Fred Uytengsu’s Alaska Aces look forward to new seasonBy Beth Celis
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Except for the heat inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum, possibly caused by the thick Sunday crowd or a malfunctioning air-conditioning system, I could have stayed to watch a pair of games on opening day of the PBA’s 37th season.
I complimented AKTV’s Peachy Guioguio for a fine opening program and requested her to extend my congratulations to her boss, Bobby Barreiro. Last Sunday’s opening presentation had the right ingredients to keep the audience truly entertained. It was neither too fancy, too complicated nor too long. It was over before anyone could yawn.
I told Peachy the introduction of the members of the league’s board—who were all dressed in black business suits—was most dramatic, and the entry of players from the Lower Box exuded energy. The big ball in midcourt was a visual treat.
“That’s only the start,” said Peachy.
* * *
On my way to the press room last Sunday, I bumped into Alaska governor Joaquio Trillo, who immediately made reference to my last column.
“We’re no longer in a daze,” said Joaqui. “The team’s okay. We’ve adjusted to Tim’s [Cone] departure and we’re moving on. In fact, we’re looking forward to the new season.”
* * *
Because Billy Ray Bates was facing the door to the PBA office at the Big Dome, I didn’t recognize him at first.
I would have recognized Billy’s bulk and hair, even if I couldn’t see his face, but so much have changed in him in the 20 years since I last saw him.
Billy looked shorter, thinner, and his presence was no longer as intimidating as it used to be when he was still called the PBA’s “Black Superman.”
I also approached Vintage’s Bobong Velez to inquire about his health. Bobong, who was with daughter Cristina, looked hale despite a recurring ailment.
Former Mobiline governor Iggy Yenko was among the guests at the PBA office. Iggy represented his father, Col. Mariano Yenko, who, like Bates and Bobong, were elevated to the Hall of Fame that day.
Col. Yenko, who died several years ago, was the league’s second commissioner.
* * *
I was waiting to be seated at a coffee shop inside the coliseum when Tim Cone walked past me to greet the Banal brothers, Joel and Coy.
“Thank you for promoting me!” I heard newly appointed Alaska head coach Joel Banal say.
Then the three men walked out of the coffee shop and lingered outside, attracting fans who requested photographs with the trio.
When I got the chance, I called Tim aside to ask why he did not give his longtime friend and employer Fred Uytengsu his true reason for leaving the Aces.
Of course it was none of my business but I just wanted to know.
Tim said he actually told Fred the truth. “It was Fred who requested that I not tell the team. It was between the two of us,” Tim said.
Somehow, I felt so much better.
Incidentally, the game between the Alaska Aces and the B-Meg Llamados is scheduled Wednesday next week, and not today, according to Derby Ace assistant coach Coy Banal.
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