How Mexico and the Pueblo Filipino Can Resurrect Filipino Baseball and the Filipino Image

by Bobby Reyes

The Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California | Photo Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jay Domingo shared the second article of this column and commented last Dec. 5 in the Philippine Daily Mirror Community Facebook Group: “Dream big, have a vision, and follow-through! This seems to be the theme of Bobby Reyes’s latest commentary.”

Many people (like Jay Domingo) are no longer laughing at some of my visionary ideas because they found out that eventually, we could do it — one project at a time. A case in point was my idea of holding a Filipino American Community Night at a Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium. I first proposed it to my friends in New York City. Many of them laughed and said that the Fil-Am community in NYC (or especially in Pittsburgh, PA, where I also floated the same idea) was too-small to be granted that right to hold the event. Well, after 18 years, I — and just a committee of four other friends — staged the first-ever Fil-Am event at the Dodgers Stadium. It was also the first Filipino American event in any MLB stadium.

In doing it, we did not receive any funding from the Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Tourism Office of Los Angeles. Or, for that matter, from any Filipino American foundation or federation. We were that hard-headed, and we refused to accept the “Nays” that typically uttered to us as a reply. They bent on pushing the idea no matter how long it would take.

Here’s a link to a story to such a historical event.

For the first time in MLB history, someone sang the Philippine national anthem in Tagalog, and a group performed the Filipino-Muslim dances for 30-minutes at the Dodgers Stadium. July 24, 2006 event was indeed historic. The late Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Willy Gaa threw the ceremonial first pitch in the first Fil-Am event at this stadium.

“For the first time in MLB history, someone sang the Philippine national anthem in Tagalog, and a group performed the Filipino-Muslim dances for 30-minutes at the Dodgers Stadium. July 24, 2006 event was indeed historic.”

We followed it up the next year with the Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon as the first lady diplomat to throw a ceremonial first pitch. The 2006 Kalayaan Philippine Independence Committee (that I chaired) provided the 2007 event at the Dodgers Stadium with $2,000 as its support in buying tickets for the event. But again, we did not ask for any financial help from the Filipino diplomatic-and-tourism officials assigned in Los Angeles. Here’s a link to a story about this event.

Well, the Filipino American community in New York City finally had its first-ever event in an MLB baseball stadium. It happened on Sept. 14, 2019, at the Citi Field of the New York Mets. They called it the Filipino Heritage Night. I heard that it was the first-and-only event of such kind in New York. Yes, 13 years after we held it first in Los Angeles.

Our ties with the Dodgers ended when I joined the Dodgers’ boycott organizers over its decision to open its T.V. channel, which many baseball fans in Southern CA could not afford.

Another group of Filipino American baseball enthusiasts took over our event and called it the Filipino Heritage Night (FHN). Even in its first edition in 2009, the organizers could not entice a top Filipino diplomat or official to throw the ceremonial first pitch. They invited boxing legend and Filipino senator Manny Pacquiao to do it, but his handlers demanded an appearance fee of $10,000, which of course is not customary in baseball community events. The Dodgers refused to pay Mr. Pacquiao even a dollar. So, Mr. Pacquiao did not show up to throw the first pitch. Nor did the FHN organizers persuade the Dodgers to allow singing the Filipino national anthem again or permit any Filipino folk dances exhibition.

A few years later, Filipino-American baseball fans in San Francisco, CA, started in the mid-2010s, also their version of the Filipino American Community Baseball Night.

“Now, let’s go back to the future of a Pueblo Filipino project in Colima Province of Mexico. We can push the revival of the baseball project with Mexico as the Philippines’ national sport (as it was during its days as an American colony). But to do it, we must obtain the Mexican baseball industry’s cooperation and support, the club owners, players, and fans.”

As I mentioned earlier in this column, I also visited the Pittsburgh Pirates front office at their stadium in November 1997. I paid a courtesy call on the Pirates MLB team, and a young baseball officer received me by the name of Mike Kennedy. I told him that I wanted to revive the Filipino interest in baseball, and my group could organize a Filipino American Community Night at their stadium. But when asked the number of Filipino American residents in Pittsburgh, I replied that there were less than 500 of them in the city. Mr. Kennedy treated me with due respect, but his promise of an e-mail response did not come. Well, I charged my trip to Pittsburgh to experience and moved on. (By the way, I will mention in another coming column the other purpose of my 1997 trip to Pittsburgh, and it was about doing a Filipino Classroom at its Cathedral of Learning. The Cathedral of Learning is a concrete tower that serves as the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh’s (Pitt) main campus in the Oakland neighborhood of the city).

Now, let’s go back to the future of a Pueblo Filipino project in Colima Province of Mexico. We can push the revival of the baseball project with Mexico as the Philippines’ national sport (as it was during its days as an American colony). But to do it, we must obtain the Mexican baseball industry’s cooperation and support, the club owners, players, and fans. And to make it work, we must build what we, baseball fans, call the Baseball Cathedral. It is the sports world’s equivalent of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, which I am also proposing to do as part of a Medical Center in Mexico.

Here is a background of The Mexican League of Baseball, a professional-baseball organization. It is the oldest running-professional league in the country. It is a class Triple-A league in organized Minor League Baseball (MiLB), one grade below Major League Baseball (MLB).

“Would the people of Mexico, their government, and their baseball and soccer fans, other sports, and artists not welcome and support a Sports Cathedral in Pueblo Filipino with so-much enthusiasm and fervor? And give us, Filipino workers and investors in Mexico, a 17th team in the Mexican Baseball League?”

Mexico’s current premier baseball entity, the Mexican Baseball League, was founded in 1925 and consisted of two divisions with 16 teams in total. They classified the Mexican League as a Triple-A level league since 1967, and before then, as a Double-A league.

Would the people of Mexico, their government, and their baseball and soccer fans, other sports, and artists not welcome and support a Sports Cathedral in Pueblo Filipino with so-much enthusiasm and fervor? And give us, Filipino workers and investors in Mexico, a 17th team in the Mexican Baseball League? But to do it, we must build first a stadium where baseball, soccer, boxing, track-and-field sports, and even ice hockey can be played or held; and serve as a venue for concerts as a Performing Arts Center. Yes, a stadium just as big, if not larger, than the Dallas Cowboys’ $1.2 billion (spelled with a B) home in Texas?

By the next installment of this column, we will discuss (and hopefully agree) how we can fund and build not just the Sports Cathedral, the Cathedral of Learning, the Medical Center, and other infrastructures. It should be in less-than-half of the 18 years compared to what took me to persuade so many people and entities to permit the holding of the first (and second) Filipino American Community Night at Dodgers Stadium. For the adage says, “If there is a will, there is a way,” is it, not right?

It will also include some historical notes about the introduction of baseball (supposedly by Buffalo soldiers) and its growth (and demise) in the Philippines. And a short history of Filipino players in the MLB of the United States.

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