Why Loyzaga’s in baseball
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2019 - 12:00am

It may strike you as strange that PBA legend Chito Loyzaga is Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) president. Loyzaga is a family that’s steeped in basketball folklore. Loyzaga’s father Caloy played on the Philippine team that took third place at the FIBA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 1954 and is widely regarded as the greatest Filipino hoopster ever. Loyzaga’s two sons Chito and Joey were PBA players with a long history of basketball championships.

So why is Chito involved in baseball, not basketball?

“Not too many know that aside from basketball, I love baseball,” said Chito. “When my dad used to take me to Rizal Memorial for his practices back in the 1960s, I would often sneak out of the gym to watch baseball in the open field. I would hear the roar of the crowd and follow it all the way to the baseball field. So since I was a kid, I grew to love baseball.”

Chito said when he was a PSC commissioner, his eyes were opened to the needs of different sports. “Jolly Gomez of the PSC and Cong. Peping (Cojuangco) of the POC got me involved in sports in general, baseball in particular,” he said. “At first, I was PABA secretary-general then I became president. In the PABA Board of Trustees, I represent Little League. Dumaguete City Mayor Ping Remollo represents baseball in southern Philippines, Boy Tingzon represents Pony baseball, Nongnong Calanog represents collegiate baseball, Pepe Muñoz is our secretary-general, Tato Dimayuga is our treasurer and Ely Baradas is our de facto chairman emeritus.”

Chito said he admits he’s not a baseball expert. “I love watching baseball which I think is a tactical sport with a lot of strategizing and thinking,” he said. “I’m basically just a sports fan. I like to watch tennis, golf and of course, basketball. My background is basketball and it’s a sport where I played hard and with all of my heart. That’s what I see in our baseball players today. They don’t get much. For me, they play for the love of the game. It’s all about heart. When we beat China in the Asian Baseball Championships a few days ago, that was all heart. We won, 1-0 and sent a strong message that we’re back, that we can compete in China’s level.”

Because of his limited knowledge of baseball, Chito said he won’t hesitate to seek advice from his experienced colleagues. “Ely, for instance, goes back to when Hector Navasero was our president so he knows the ins and outs of PABA,” he said. “I’m not into micro-management. I delegate to those whom I know can get the job done. I share in the responsibilities of running an efficient organization and I know what role to play.”

Chito said PABA’s immediate priority is to win the gold medal at the coming SEA Games. “We want to do a lot of things to promote baseball in the Philippines so we’ve got to prioritize,” he said. “A future goal is to develop women’s baseball. Boy (Tingzon) is in charge of our women’s program. Next month, we’re participating in the second Asian Women’s Championships. It’s our first time to join so it’ll be historic. I’ve sat down with Jean Henri (Lhuillier) who heads the softball NSA and we’re cooperating in making our sports stronger. In women’s baseball, we’ve got softball players crossing over and Jean Henri is OK with it for as long as it’s for the country. Women’s baseball is not in the UAAP calendar but women’s softball is. Maybe, in the future, women’s baseball could be included.”

Chito said the key to developing baseball is to provide more playing opportunities. “We want to keep playing even after the collegiate season,” he said. “We’ll do bare-bones tournaments. Once the Rizal baseball field is renovated, we can host an international competition with Baseball Federation of Asia sanction. We could do the East Asia Cup where the participating countries are the SEA nations and Hong Kong. That’s the qualifying tournament for the Asian Championships. The renovation may take four to six months. At Clark, they’re redoing the baseball field for the SEA Games and introducing facilities like a foam-insulated fence to cushion the impact of players crashing into the wall to chase down balls. We could transport the fence to Rizal after the SEA Games in the process of renovation. We could also study if it’s better to use a turf surface or actual grass.”

Chito said PABA is building up teams for U12 and U18 competitions. As for recruiting Fil-Ams or a foreign coach, he said PABA is open to anything that will improve the sport’s state of affairs. “One of our national players Miguel Salud played his college ball in the US and it’s his first time to play for the Philippines in the Asian Championships,” he said. “Our doors are always open. We can’t do it alone. We hope to reestablish US connections, even with Major League Baseball. We’ll try any option to give baseball a boost in the Philippines.”

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