Monday, December 16, 2013

Fair Play: Help kids chase their dreams

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 16 issue)
WE GREW up dreaming of baseball glory as kids, but with equipment hard to come by, I remember a resourceful playmate coming up with a unique invention--an improvised glove made up of slippers and cardboard.

Malls were unheard of down south when I was growing up, and sports shops even more.

It was only when one of the chain department stores opened that I finally got to own one of my first prized possessions—a catcher’s glove.

I’d bring it to school almost every day, and after class, or during breaks, my classmates and I would throw a couple near the flagpole. At home, my brothers and I would practice for hours, to be joined by friends.

Such was the allure of baseball in my youth that often during summer breaks or weekends, we’d be in the baseball diamond in our subdivision, playing a pick-up game.

When the 1991 Little League scandal struck, that baseball diamond soon gave way to a football field.

Baseball was a phenomenon in Mindanao, and baseball players were always considered a privileged bunch, especially those from public schools.

That guy can hit like a mule, we’d say. Or that guy can throw a pitch exactly where he wants to.

“Step back, step back, strong batter!” Our coach would bellow to our fielders once one of those legendary “solidpack” players get on the home plate. These were players who got to represent the country in Little League matches in Asia. “Gikan na sa Japan,” as we kids would say.

Those dreams—as well as countless of others for kids in our generation—were dashed once the whole world found out that those Pinoys who beat California in the world finals of a tournament for 12-year-olds were really a bunch of 18-year-olds assuming their younger brothers’ identities.

Baseball is dead in my hometown, struck out by the silly games adults play.

But thankfully, in Punta Princesa, Cebu City, it is not, thanks to a bunch of self-less guys who teach the game to kids over the years.

Some of those kids will represent Cebu City in the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association meet next year, and, to be honest, they are a pitiful bunch—no support, nor equipment, not even a uniform.

During practice, they wear slippers, during tournaments they wear hand-me-down uniforms and marker pen written jerseys. I was told, they approached the Punta Princesa barangay officials for support and were rejected. They were even denied the use of the barangay’s service when they want to compete in tournaments.

That reminds me of the case of the Canduman football kids who would travel to tournaments using the barangay’s garbage truck, because that’s the only thing the barangay can provide.

I hope officials like them, who pay lip-service to sports, would choke on their saliva when they speak of “grassroots sports” in their campaigns.

Baseball is a dying sport, and for some areas where it used to be No. 1, it’s dead.

But not in Punta Princesa and in a time where towns are trying to find an identity, by proclaiming to be the home of such-and-such, Punta Princesa is missing out on a great thing. The barangay might as well be the home of Philippine baseball considering the number of national team players it has produced.

Because that’s the truth, when it comes to national baseball teams, or even softball, you’d see a lot of Cebuanos.

The Punta Princesa kids could be those Cebuanos.

Kids like them, they’d push on sans any support because like any who are chasing a dream, the lack of support are just but obstacles to be tackled.

But wouldn’t it be great, though, if they get that much needed support while they are chasing their dreams?

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