Limpag: Women’s softball

THE most popular women’s team---or national team from some accounts--didn’t win a single medal in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games despite playing in a four-team field. But it had tremendous support and played to packed audiences.

On the other hand, the most successful women’s team nary had a crowd when it won its 10th straight gold medal in the biennial meet. The Blu Girls has won the gold medal in women’s softball since 1979, the year I was born. That’s 40 years of dominance in the SEA Games, missing out only on the gold 10 times for the sore and pitiful reason that women’s softball wasn’t included by the host.

But women’s softball, sadly, lags sorely behind the women’s volleyball team when it comes to popularity and support. The Blu Girls also chased on Olympic spot this year, but missed out after finishing fourth in the Asia/Oceania qualifier. Despite missing out on a spot in Tokyo, it still shows the quality of the country when it comes to women’s softball.

Can you just imagine what the team can do if women’s softball is as popular as women’s volleyball? I’m not talking about financial support because, thanks to Jean Henri Lhuillier, the president of the Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines, the Blu Girls were able to compete internationally and enjoy tremendous support. I’m talking about support in terms of the number of people playing the game, access to the game and even something as simple as a venue.

Tell me, when was the last time you saw a softball game? For me, it has been years.

That has always been the problem of the sport. Baseball used to be popular in Mindanao, but that took a nosedive after the 1991 Little League scandal. Softball used to be big in Cebu but the lack of venue and tournaments has hindered its growth in the past decade. It is only thanks to a few selfless individuals who dig into their own pockets that softball is alive, with a few pocket tournaments every now and then.

I was hoping a dominant showing in the Southeast Asian Games--something I already expected--would change that. But I guess, the fact that the Blu Girls had to ask fans to watch their gold medal match showed that women’s softball needs more than beat the competition to a pulp.

I hope that changes, soon.

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