayo sa Rizal Memorial lang ang training,” said Pagkaliwagan, noting that the fastest pitch in the RP team is at 121 kph.
The Blu Boys, seven of them under 21 years old, went 0-5 in Group A that included Argentina, United States, Cuba, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. But when they got to the Placement Round, the Blu Boys swept Denmark, 8-0, and South Africa, 4-0.
“Nasanay na siguro sa mabilis na bola sa Group A kaya tinamaan na natin ang piches sa Placement Round,” said Abello, now looking forward to a wider search for talents nationwide, including the Visayas and Mindanao. “Pero nagulat talaga sila sa team natin,” added Pagkaliwagan, who said the coach from Argentina, which finished fourth behind Australia, Canada and United States, said he wanted to see the Blu Boys train in Argentina. “Airfare lang daw ang sasagutin natin kanila na lahat pati pagkain,” said Pagkaliwagan. He added that during a practice game, the Blu Boys held the Argentines to a 0-0 standoff after eight innings. “Sa atin lang sila nahirapan. Ginamit naman nila top pitchers nila. Hindi sila makapaniwala,” he said.