After a two-year layover, the DLSU Green Batters are in full swing to get back to their winning ways and defend their title won last UAAP Season 81. Much has happened over the span of the pandemic for the team from Taft to be swayed from winning, especially after bidding goodbye to several key players.
DLSU head coach Joseph Orillana discusses with The LaSallian the Green and White’s vision coming into this season. Being left with big shoes to fill, veteran catcher Josh Santillan also gives his thoughts on how the team adjusted in a short amount of time.
New season, matching trials
As baseball makes its return to the local collegiate scene this season, the Green Batters find themselves in a similar dilemma. Back then, the team had to deal with the departure of several focal players who either exhausted their UAAP playing years or chose to pursue the sport under another team. Regardless, La Salle snatched the crown from archrivals Ateneo, in a momentous win for the Lasallian community. The Green Batters did not indulge for too long in their victory, immediately looking forward to defending the title the next season—which was unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic.
Now that the sport is back for UAAP Season 85, the rookie-filled team has to train from square one after enduring two years of downtime. This time, however, the Green and White are not alone in this familiar hurdle, as the stoppage of play affected not only La Salle but also all the teams competing in this sport in the UAAP. With an equalizing concern, the youthful squad is urged to catch up with their training and invigorate their baseball IQs even further.
With a lone senior remaining from their championship roster, the team looks to maintain the greatness they had achieved in their last UAAP campaign. “Kasi nung naiwan namin ‘yung season na ‘yun, galing kami sa champion…marami akong players na sana makakalaro pa for UAAP that season na we think kaya pa namin magback-to-back,” laments head coach Orillana.
Change is constant in the world of sports, and players come and go. During the long break in play, the coaching staff did not lay back, opting instead to find new talents to fill the void left by graduating seniors. Among La Salle’s prized recruits are Joseph Alcontin and Pio Villamiel, who are part of the National Baseball Team training pool. DLSU will be banking on their experience and talent as foundations for the Green Batters in the seasons to come.
Further bolstering the roster are Lord De Vera from Tanauan, Batangas and Renato Samuel from Antipolo, Rizal. With holdovers having championship experience, the team is banking on their new recruits to continue the program’s current and future success and solidify the winning tradition of the DLSU Green Batters.
Held back by safety restrictions and health protocols, training became difficult during the pandemic. Catcher Santillan shares that the team had to heavily rely on online training sessions, which were supplemented by individual workouts at home to keep in shape. Upon the gradual lifting of lockdowns, the squad faced another setback in the lack of availability of a full-scale baseball diamond to train on.
But the Green Batters also took time to work on leadership and discipline, which would eventually become key focuses of the team as they learned to gel together. Orillana emphasizes relationship building as one of the hallmarks of DLSU baseball. Character plays an important role in retooling the Green Batters for the upcoming season, “Kung paano sila makihalubilo sa bago nilang teammates, ‘tsaka isa ‘yung goal nila…‘yung mag-iisa na ‘yung sistema nila, ‘yung attitude nila,” the coach explains, making it his first point in building a championship-contending team.
Key players and open dialogue were other points of emphasis for the young roster. Returning player Santillan shared that the team learned to listen to one another, with Orillana spurring this culture early on. Featuring national team-caliber talent among his players, it was important to give experienced athletes the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills.
Regarding the team’s training and preparation, Orillana reiterates the team’s development process and the goal to ensure that the training plan was not only for the upcoming season but for the future seasons too. “So ang [aim] lang namin talaga is [to cope and catch] up—hahabol kami sa training. And then more on mental preparation—baseball IQ namin [and] baseball sense nila sa laro,” he expresses.
Instilling championship DNA
As their competitive return approaches, the team’s vision is to build long-term success. With the departure of senior players and the extended stoppage of play derailing the team’s program, “Back to zero tayo. Talagang push tayo sa training ulit,” coach Orillana asserts. Having the team bond with each other and having a team-first mentality is what Orillana is hoping to instill in his team, “‘Yung makakasama nila sa team na ‘yung chemistry, hanggang sa unti–unti mag-mature sila sa laro.”
(We’re back to zero, we need to push hard on our training. The team they will be in, the chemistry will be built, until they mature as one with the games.)