Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, April 23, 2007

16 Men Out

The Ateneo Men’s baseball team was expected to compete for the UAAP title last season and early on, they ran roughshod over the competition. But still, I wondered how long they could keep it up knowing that the team had many unresolved issues from within. And to the horror and shock of many, the Blue Batters crashed and burned in the second round. It was an inglorious end when Ateneo’s victories were overturned, their semis slot disqualified, and their star rookie Justin Zialcita declared ineligible for failure to submit the Alien Certificate of Registration in time. Although Zialcita spent a few years in the US, he’s been living here for a long time and matriculated at Southridge. Other quarters tried to twist Zialcita’s case as one of fielding an ineligible player and demanded a suspension. That wasn’t too smart of those who wanted to compare the fate of their school with my alma mater’s. Apples and oranges, folks. You can put aside your prejudices and look at the facts of the matter.

The casualty of this all wasn’t simply a lost opportunity for the title but a team in disarray. Their coach, while one of the local game’s best, lost his team’s trust because of his frequent absences during off-season training and his questionable game decisions that told heavily on their morale and confidence. In fact, during a shellacking by eventual champion UST in their second round tiff, the coach sat down in the middle of the game and turned the reins over to an assistant. With the season done, the Blue Batters expressed difficulty in still playing for the coach given all that had happened. Now the coaching position is vacant yet there is still much confusion in the program. The logical selection for the team’s new coach would be baseball great Randy Dizer who has been handling the Ateneo’s high school and elementary teams that have been winning in their age level and who has overseen the development of many of the current seniors players.

However, someone in the school’s athletic department is said to be preventing the selection of Dizer, pitting players against one another and making the team look like a bunch of spoiled malcontents. This official even asked the players what they would like to do about their program head (fermenting dissent, isn’t he?). He has met with the team members individually after which he twisted much of their thoughts and feelings. As a result, some players have expressed notions about sitting out the next campaign. “I went here to study and play baseball,” said one team veteran. “Not to be in the middle of all this politicking.”

Incidentally, it was this official’s job to put Zialcita’s papers in order. What he stands to gain from all of this escapes me.

Wait, it has just gotten uglier. This official has been meddling in the Athletic Council and other varsity teams. The latest victim of his nefarious intercessions is the swimming team’s coach who has worked wonders in turning the former underachieving team into a rising power. The men’s and women’s teams have placed admirably well in the last two seasons but after this official’s undermining the coach and his position, the program is in a state of discord.

And oh yeah, the swim coach has just tendered his irrevocable resignation.

What I don’t really get is that the school knows that some coaches or officials under perform (a bleeping understatement) but they still stick to them. Of course, it’s a collegiate league, not the pro ranks where it’s more cutthroat. But the worst thing one can do is sit on the malaise and let it spread like some disease. The funny thing is some officials privately felt that the volleyball squad needed a coaching change but didn’t do anything. They had to wait until the incumbent one left and when the team floundered this past Season 69, it was expressed that it was the residue of bad coaching and poor training over the past few years. Geez, Louise!

Now if this happened to the basketball program, that person would have been booted out post haste. Not that he could get anywhere close to that program (as well as football’s) if he wished because it’s so well guarded against outside interference.

And the baseball team’s concern is that we’re seeing a repeat of what happened to the swimming team. The school has won a couple of baseball and softball titles but for the longest time it was the UAAP’s doormat. With a solid homegrown program in place, the game has grown steadily popular in Loyola Heights. In fact, the same can be said for Ateneo’s other sports programs. Time was they’d lose many a potential recruit or even players to grades, lack of funds, and a fear of playing for a losing team. Now the school and its teams have become a desirable destination of many athletes.

If I have written about other schools in my column or elsewhere, I am not going to stand pat when it’s my alma mater. In fact, I’ll even come down harder on Ateneo. That’s not what they taught me when I marched, got shot at, and was harassed during those dangerous years after Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. Make no mistake, I love my school and am a third generation Atenean.

Politics and intrigue is something no one can entirely eradicate. I read somewhere that it is in man’s nature to destroy one self. Nevertheless, it’s time to cut the crap and get things in order. We do not need this on our way to the Sesquicentennial.

It’s unfortunate that the 16 men of the baseball team were called out on account of a violation. Let’s make sure that the program doesn’t go down too on strikes. More so when it’s coming from a cancer from within.

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