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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ateneo Men's Baseball: Fields of Play

December 27, 2008
Marikina City

The Sto. Niño Baseball Field in Marikina seems so out of place. It’s perpendicular to the Marikina Bridge and is thus by the river. There’s a huge area that’s supposed to be a parking lot but in this Christmas Season, a carnival and its theater of the absurd is the first thing you see when you enter the field. There’s Zuma, the Master of Snakes and the Hell Ride. And that's just for starters.

For the visiting Japanese high school baseball team from the Chiba Prefecture, it’s like descending into baseball hell.

The grass isn’t mowed and weeds sprout here, there, and everywhere. The dugout is enclosed by nylon mesh and in the bleachers that squats a stone’s throw away reeks of piss, beer, and a bad case of someone not being able to hold down their alcohol.

And speaking of piss when the players need to relieve themselves, there are portalets nearby that charge five to ten bucks. But you wonder if it’s a relief to enter one as it sits under a basking sun with suspect maintenance.

There’s a play-by-play announcer who uses a karaoke system to broadcast the game. It sounds ridiculous when his voice echoes with every spoken word.

The pitcher’s mound and home plate is supposed to be 60 feet except there’s no mound. It’s there but you won’t find it unless you trip over it like Ateneo rookie Matt Reyes did while tracking down a flyball to left field. Yes, it’s a mystery why there’s a mound way out there. One of the field’s caretakers says it’s no mound but one of those punsos of local folklore. Do you hear the music of the X-Files playing in the background?

With no mound the pitchers cannot stare down the batters as they are on literally level terms.

It’s the third day of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Games that features six teams and the weather is just right for a game. And the Ateneo Men’s Baseball Team are up against the guest squad.

When line-up against one each other for the traditional exchange of tokens, the Japanese even if they’re some four or five years younger are not only taller but heftier.

Supposedly they’ve got sounder fundamentals, but it’s Ateneo that strikes early with three straight hits including a double by center fielder Carlo Olivares who has been promoted from ninth in the batting order to cleanup. The 2-0 lead will be the only runs Ateneo puts on the board as they are unable to send anyone past second base from there on.

Alex Tolome who doubles at second base is pitching today on the moundless mound. He mixes his pitches with an offspeed pitch to go with his two-seamer fastball. He gives up two hits in seven innings. There are seven other players who reach first base on errors, a couple of walks, and a couple of fielder’s choices. Only three hit balls go out of the infield but none for an extra base.

The Japanese patiently work their way back as they choose to put men on base then advance them through a bunt or a sac fly. By the sixth inning, they even matters up at 2-2.

Since it’s an exhibition game, there are only seven innings and the seventh inning stretch sees no national anthem played but a guest appearance by former Marikina Mayor and current MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando who in the space of two minutes thanks everyone four times for using the field.

At the end of the five minute speech by Fernando, the play-by-play announcer says for everyone to hear that we have been privileged to hear the next president of the (banana) Republic of the Philippines speak. Quite a few Ateneans stifle their laughter.

The Ateneans have their best chance to salvage a win when catcher Reinhart Bartolome reaches second base on a sac bunt by first baseman CK Chua. But third baseman Nikko Dizer and second baseman Carlo Banzon are unable to bring him home as they pop out to the catcher.

It was a good game. One played with smarts, counter moves, and great defensive plays.

At the end of it, the two teams come together for a picture taking session and hearty handshakes.

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