Jesse Bernad hurls a sales pitch for baseball

Jesse Bernad (right-most) in last Sunday’s game

Yesterday, via email, I interviewed the man whose passion for softball and baseball is akin to Jun San Juan’s fervor for volleyball, Paul Taneo’s obsession with MMA, Boojie Lim’s craze for chess, Lando Alvarez’s fascination with swimming. Jesse Bernad, whose Fastball Sports Ventures holds court at the Aboitiz Sports Field, offered these words in a Q & A:

How was the Manila-Cebu “Baseball Phils Series 8” last Sunday?

“The Baseball Philippines Independence Day Encounter between the Cebu Dolphins and Manila Sharks last Sunday held at Aboitiz Sports Field was fantastic. We couldn’t ask for a better game. We had over 300 people watching from all walks of life – rich, poor, young, old, players and non-players, foreigners, etc. Everybody had a wonderful experience of high-caliber baseball and with our own Cebu Dolphins playing, we had so much to cheer for. Sharks led the game with 2 early runs and the Dolphins fought back to tie it and eventually lead by as much as 3 runs. But the Sharks clawed back to tie the game at 6 all and eventually won it with a final score of 8-6. A classic game of ups and downs which is a trademark of a baseball game. Its a marathon of a game. No lead is safe.

“After finally accepting Fastball’s invitation to come to Cebu, Baseball Philippines is in fact hinting on coming back again for more games especially if the Cebu Dolphins make it to the Finals. It makes us all proud since this is the first semi-pro league official tournament game played outside of Luzon and it was a huge success. The weather cooperated and the playing field was excellent. We owe our success to all our sponsors, volunteers and everyone who lent a hand. We however feel there are a lot of improvements that needs to be done to make the next games better and more successful in terms of attendance.

“In the morning, we got to meet up close and personal the Dolphins and Sharks players during the baseball clinic for kids. We had a very good turnout with around 120 kids  who joined ages 4 to 16 and they got to learn the different techniques of how to play the game the right way direct from the Coaches and players themselves.”

How was Ken Griffey Jr’s visit?

“The Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Clinic last March 3 and 4 was a huge success and it opened a lot of doors for us. It led Team Cebu to finally joining the Little League Philippines Series, after seeing the talent pool we had during the clinic. There were over 300 participants from ages 4 to 18 and over 30 Coaches and Trainers that PSC Commissioner Jolly Gomez invited us to dinner together with Cebu Sports Leaders to convince us that we need to open our doors and compete outside of Cebu and expose ourselves to better competition and learn better techniques so we can gauge our skill level against teams from other parts of the country. True enough, we learned a lot during the games in Lipa City, Batangas. We noticed that our players lacked the composure during tight games due to lack of exposure. We also observed that our training techniques and mental approach were lagging behind. With the experience we had in Lipa, perhaps we can improve our performance in future competitions.”

How is baseball and softball in Cebu today compared to a few years back?

“No doubt, baseball in Cebu has improved by leaps and bounds since the time Fastball started promoting the sport. Through our program, we have created Baseball Clubs in different private schools. Our talent pool has dramatically increased through our Baseball Clinics and Summer Camps. As for Softball, the number of adult Softball Clubs and tournaments have tripled since we first introduced our Softball Summer League for Adults and our 1-day Leagues. More people are playing now, which was our goal in the first place – giving more access to beginners and former players to get into the game. Other groups and organizers are catching up and joining in the fun – which is fine for us. Fastball is proud to be in the forefront of the revival of the 2 sports in Cebu.”

What are your other plans for 2011?

“Fastball has a lot more to offer in the coming months.
1. We are coordinating with Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) to conduct a Coaches and Trainers training here in Cebu by coaches from Major League Baseball soon. We also plan to request a training for Umpires in Baseball and Softball to improve their game-calling
2. Fastball has created new Baseball and Softball Clubs in the new schoolyear to jump start our plans for a tournament between private schools.
3. We will continue the Fastball baseball and Softball clinics for individuals who do not have teams or Clubs.
4. Fastball will be hosting an Invitational Tournament wherein teams from Manila and nearby cities will play against our local teams in the 10 & under, Little League Baseball and Softball Majors and Softball Juniors categories.
5. With the successful application of our Cebu Little League Charter with Little League International, Fastball will be launching the Cebu Little League tournament which is the preeminent league for baseball and softball for kids.
6. Fastball has been contacted and offered by certain groups to organize and host bigger leagues or tournaments in Cebu which are yet to be finalized.”

What is Fastball doing to help the sport?

“Fastball is creating ways not only to improve our players but to attract more people to the sport. Hence, by convincing the US Embassy to bring Ken Griffey Jr. to Cebu was a big start. Then we had Baseball Philippines coming over which as also huge. We have now gotten the attention of the public -fans and non-baseball fans. The support from the LGUs is a huge boost to us and they know Fastball is sincere in our dealings with them. Our league at the recent Cebu Fest 2011 in SRP had one of the most participants with 22 teams from ages 5 to 60 years old from 6 different categories. We were the first to start and the last to end our games at this sports festival created by CCSC.”

How can Cebuanos play the game?

“Interested players who do not have Baseball Clubs in their school but want to join and play with us can join our Baseball Clinics for kids – boys and girls which we do on Saturdays. Adult Softball players can join our Leagues: the 1-day Leagues that we hold every 3 months or the Fastball Summer Softball tournament. Groups can also contact us to conduct private clinics or friendly games at their convenient time and venue. They can reach us thru email: jessebernad@yahoo.com or mobile 09173222284 for more details.”

What is your ultimate dream with softball and baseball in Cebu?

“The plan is to make Baseball and Softball at par with Basketball and Soccer in terms of popularity for players and spectators. Right now, it is a challenge to convince schools and students to join our organization since most are into the 2 aforementioned sports. But with our persistence and determination, we will soon achieve our goal. Kids don’t know that the easiest way to reach international level competitions abroad is through baseball with so many “Invitationals and Regionals” games going on in nearby Asian countries. The challenge is also to convince corporate sponsorships to support our program. We need someone to see us thru and make sure we achieve our dream.

“Lastly, we dream of our very own “Field of Dreams”. A baseball/softball diamond where we can play our game anytime and call it home.”

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