Blu Boys skipper shelves retirement with another World Cup stint coming
Mike Pagkaliwagan, the PH Blu Boys’ captain and slugger, has been thinking about calling it a career the past few months.
He will have to shelve that thought for now after the Philippines clinched a return trip to the Men’s Softball World Cup last Tuesday with a second place finish in the Asian Championship in Kochi, Japan.
“I’m now trying my hardest to focus. If we make it through, I might not [retire] just yet,” Pagkaliwagan told the Inquirer in Filipino during a video call on Friday.
“That is if we make it to the second round,” the reliable third baseman added after a chuckle.
The Philippines has taken aim at “making the Top 8” of the global meet set at Rosedale Park in Auckland, New Zealand from Nov. 26 through Dec. 4. But what that target actually means is to make the playoffs. And such a task is shaping up as a tall order for the Nationals, who finished last among 16 nations in the last edition of the showcase held in Prague back in 2019.
Young and old
Hope springs eternal for Pagkaliwagan, who is drawing so much optimism from a squad featuring a mix of doe-eyed youngsters and grizzled veterans who have been hoping for better days for the program.
“Actually, whenever we [veterans] are together, we revisit old games. Especially the one the Philippines played in 2009. There’s a video of that somewhere,” Pagkaliwagan, who is about to turn 33 this October, said.
“That squad played tremendously. They would’ve made next round if they got past Denmark,” he added.On one hand, there’s zest off what could’ve been. On the other, meanwhile, is the eagerness to build on the strides the program has recently made.
The Nationals, no thanks to the pandemic, actually just had 10 months of training before plunging into action in the continental tilt, which is half of what they usually spend whenever they prepare for international competitions.
Despite losing to Japan and then to Singapore, the Nationals were able to get their acts together and vent their ire on India for a decisive 8-1 victory. Having allowed the fewest runs, the Blu Boys managed to arrange a match against the host in the finalé.
The Philippines has made 11 appearances in the World Cup. But its finest outing truly feels ages ago, when the Nationals turned in a fourth place finish in 1968 with a squad led by the late great Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera.
The Blu Boys will have over a month to get ready for the global meet, and Pagkaliwagan kept it simple when asked about what else he hopes for the program as it girds for preparations.
“The only pitchers we play are our own. We aren’t seeing pitches thrown as fast as those we saw in Japan,” he said.
“And we haven’t dealt with throws going for 130 (kilometers per hour),” Pagkaliwagan went on. “When we got there, we were stunned. (Folks) were so strong. Over here, we only have Leo Barredo’s 117.”
“For me, we really need more exposure.”