MANILA -- A team consisting solely of homegrown athletes will don the national colors at the 28th Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) Asian Baseball Championship from October 2 to 8 in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
This, despite Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) secretary general Chito Loyzaga's admission that it will take some time to develop a world-class baseball national team.
"This is a long process but we have to start it. With my involvement with PABA this year, one of our objectives was to comply with our international commitments, lalo na sa BFA," Loyzaga said. "Yun lang muna target namin this year, to send a signal that we are here, alive and kicking, and that we are going to participate."
The association is also making sure that the team, which consists of graduates from the country's grassroots baseball program, will get international exposure.
UAAP baseball athletes will comprise the Philippine team with an average age of 22 years old.
UAAP best pitcher Paolo Macasaet, catcher Dino Altomonte, and infielders Javi Macasaet and Marco Mallari of Ateneo de Manila University were tapped to play with the team, joining Aids Bernardo who previously bannered in the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.
De La Salle University will also send some of its baseball players such as reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Iggy Escano, Diego Lozano, sophomore Geof Magsadia, senior Kiko Gesmundo, and alumnus Carlos Munoz.
The trio of Jerome Yenson, Erwin Bosito, and Mark Manaig of Adamson University, and Alfredo de Guzman and Clarence Calisaan of National University made the cut too.
Pitchers Ron dela Cruz and lefty Lesmar Ventura of last UAAP season’s runner up University of Santo Tomas complete the lineup.
Veterans Jarus Inobio, Joennard Pareja, Jennald Pareja, Jonash Ponce, Jon-Jon Robles, and Romeo Jasmin will be leading the pack to Taiwan tourney.
NU softball team head coach Egay delos Reyes will serve as the team's manager. UST head coach Jeffrey Santiago, Adamson’s Orlando Binarao, and champion coach Joseph Orillana of La Salle will compose the national team's staff.
The tournament will be featuring top Asian teams from Japan, South Korea, and Chinese-Taipei.
"I told the boys na, ‘This is the top tournament in Asia and that you will face the top teams in the continent, including three of the top four teams in the world. Again, I am also an athlete like you, I always want to win but winning is not everything. If we don't win on the field, I hope all of you earn their respect as Filipino athletes and as the national team,’” he said.
The Philippines is in Group A in the preliminary round together with hosts and world No. 4 Chinese-Taipei, Sri Lanka, and world No. 3 South Korea.
The top two teams in the two groups will advance to the semifinals while the bottom four will figure in placement matches.
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