THE Philippine Blu Boys leave for Japan on Tuesday to carry the country's colors in the Asian Men's Softball Championship set October 25-28 in Miimi City, Okayama.
The 21-man national contingent is headed by Amateur Softball Association-Philippines operations manager Jun Veloso and is made up of the team that won gold in last year's Southeast Asian Games via sweep.
The short but tough tournament also serves as the Asian qualifier for the 2013 World Men's Championship scheduled in March in new Zealand, according to Veloso during Friday's SCOOP Sa Kamayan session at the Kamayan Restaurant-Padre Faura.
"The tournament is only for three days, but what makes it tough is all six teams will be playing a doubleheader each day," Veloso disclosed during the forum, sponsored by Powerade, AKTV and FILA."Ubusan ng pitcher ito."
Defending champion Japan heads the six-team field that also includes SEA Games runner-up Indonesia, India, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Miimi qualifying competition marks the second straight time that the Philippines is taking part under ASA-Phil president Jean Henri Lhuillier following the Blu Boys' similar stint in 2006 in Fukuoka, also in Japan, where they ended up with the silver medal behind the hosts.
Their runner-up finish earned for the Filipinos the trip to the World Championship site in Canada where they finished a respectable 10th in the 16-nation cast and pitcher Leo Barredo, then a rookie, adjudged the 10th best hurler.
Barredo, now battle-scarred in the international arena playing for Rizal Technological University of Mandaluyong City , head the Blu Boys five-man pitching rotation that also includes Zamboangueno Florante Acuna, Marlon Pagkaliwagan, also of RTU, Rogelio Rojas of Army and Gregorio Marquez of Navy.
"Ubusan nga ng pitcher ang torneo, so we are sending five pitchers as cushion in what we expect will be a tough grind for the boys," Veloso said.
Like in the previous Asian jousts, Japan will be the team to beat although Veloso said beating the hosts won't be that remote a possibility.
"Tinatalo na rin naman natin ang Japan, kaya lang sa earlier rounds. Lagi tayong talo sa championship playoff eh. But now the prospect is bright that we can win the title," he assessed.
The top three teams in Miimi advance to the world tilt in New Zedaland.
Three other Armymen made the team-- Dario Bacarisas, Oscar Bradshaw and Ben Maraviles -- along with Navymen Orlando Binarao and Jasper Cabrera and RTU's Jerome Bacarisas and Michael Pagkaliwagan.
Others in the Blu Boys roster are Apolonio Rosales of Batangas, and Isidro Abello, Edmer del Socorro and Anthony Santos of Air Force.
Many-time national coach Robert Iturralde of Air Force will again be calling the plays from the bench with Rizel Santos, Joel Binarao and Rey Pagkaliwagan assisting.