Limpag: Softball: Unappreciated and untapped

Mike T. Limpag

THE most popular team sports in the country are basketball, volleyball and football. These three, too, have the most backing commercially. Just check Gilas Pilipinas, the various pro volleyball leagues and of course, the Azkals.

Now, what team sport do you think has the best chance to make it to the 2020 Olympics? What team event do you know of that we finished second in an Asian level competition?

Basketball? Yep, we did finish second to China and Iran but it wasn’t recent. Volleyball? Heck, we can’t even win the gold in the Southeast Asian level, how much more be a contender in the Asian level. Football? Though it’s my favorite team sport, it’s not it. We are a long ways from being a contender in the Asian level.

Try this. Softball. As a former baseball player, I’ve always had a soft spot for batted sports and when I played baseball during the elementary years, the sentiment was that if only the sport would get more support, we’d go places.

Three decades later, that is still the prevailing sentiment. But look at what the Blu Girls have done. They made it to the finals of the Asian championship, losing only to World No. 1 Japan. Before that Japan match, they beat World No. 9 Chinese Taipe and No. 6 China. This year, they’ve also beaten World No. 3 Canada and No. 4 Australia.

Our girls are world-class athletes! In basketball terms, that would have been the equivalent of Gilas Pilipinas beating Serbia, Argentina and Australia before losing to the US in the final. That’s front page news, right?

Yes, but sadly, softball and baseball have always been in the outside looking in; unable to erase the stigma of the Little League World Series scandal 26 years ago? I don’t know. At least for softball, we have Jean Henri Lhuillier supporting the girls in their campaign to make it to the Olympics.

Cebu is a hotbed for batted sports in the country and our youth teams regularly win in the Palarong Pambansa but do you see any organized-tournament outside the DepEd calendar?

Nope. That’s sad. If Cebu softball is this good without much support, imagine what it can achieve with better support and a broader player base? I hope the Blu Girls make it all the way to the Olympics, perhaps that will give the sport the attention and support it needs.