THE UAAP Season 76 baseball finals match-up between De La Salle and Ateneo will feature not only one, but two pairs of brothers playing against each other for the championship.
Power-hitting Matt Laurel of the Blue Eagles is expected to face a tough task against Green Archers pitcher and younger brother Carly Laurel. Kevin and Kenneth Ramos, meanwhile, will also be on opposite sides of the fence in the the first baseball championship pitting the two archrivals.
Most recently, the Teng brothers Jeron and Jeric faced off in this season’s men’s basketball finals in the most intriguing sidelight of the exciting La Salle-University of Santo Tomas finale.
But unlike in basketball, baseball-playing brothers are not a rarity in the sport in college baseball. In fact, there is actually another pair of brothers in this series in Dio and Pelos Remolo, although the two are teammates at the Ateneo camp.
The dynamics, however, are not as simple for the Laurels and the Ramoses.
“We are united by blood but divided by allegiance,” La Salle outfielder Kenneth Ramos said of his match-up against his brother Kevin beginning with Game One on Friday.
The Green Archers and the Blue Eagles were the two most dominant teams in the tournament, with La Salle finishing with a 9-1 record and Ateneo, the defending champion, at 7-3.
Teammates since their high school days at Marist, Kenneth and Kevin said this will be the first time they will playing against each other for a championship trophy.
“Masaya kasi ever since, magkakampi talaga kami,” said Kenneth. “Ngayon hindi na. Medyo competitive.”
“First time mangyayari sa amin ito,” said Kevin, an infielder and pitcher for the Blue Eagles. “Bago ‘yung feeling. Bahala na. Kita kita na lang sa field.”
The younger Kenneth said it was his preference to play for La Salle and not go to Katipunan and join his brother Kevin, who was part of the Blue Eagles’ championship team last year.
“Iba ‘yung La Salle. Iba ‘yung saya dito. Feeling ko mag-aagawan lang kami ng damit,” said Kenneth in jest when asked why he didn’t choose to stay with his brother.
Although belonging to different schools, the Ramoses live together and also share common interests, so they expect the battle to be a friendly one.
“Bahala na sa bahay kasi magkasama kami. But it’s going to be a great game,” said Kevin, 21, who is already set to graduate this school year.
“Taboo topic ito eh. Pagdating sa bahay, magkapatid pa rin kami. Tulungan pa rin kami sa Dota (computer game), sa school. Mag-utol pa rin kami. Pero sa field, magkalaban,” said the 20-year-old Kenneth.
Actually, the Laurels nearly became teammates at Ateneo until the younger Charly decided at the last moment to go to La Salle instead.
“My older brother (Jay Laurel), we were supposed to transfer schools because we were from UP,” said Matt, 23. “I decided to go to Ateneo. Carly was supposed to go to Ateneo but at the last minute he decided to go to La Salle.”
Like the Ramoses, the Laurels said they have also been teammates since they were kids.
“We have been playing since five years old. We know each other. More or less, we have been teammates in some tournaments. We have some tournaments playing against each other or practice games, but not as big as this,” said the 22-year-old Carly.
Having played together for so long, Matt said he plays against his brother without any inclination of proving that he is the better player.
“Even last year, I have played with my older brother and younger brother. Game time, there is no kantiyawan, walang gulangan, no trash talking. Either way, after the league, there will be no bad blood,” said Matt.
The Laurels expect the La Salle-Ateneo finals series to a close one with the long-haired Carly saying that Ateneo will be a tough foe with Matt at the center of the Blue Eagles’ offense.
“It’s going to be a really competitive series. Knowing that he is one of the best players in the country, we can’t make any silly mistakes. They are the defending champions and playing against Matt, it’s going to be tough,” Carly said.
As for the key to winning the series, Carly said: “The key is limiting the errors. Basically, whoever gives less errors will eventually come out on top. We also have more pitchers but they have really good hitters. Whoever pitchers will hold up will win the series. It will be a close fight and there will be no blowout games.”
Matt said the Ateneo-La Salle series will not only be a battle between two of the best baseball teams this season but against good friends who have been playing together since they were young.
“It will go either way,” Matt said. “We know each other, we grew up with each other. Everyone knows each other. It’s going to be a great series.”