When I studied college at U.P. Cebu, the one week that I looked forward to each year more than any other was Intramurals. The sport that got my palms sweaty and my heart racing 178 beats per minute?
Softball. But while I enjoyed gripping that aluminum bat, inserting that leather glove on my left hand and catching and throwing balls and stealing bases, the one player I detested facing was the pitcher of the Seniors team: Jesse Bernad.
In an article I wrote on this space last year, here’s how I described Jesse: “If you saw Troy, he’s Achilles. Our Michael Phelps of the Athens Games. Everybody sweated facing Hulk. As softball pitcher, he threw underhand fastballs that screamed at you like a bullet ambulance. How do I know? I stood meters from him as batter and almost fell off my backside at the zooming softball’s pace. As basketball center, Jessed pulled down rebounds like he were picking mansanitas, deflected shots like one would mosquitoes, and “owned” the low post like a Tim Duncan.”
That’s true. Jesse played the three most important positions of the school’s three most prominent sports: He rebounded as center in basketball, hurled fastballs in softball, and fended off attacks as goalie on the football grass.
With softball, he’s scary. Standing an imposing 5-foot-11, he’ll hide that white softball behind his back, stare at you as if to say, “You can’t hit this!” then uncork the fastest softball pitch possibly in U.P. Cebu history. And then, in a millisecond, that softball has flies past you as the umpire screams, “Strike!!!”
That was 17 years ago. Since then, we’ve long graduated from the Lahug campus, worked, gotten married, raised families and, as exercise, engaged in sports.
Softball? That was a distant flashback. Only now…. it’s back. And who else but Jesse Benjamin Q. Bernad to bring it back.
What’s Jesse doing… building a softball diamond? Not yet, at least for now. (But he did email me this comment last year: “With the SRP, I hope you can include a baseball/softball field. We used to be one of the best in Asia. But look what’s happened. Japan, Korea and even Taiwan are sending world-class players to America. Here in RP, the sport has become close to non-existent. It’s a sport where height and heft are not advantages. Look at Ichiro Suzuki and the Japanese team winning the WBC last year. I will be willing to offer my services as coach/trainer pro-bono if this program pushes through.”)
Here’s what Jesse is up to: This Saturday (Nov. 15) at the Aboitiz Sports Field (beside Makro at the reclamation area), Jesse unveils his new business venture, Fastball Batting Cages.
“We’ll be operating mobile Baseball/Softball Batting Cages and Pitching facilities designed to promote the sport of baseball and softball in the Cebu market,” says Jesse. “This concept brings with it the Cebuano pride of being the country’s first lighted outdoor batting and pitching cages complete with pitching machines, batting tees, speed gun, and safety gear.”
Baseball, adds Jesse, is a growing sport. “Our target market ranges from parents and kids, to teens, students, young and middle-aged professionals, and the older age group—the entire family!” says Jesse. “This creates excitement and a venue for stress relief (bat-and-throw your stress away!) and recreational activity that promotes physical fitness, competitiveness, relaxation.”
You see, Jesse, who recently resigned from his high-paying corporate job to launch his own business—and to pursue his passion—is doing what Kevin Costner did with the popular baseball film, “Field of Dreams.”
Remember that movie? It narrated the story of a farmer (Costner) who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond on his corn field. The movie’s main theme is the realization of dreams—and how people can overcome any regrets they may have about their decisions in life.
Fastball Batting Cages is Jesse’s dream.
For as he told me, and as Kevin Costner declared in the movie, “If you build it, they will come.”