Crack Fil-Ams give softbelles extra oomph
INCHEON, South Korea—Garie Blando spent part of her Christmas vacation last December playing softball with collegiate teams in Manila. When she was spotted by national coach Randy Dizer and invited to join the national team, the 20-year-old shortstop had an idea.
Why not round up some of the other Fil-Ams competing in the United States to help the team, too?
“I thought it’d be better for the country, bringing in players who’ve had more tournament experience and who’ve played in tough tournaments in the US,” Blando said Friday at the training field of Songdo LNG Baseball Stadium, where the Blu Girls were playing China in a pickup game.
The Blu Girls were preparing for the softball event of the 17th Asian Games here, giving Blando the opportunity to fulfill one of her goals in the sport.
“I want to play more softball and fight for the country,” said the University of Las Vegas-Nevada standout, who is accompanied here by parents Reggie Blando and Garnet Payawal Blando.
Among the players Blando invited was Oregon State centerfielder Dani Gilmore, one of the team’s stronger hitters, who said that the team—with its mix of six Fil-Ams and nine locals—was starting to mesh well, especially after campaigning in the US for two months.
“We’ve started to bond really well and even off the field, the vibe is really great,” said Gilmore.
Ace pitcher Veronica Belleza said the team is united by a common goal to nail an Asian Games medal.
Cheska Altomonte, the 22-year-old catcher from Ateneo, helped a lot in establishing that vibe. Jun Dizon, the operations manager of the country’s softball association, called Altomonte one of the team’s leaders.
“Basically, I just reminded the Fil-Ams that they have to reach out because sometimes, the locals are really shy about having to speak English,” Altomonte said. “At first, the Fil-Ams would gravitate toward each other, but it’s great now. Everybody gets along and in the [athletes’] village, you’ll see us doing stuff together, Fil-Ams and locals.
And what do they enjoy doing the most together?
“Eating,” Blando said, with a laugh. “And a lot of the social networking stuff, Facebook.”
On the field, though, they are dead set in keeping up the Blu Girls tradition.
“We were once ranked No. 3 in the world. But we never won the Asian championship,” said Dizer.
And the girls know their softball history.
“There is pressure to perform well but we’re not worried about it,” Blando said.