A giant named Boy
Baseball and softball great Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera was recently added to my list of sports people I will miss as the nation observes All Saints’ Day.
Codiñera was a giant with a Filipino kid’s nickname. You can tell where his basketball sons got their size: Jerry and Harmon were the centers and power forward while Pat was the guard. They probably would’ve been in baseball too if only the sport lasted longer as a spectator sport.
Codiñera’s heroics have resurfaced as he passed away last week. Recah Trinidad recaptured the man’s brilliance this weekend and he lamented that it was “too bad that many younger sports fans have not been fortunate enough to savor his greatness.”
I was lucky to have seen some of Codiñera’s achievements. In the ’60s, my two grandfathers, Julio Sarmenta and Roman Ruiz, would bring me to the old Rizal Memorial ballpark. Codiñera created a murmur in the stands because he was always a threat for a huge offensive salvo.
Years later, I saw on TV Codiñera’s grand slam blast in the world softball tournament in Marikina. The game situation was perfect for a sports story for the ages: Two outs in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded and the Philippines down against Mexico. Then, Codiñera’s shot connected, the crowd erupted and the “Boy” marched into still another page of sports history.
I had the opportunity to work with Mang Boy (as we younger sports chroniclers would call him) only once in a softball TV coverage. In the game, I felt his disappointment with a Philippine team playing poorly in an international softball tournament. I urged him to teach us why the team was struggling and the coach in him surfaced even as his pain as a Filipino athlete remained.
Mang Boy would often drop by our post-game gatherings at the Rizal Memorial watering holes. He was a great storyteller of not just baseball lore but of Philippine sports. Together with the more senior sports scribes, we listened attentively to their tales and arguments about long gone eras alive in their hearts.
In one session, he asked me how many kids I had and he smiled that wide grin of his when he discovered we both had three boys.
“Teach them to run,” Mang Boy said calmly. He felt that running was the core of any sport and that even if my sons would not become athletes they would have the running basics useful even in recreational sports.
Mang Boy is now running among the base paths of the heavens, looking for more homeruns to hit and stories to tell his friends who went ahead of him.