"The next big Asian market": Filipino-American players pave way for baseball's growth in Philippines.
Published in Baseball
Nestled in a clearing between rye fields and lush jungle, the bases on one of the few baseball diamonds in the Philippines' Tanauan City sat in sludge.
In video taken by scouts visiting the area, a rooster crowed in the background and a dog watched from behind a rusty foul-line fence.
Baseball dreams hardly exist there, where kids play with fraying gloves and a cracked yellow bucket of cowhide-less baseballs. Yet to representatives visiting last summer from the Philippines national baseball team, the field represented promise.
"There is endless possibility out there," said Bill Picketts, head coach of the Philippines national team. "There's nothing. There's no facilities."
There are hundreds of kids with unbridled joy for the sport, as Picketts — also the head coach at L.A. Pierce College — saw during a summer trip to Tanauan City Vince Sagisi, a former Major League Baseball scout of 13 years who's now the Philippines national team's recruiting coordinator, said he stumbled upon a 14-year-old with a wipeout three-pitch mix and a shortstop "making throws like Derek Jeter" on a six-week trip to the islands.
Baseball has long taken a backseat to basketball in Filipino culture. Picketts and Sagisi, though, look at the Philippines as the next Dominican Republic: an international gold mine for baseball scouting.
"I've always believed there's talent there to be untapped," Sagisi said. "It could be the next big Asian market to take off."
Growing the game in the Philippines, the national team believes, starts with a pipeline to Los Angeles as a slew of Filipino-American talent is popping up across the Southland. Over the summer, much of that talent played together on a youth national team alongside a couple of players from the Philippines.
For many, it inspired hope they could help build a baseball culture in the Philippines — and turn the region into a force on the world's biggest stage.
"Playing for a nationality, building it up now, I think it'd be really important for me to play on the [WBC] team," said Loyola's Adam Magpoc, who is half-Filipino and has committed to Boston College.
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