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, February 22, 2016

The Ateneo Baldwin Eagles: Month #2.

The huddle at centercourt before practice.

The Ateneo Baldwin Eagles: Month #2.
by rick olivares

The task of rebuilding the Ateneo Blue Eagles is serious business.

That last holdovers from the five-peat team of four years ago have graduated. The remnants from last year’s campaign are back. “Hopefully, a year strong, more mature, and wiser,” underscored Adrian Wong who admitted that last year’s horrific miss of a lay-up and FEU’s subsequent game winner still haunts him. “We’ve got a new coach and a very good one who will hopefully get us over the hump.”

The new coach is Tab Baldwin although he wears the title of “consultant” due to a local law. But make no mistake, this is his show.

After the customary stretching drills, Baldwin called out to all the Ateneo Blue Eagles — both from Team A and B — to centercourt. He discussed the day’s practice session and what he wanted to accomplish. He then proceeded to demonstrate one drill with an assistant coach. When he wheeled around, he saw one player laughing. 

“Do you want to tell me what’s so funny about the drill,” the coach tersely asked.

And you could hear a pin drop.

“You all better start policing your ranks because what we are doing here is doing serious business. If you don’t then you can start running laps upstairs (in the indoor track oval of the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center)."

"Coach," related Thirdy Ravena before practice. "means business."

If you ask anyone who has attended the practice, Coach Tab is all about discipline. "He's killing them in practice," said one observer. 

On this day, there are other observers.

The Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters sit idly nearby waiting their turn. This is the first time that they will be practicing in the evening. They’ve changed skeds just for today to accommodate their new import who is just arriving. In the meantime, the Tropa watches the Ateneo practice. They are familiar with Baldwin who also works as a consultant for the squad.

“Coach has got a wealth of experience,” said TNT’s 13-year veteran Harvey Carey. “He’s got all that knowledge that he shares. You can see that he likes to teach. But man, he is a disciplinarian. But you’ll learn.”

Kiefer Ravena is on the sidelines too stretching. The former King Eagle will be joining Talk ’N Text for training as he prepares to leave for more training in the United States. He too knows what it’s all about: "With Coach Tab, I was under him during the SEA Games and yung natutunan ko is how to handle situations during games. Tamang-tama lang I learned that on my fifth year and going to the professional ranks. It isn’t solely the skill but the decision-making is also important.”

And speaking of decisions, many were surprised when Baldwin accepted the offer to coach the blue and white.

“I am loving it,” he proclaimed. “I had some early reservations but I am now loving it completely."

"I am doing what I love to do so no complaints for me. I think we’re going into our second month together. We’re making progress. It’s limited because we’ve got some guys on academic probation so we don’t have a full team but I think the ones who are able to get to all the sessions are working extremely hard.”

"When you coach internationally outside the US there are no real college teams. What I have done is coached development age teams and kids, under 16 and under-20 teams. But it has been a while since i have done this."

"I am getting back to something that you don’t do a lot in the professional ranks which is teach the basics, teach the fundamentals. I spent a full month of full drill work. No basketball games. We’re here teaching footwork. Teaching angles. Teaching spacing. Teaching techniques. Everything we’ve been doing is break down work. I am really enjoying it. I have to say that I have a tremendous group of assistant coaches to work with and they don’t require a lot of teaching and they absorb what I teach them and that’s what it’s all about." 

Sophomore Jay Javelosa who after his rookie year in Team A played for Team B the next campaign says he looks forward to every practice. “It is unfortunate that I have a hamstring injury right now,” said Javelosa. “But I love going to practice. You learn something new or even a different way of looking at the game. I am trying my best to keep up.”

For Baldwin, the state of the Blue Eagles is like a tabula rasa. "I haven’t taken away anything from last year’s team. This is a clean slate as far as I am concerned,” the coach bared. "We are building a team from scratch. I am not worried about what went on last year. There is no carryover as far as I am concerned. And we’ve sent that message to the players. Anything they are bringing in to the environment from last year is their choice and eventually that will all be scrubbed clean.”

“I think it’s good,” added Wong. “it keeps everyone on their toes."

Even in the team’s second month under Coach Tab, the coach refuses to name shoo-ins or stand outs. “All I can say is some will be in the A-team will some will ultimately end up in the B-team but we’re a long way from making those determinations just yet.” 

Baldwin just returned from a 10-day recruiting trip in the United States and he gently refused to divulge any juicy details. "I saw some kids who were fine prospects. We’ve put some offers out. At this point, we do not have any firm commitments. At this point, I am not interested in talking publicly who is coming to Ateneo next year. There should be a process in the UAAP where players sign a letter of intent. It should exist. But it doesn’t. So it is foolish for anyone to talk about securing a kid’s services for next year because the list of people who have gone back on their word is long and distinguished and I do not intend to get involved in that scenario. We will work on every kid until they enroll in the Ateneo." 

“We’ll get a good look at everyone in action soon. We’re looking at participating in the Filoil tournament. We’re finishing up the Fr. Martin Cup and I expect that we will have some overseas camp at some point.”

The summer tournaments means Ateneans, basketball fans, and opposing teams will get a full look at the new jack Blue Eagles. There will be expectations, comments, and event barbs. Baldwin, he admitted, is looking forward to it. "Well, I’ve heard from second hand sources what it is like to be in the Ateneo environment. I am looking forward to experience it. It is exciting. I don’t think you should ever be scared of people’s passion. We’re gonna succeed or we’re not. And I believe that we will be defined by our work ethic and judged by our results. That’s not fair but that is life. And life is not fair.”


Former Blue Eagles in the house (today): LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier, Epok Quimpo, Albert Mendoza, Oping Sumalinog, Kiefer Ravena, and Gene Afable.

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