SBL eyes pool for national team
With the 2021 Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games less than 340 days away, the Saipan Baseball League is looking to jump-start the Commonwealth’s national baseball program by inviting up to 40 players for tryouts.
SBL president Jay Santos acknowledged that for the better part of the past two years, there has been no league to speak of and the island’s main venue—the Francisco “Tan Ko” M. Palacios Baseball Field—is still in the middle of a major rebuild.
However, the Triple J executive said the process to select a pool of players to represent the CNMI in the Mini Games should start now.
“We are going to come out with an announcement in the near future where we’re hoping to recruit 30-40 players that would love to come out and try out for the national team. Yes, we don’t have facility to practice in, but we will figure something out. We will ask 30-40 18-and-older players to come out and try out for the squad,” he said.
The SBL is looking at whipping national team candidates into shape before actual baseball practice and scrimmages even begin.
“What we want to do is begin with conditioning—strength and conditioning. We’re going to hire Joey Tudela to come out to be our strength and conditioning coach,” said Santos.
Tudela is no stranger to CNMI baseball as he also served as the strength and conditioning coach for the CNMI U15 team that took part in the World Baseball Organization tournament in Guam in January last year.
“He was with our guys last year before the pandemic and was the strength and conditioning coach for our Pirates team. He took these 13-14-year-old guys and whipped them into shape and got them ready for baseball,” said Santos.
The hiring of Tudela shows that the new leadership at SBL is taking a more scientific approach in fielding a national team for the 2022 quadrennial event the CNMI will be hosting for the very first time.
“My message to anyone interested in playing for the national team is it’s not going to be just throwing the baseball around the field, you have to come out and get into shape. Since we’re hosting the Pacific Mini Games we want to give it the best shot and bring home the gold medal for the CNMI.”
As far as interest from past and up-and-coming baseball players, Santos said the islands’ boys of summer are itching to get back on the baseball field.
“Heard from many that there’s lots of baseball players out there standing by ready to get going. We have our hands full. We need to find a pool of 30-40 guys who want to come out and try out,” he said.
The SBL hunt is also not limited to players, as Santos said they would also need a manager and coach for the yet-to-be-formed national team.
“We’re also gonna look for a manager and a coaching staff. We’re hoping to hire a full-time coach that would develop baseball in the CNMI,” he said. “It will be privately funded and we’re looking to make this happen sooner than later.”
Santos also reiterated that no less than a gold medal would satisfy the SBL in next year’s Mini Games.
“We have high expectations. The SBL board and me will do everything in our power to put together the most organized and the most disciplined and the most fit team in the field and we want to bring home the championship. We want to bring home the gold.”
And the new SBL president said their preparations for next year’s Mini Games would only be the start as Santos plans to usher in a new golden age for baseball in the CNMI.
“Again, we want to start from scratch and we’re talking about getting all the equipment that we need for clinics and have the top-notch facilities and having the right individual that’s gonna help develop the program where it needs to be. Hopefully it’s also going to be a train-the-trainer where there’s a lot of qualified individuals on island that can further baseball here in the CNMI and that’s what we want someone who’s gonna manage the program from youth all up to men’s league moving forward,” he said.