SANTA MONICA, California—Unlike the other PBA teams, Alaska is priming up for the next conference in a pretty unique way.
“Family comes first” has become the battle cry for the Aces, who are ending an eight-day trip to this scenic American coast having bonded like, well, a family with the players’ wives, their kids, dads and moms and even in-laws in tow.
No less than billionaire team owner Wilfred Steven Uytengsu and wife Kerrie acted as hosts to everyone, making sure that all who joined the trip were well taken care of.
Uytengsu made sure he was the first to arrive—and the last to leave—at any function. “Mr. Boss” and “Mrs. Boss” also made sure they were at the door to usher the “guests” to their tables during team dinners.
Mr. Boss even drove team members around the city in his classy Porsche Cayenne to shop for necessities.
“The togetherness in the team has only gotten stronger,” said coach Luigi Trillo, who steered the Aces to the Commissioner’s Cup title. “This is the way the Alaska program is run. For us, it’s all about family. We get better this way.”
With an entourage numbering over a hundred, the Alaska group visited sites like the Universal Studios in Hollywood and Disneyland and had the chance to hit their game team owner in tackle football in the sands of Santa Monica beach.
“The child in him comes out during gatherings like this,” Trillo said. “Fred is like that, but when the conference starts, it’s all back to serious work for us.”
The players’ conditioning ended before this trip, when management sent most of them to Las Vegas for a stint in the camp of renowned trainer Joe Abunasar. Those who could not make it because of injuries, like Sonny Thoss and Calvin Abueva, received alternative medicine treatment in China.
The trip culminated with the awarding of the Commissioner’s Cup championship ring to every member of the club, with Uytengsu emceeing the affair at the posh Gladstone’s Restaurant.
Mr. Boss gave a moving speech about the recent success of his Aces, and why they shouldn’t rest on their laurels. He also called each of his players in a way only he can, describing their respective histories in the league and in the team without the aid of notes.
Sean Chambers, Alaska’s import in its 1990s dynasty, was also around. He broke down during his speech in front of this new batch of Aces, saying he felt he had embarrassed his squad for not making the Hall of Fame on his nomination.
Robert Dozier also joined the celebration, jetting in from Atlanta to receive his ring. And a very interested man who watched all of the proceedings was Wendell McInnis, the Aces’ bulky import for the Governors’ Cup opening on Aug. 14, who came with his wife.
“Man, I would have walked to get here and see this,” McInnis said after seeing highlight clips of the Aces’ past campaign. “There’s no pressure on my part after seeing that (film clips), only inspiration.”
The Aces board a Philippine Airlines flight for home at 10:20 Sunday (Monday night in Manila) and then plunge into training on July 25 as they start their campaign for a 15th championship.