Rizal Baseball Memorial Stadium
It's hard being a baseball fan in the Philippines. It's good that football is getting some recognition now, but my favorite sport remains neglected and forever out-shadowed by the ever-popular basketball.
Nevertheless, I'm a baseball fan through and through. I've often joked (half-seriously) that if I were born a man, I would definitely find some way to be in the game - any position which will have me! - and if I bore a son, I would name him Derek and train him to play for the New York Yankees someday.
Extreme as those may be, I am ashamed to admit that I have never watched a local baseball game. I've been planning for three years already, but it was only last Saturday that I was finally able to go to one.
The skies were kind of cloudy, but we still took a chance and hailed a cab to go to Rizal Baseball Memorial Stadium. The game was scheduled (according to the Baseball Philippines website) at 1:00 PM and despite the traffic, we arrived there with about fifteen minutes to spare.
But the trouble was, where exactly was the field? It took us a few minutes until we figured out where it was. Okay, so there was a signage... but the gates looked like they were locked and there was even no one standing guard at the site! It was so unwelcoming!
The lobby was dusty and the display so saddening. There were trophies and baseball books that I would love to get my hands on... but they were clumsily displayed behind cloudy glass cabinets.
I have watched a live baseball game before. It was in Japan back in 2008. I remember the feeling of going up the steps and then being awed at with the big green field. I wanted Ate Nan (who was only one of the people who I converted into a baseball fan) to experience that so I was excited as we went up the stairs.
Build it and they will come?
Well, the field did welcome us, but that was it. The Rizal Baseball Stadium isn't that big compared to the one I went to in Japan. I expected that. What was disappointing was the absolute lack of people.
Where are all my baseball mates at?
One thing that was good about that is that we got prime seats behind home plate for free (there is no price for admission). We quickly settled in as I looked around me. There was a man near us who was sleeping!
The game started without much fanfare and I concentrated, trying to see what our local teams were made of. My verdict is, sadly, we have a long way to go. At some points I was cringing and covering my face as the players made error after error. I feel so bad writing this, because I know it's not all their fault. They are just weekend teams who have lives that don't revolve around baseball like those in the MLB. And the support they get is pathetic. I'm guilty about that, too. Even though the stadium did get a few more audiences (and the man near us woke up) later in the game, it was still a paltry number that I think hardly reached the mid-fifties. Ate Nan and I were thinking, where the hell were these players friends and families? Do they really have no support even from the people closest to them?
It wasn't all bad, though. There were some nice plays, strikeouts, double plays, and a successful bunt that we were able to witness.
(June 8, 2011) I just learned that, apparently, the game that I watched was a continuation of a called-off match due to heavy rains and that is why it started at the 5th inning. Now that makes more sense! I still don't understand why the man beside us said that it started early. Well, maybe it was our fault for believing someone who was sleeping throughout the game.
Okay, billionaire fantasy time... If I had a billion dollars, I would:
- Improve the scoreboard. I was confused because I though we were at the first inning and it was the box score I was reading with the runs, hits, error info.
- Hire an announcer. I think it will add to a player's pride to have someone call out, "Batting, Number 4, Name-so-and-so..."
- Have more advertising! The big tarpaulin in the complex didn't even have baseball on it!
- Buy more baseball equipment. Those baseballs look so few...
- Hire ball boys. There are a lot of street children near the stadium. I think they will be pretty happy even to get a few pesos just helping around getting the balls. Or even little league players. They'll learn watching the game at the same time, right?
- Improve the baseball museum/display... because it really needs it.
- Have a sound system the plays sounds/music at least. People already think that baseball is a boring game so maybe a little music during changes may help.
- Have a batting cage. I've been looking for one here in the country. Seems like there is none. Hey, it can also be income generating plus exercise is always good.
- Build more baseball fields, even Little League sized. One thing I liked doing while I rode the trains in Japan was to count the baseball fields we passed by.
It's nice to dream... isn't it?
Anyway... Congratulations to the Manila Sharks for winning the game and better luck next time to the Alabang Tigers. I hope that the next time I watch their games that I get the correct time and also not be seated next to someone clueless who laughed at Babe Ruth's name (the travesty!).