How it all began

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

He’s a courtside fixture at nearly every PBA game and during warmups before a game, players walk towards him, take his hand and put it on their foreheads as a gesture of respect and nod their heads in appreciation for what he does for them. Danny Espiritu, 76, is the consummate sports agent and for 35 years, has been the model in representing players as their adviser in negotiating contracts, setting career paths, growing investments and even, helping out in family affairs.

How Espiritu got started as a sports agent was by accident. Back in the 1980s, he owned and operated the popular Wild Duck nightclub on Roxas Boulevard. Wild Duck was a ritzy hangout of celebrities, showbiz figures, businessmen, athletes and glamor personalities in the category of Bayside, Eduardo’s and Wells Fargo. One night, a group of four basketball players walked in to unwind but were barred from entering Wild Duck because they were in shorts. Espiritu, however, intervened. A basketball fan, he knew who the players were – Bong Alvarez, Gerry Esplana, Egay Macaraya and Tony dela Cerna. Espiritu let them in but brought them to a corner where they wouldn’t be noticed by the crowd.

Before long, word got around among players that Wild Duck was a go-to place and Espiritu would take care of them. One by one, more players visited Wild Duck. Yves Dignadice and Jeffrey Graves were among those who were welcomed by Espiritu. While hosting the players, Espiritu was often asked for advice on their careers and he shared sage insights. Then, it came to pass that Alvarez invited Espiritu to join him in talks with Alaska management on his contract in 1989. They sat side by side on the negotiating table and whenever terms were discussed, Alvarez would nudge Espiritu’s knee to signify what he thought. In the end, Alvarez walked away a happy man. Espiritu’s guidance became the talk of the PBA and soon after, players lined up for his advice. Over the years, Espiritu has handled more than 200 players including legends Kenneth Duremdes, Willie Miller, Ato Agustin, Kerby Raymundo, Marlou Aquino, Mark Caguioa, Arwind Santos and Johnny Abarrientos. Today, he takes care of about 70, counting Beau Belga, Calvin Abueva, Troy Rosario, Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalang, Jayson Castro and Scottie Thompson. Son Marvin, 46, has followed in his footsteps and represents about 40 with business partner Ilocos Norte Gov. Matthew Manotoc.

Espiritu’s latest undertaking was the extension of Thompson’s contract with Barangay Ginebra. He said more players are asking him to be their agent but he’s now inclined to lead them to Marvin. “Yung mga bata, kay Marvin na sila. I just want to focus on whom I’m representing now,” said Espiritu. Attention is a priority in Espiritu’s approach and with a full plate, he’s not about to compromise the focus he gives to his pool of players.

Marvin said he recalls a PBA game where 80 percent of the players on the court were his father’s and his clients. It’s a testament to the hard work that the Espiritus are known for as agents. Espiritu said in dealing with players, he’s transparent and sincere. He treats players like his sons and only wants the best for them, their careers and families. Espiritu doesn’t hold back in giving advice and his accounting diploma from UE provides a solid background in financial planning.

“My relationship with my players has a personal touch built on trust and respect,” said Espiritu who has two sons and four grandchildren. His wife Lilia is a PBA fan, too and runs a food business. Next time you watch a PBA game at the venue, notice how players go up to the man at courtside and you’ll know that’s Danny Espiritu, sports agent par excellence.

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