Lacking funds, Team Manila scrounges for ways to compete—and win | Inquirer Sports
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Lacking funds, Team Manila scrounges for ways to compete—and win

By: - Reporter / @jwpayoINQ
/ 05:14 AM January 21, 2018

Padasas celebrates with her teammates. PHOTO BY NORMAN MACASAET/TEAM MANILA

There’s an amusing assumption that has proven to be true for the Team Manila softball team.  Whenever the team competes in small counties overseas—where there are seemingly no Filipinos in sight—the players and coaches would drop by a church on a Sunday. And there, almost always, the team finds them.

Tapping the Filipino communities overseas has been essential for Team Manila in every campaign. Virtually scrounging for funds, the team appreciates any help they can get—whether it’s getting served home-cooked meals for the players or having a group cheering for them during competition.

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But for a squad that has struggled financially to stay afloat, Team Manila has incredibly battled the odds. Twice in recent years, these young girls returned from the United States as the 18-under softball World Series champions.

So as Team Manila gears up for another title defense this year, team president Rafael “Che” Borromeo has also started to brace for the stress that comes with it.

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While the girls train, Borromeo worries about the expenses ahead—airfare, lodging, meals, and more. “Minsan, nag-iisip ako hanggang kailan ba itong paghihirap na ito (Sometimes I think how long this suffering would last),” he said with a laugh. “Finances have always been a problem. Parang namamalimos (It’s like  begging).”

Borromeo tends to shell out from his own pocket. But as team campaigns incur huge expenses, the softball patron has, many times over, begged from corporate sponsors, politicians and private individuals.

“We’ll ask someone to sponsor the ticket of one player, then if we have three players from Tondo, we’ll ask the vice mayor to cover their tickets. It’s all chip-in,” said Borromeo.

Despite the difficulties, the team has always soldiered on. “It’s for the love of sports. What I am today is because of this sport,” said Ana Santiago, the national softball team coach who mentors Team Manila as a volunteer.

“There’s really no allowance, merienda lang (just snacks),” said Borromeo. “It’s all volunteer.”

Last year, it was pretty much the same stressful routine. After Team Manila qualified to represent the country in the 2017 Pony International 18-U Girls Softball World Series—a prestigious tournament that gathers elite girls teams from the United States, Europe, Asia and the Carribean—the squad again had to pool its resources to fly to Hemet, California.

“In 2017, we thought we wouldn’t be able to make it because last minute, we lost a sponsor [who would have shouldered the airfare],” said Borromeo, who again wound up pleading for financial support from various sectors.

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The team also had to think of ingenious ways to defray the cost—even in the simplest things, so they brought their own rice cooker and whipped up meals for a team of almost 20 in their tiny hotel rooms.

“We were really cooking inside the rooms. Once it started to smell, we would transfer to another room,” shared Borromeo. “It was hard, but we couldn’t do anything.”

On field, however, the Team Manila players showed there’s more they can do as they pulled off surprise wins to barge into the title round.

“In the finals, we were up against the defending champion,” said Santiago. “But we were determined to win and get the title.”

From the start, this kind of drive has always been important to Santiago. “Whenever I put up a team, I make sure they’re fighters,” said Santiago. “I first look for speed, then power. But for me, a player’s game face is also important. It’s where you see their confidence, and it’s one thing that’s hard to teach a player. So even if they’re not that good yet, but they have that game face, I’ll get that player.”

Santiago proved to be right as Team Manila needed all the confidence it could muster against defending champion Central Hemet Xplozion in the title round of the 18-U World Series last July.

“Our opponents are always taller,” said Santiago. “But if you’re a fighter, height doesn’t matter.”

With 16-year-old pitcher Alma Tauli sparkling on the mound and short stop Nichole Padasas, a member of seven-time UAAP champion Adamson, blasting a huge home run, Team Manila stunned Central Hemet with a masterful 7-1 victory to bag the crown.

It was the country’s second title in the event as Team Manila also ruled the 2012 Big League 18-Under Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“It’s hard, but there are bigger rewards,” said Borromeo.“We do it because we want softball to continue. We want to help the grassroots, so we’ll try to be around as long as we can.”

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TAGS: Nichole Padasas, Softball, Team Manila softball team
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