WITHOUT the luxury of time or money, members of the Philippine baseball team from across the globe converge in Taiwan beginning on Saturday to begin their preparations for next week's World Baseball Classic qualifiers.
The team tagged as the "strongest" the country has ever assembled for an international competition will be a mix of national team mainstays and foreign-based players from the US minor league and the Japan league, most of whom will be meeting each other for the first time on Saturday.
Instead of bringing the foreign-based players to the Philippines to train with the rest of the team, the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association will be bringing the locally-based players to Taipei five days before the tournament for the team to hopefully develop chemistry in so short a time.
“That is why we are leaving this Saturday,” said team manager Marty Eizmendi. “We have four days to train with them para magkakilala sila.”
The Paba will be spending for the extra days the team will be spending in Taipei since Major League Baseball will only be financing the team for the duration of the tournament only.
“Hopefully, they could jell well," said Eizmendi. "Of course, I wish we had the time to be together. Pero wala tayong pera eh."
Ex-San Francisco Giants pitcher Geno Espineli, Fil-Japanese Ryuya Ogawa, and minor leaguers Chad Nacapoy, Leighton Pangilinan, and Ryan Pineda lead the foreign-based players beefing up the team in the November 15-18 qualifiers where it will be up against teams from Thailand, New Zealand, and the host nation.
Among the national team mainstays tapped for the qualifiers are pitchers Jon Jon Robles and Darwin Dela Calzada, and outfielder Jonash Ponce.
The team take on a Thailand team backstopped by major league star Johnny Damon at the start of the double- elimination tournament on November 15. Chinese Taipei, made up of professional players from its local league, will face New Zealand in the other match on opening day.