CNMI braces for tougher baseball competition

Posted on Oct 16 2020


In this 2016 file photo, Peter Lieto pitches for the CNMI during their game against Guam in the Inaugural Micronesian Baseball Classic at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. Baseball competition is coming to the islands anew in 2022 with the CNMI’s hosting of the Pacific Mini Games. (Saipan Tribune)

Many-time national team coach Tony Rogolifoi believes the change in the schedule of the Pacific Mini Games will make the baseball tournament even more competitive as participating countries will have the opportunity to prepare longer for the event.

The CNMI-hosted Mini Games will now run from June 17 to 25, 2022 instead of next year, giving not only the host country, but also other nations interested in sending a baseball team in the quadrennial competition more time to strengthen their program and work on a training plan for their respective squads.

Rogolifoi said that with the COVID-19 pandemic still a major concern across the globe and has forced either the cancelation or suspension of games, baseball players in the region are not in good shape and ready for tournaments next year.

“In our case, we don’t have a league, we don’t have a field ready, and we don’t know when we will be able to resume baseball on island, as it will all depend on the development with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CNMI Sports Hall of Famer said.

Once action in the diamond is allowed, Rogolifoi said they have to reevaluate the CNMI’s baseball program, plan for local competitions first and then work on the selection process and preparation for the national team. These would all need time, which will be on the Commonwealth’s side after the Pacific Games Council and the 22-member Pacific Games Association agreed to the CNMI’s proposal to move the Mini Games in 2022.

In this undated file photo, many-time national team coach Tony Rogolifoi, left, facilitates a training session of CNMI youth players at the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield. (Saipan Tribune)

“We would love to see strong teams from New Caledonia, American Samoa, Palau, and of course our rival Guam come down and compete. It’s going to be a very competitive baseball tournament,” said Rogolifoi, who incidentally coached the gold-medal winning team in the most recent baseball competition under the sanction of the PGC.

Rogolifoi and the Josh Jones-led CNMI team topped the baseball event in the 2011 Pacific Games held in New Caledonia after beating Guam in the finals, 8-4. No baseball competition was held in the next two editions of the Pacific Games—in 2015 in Papua New Guinea and last year in Samoa.

In the Mini Games, the 2009 (Cook Islands), 2013 (Wallis & Futuna), and 2017 (Vanuatu) competitions moved ahead without baseball. The last time the sport was played in the Mini Games was in 2005 in Palau with Guam taking the gold medal, the host island getting the silver, and the Federated States of Micronesia winning the bronze.

Meanwhile, Rogolifoi said the Saipan Baseball League will meet in the next few weeks to discuss the recent development in the Mini Games and work on the association’s next step once a green light has been given to resume sports competitions on island.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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