The Philippines is fielding its most formidable baseball team ever as it competes in the qualifier of the World Baseball Classic in New City Taipei two weeks from now.
Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) internal affairs official Hector Tom Navasero likes the country’s chances in the Nov. 14-18 meet as the team has a very good mix of first string members of the national squad and both major and minor league baseball players who have Filipino lineage.
Among the notable Fil-Ams — nine of them overall — suiting up for the team according to Navasero, are Gino Espineli, Leighton Michael Pangilinan, and Efren Ricky Oropesa.
The PABA executive said he’s still awaiting word within the week if relief pitcher Tim Lincecum of reigning world champions San Francisco Giants will be available to play for the Philippines.
“The (San Francisco) Giants had given us the permission to invite their so-called `expensive players’, and so the issue on Tim Lincecum has to be a personal decision at the end,” said Navasero, a guest at the PSA Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s Malate, along with his father, long-time PABA president Hector Navasero.
“Once we have the final approval of the MLB federation of the San Francisco Giants, we have to find out this week if Tim will join us or not.”
Navasero also bared in the session presented by SMART, the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), and Shakey’s, that PABA had also been permitted to invite New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Rapada to join the team, but begged off from playing.
“Clay Rapada, sad to say, recently said that for personal issues, reasons, and conflicts, he regrets not to join our team,” Navasero added.
But even in their absence, the young Navasero still believes the Philippines can win the meet considered as the `Olympic of baseball.’
“We have a fighting chance, an 80 percent fighting chance to win, with Taiwan as the team to beat,” he said.
Aside from Taiwan, also competing in the double elimination play are New Zealand, and Thailand, with the lone winner advancing to the first round of eliminations in Fukuoka, Japan in March next year.
The Filipinos will play the Thais on their first game Nov. 15.
Composition of the squad – 28 in all plus three additional players for the bullpen – will be finalized on Wednesday at the PABA office at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, although it will not be officially announced until Nov. 7.
“I can’t announce their names out because of competitive knowledge against our no. 1 competitor Taiwan. They’ve (Taiwanese) been listening to our makeup, they’re worried that we’re getting some major players from the MLB,” Navasero said.
Fil-Am Jim Ramos, an assistant at Cal Poly Pomona, is the designated coach-manager, and will be assisted by Bill Thomas and Billy Champion, a pitching coach and assistant coach, respectively, from the MLB, along with three other coaches.