Philippines scours globe for baseball talent

Posted at 11/09/2012 6:42 PM | Updated as of 11/10/2012 1:04 PM

MANILA - Philippines baseball officials have scoured the US and Japan professional leagues for players with the talent and eligibility to help the national side make it to the world championships, officials said.

Similar tactics have already been employed by the country's rugby union and football teams, with some success.

"We're looking far and wide for good players with at least one Filipino parent. Everyone else is doing it," said Hector Navasero, president of the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association.

The obvious plum target was Tim Lincecum of World Series champions the San Francisco Giants, Navasero told AFP.

The Filipino-American pitcher starred in relief in the Giants' World Series sweep of the Detroit Tigers last month, but declined the Philippine offer out of respect for his father.

"His mother was born in the Philippines, but it was his father who raised him after the couple split," Navasero said.

Instead 14 players mostly from the US minor leagues have been recruited, and will join the Philippine team at a qualifying tournament in Taiwan on November 15.

New Zealand, Taiwan and Thailand are also competing, with the winning team qualifying for the World Baseball Classic in March next year.

The minor leaguers in the Philippine team are led by pitcher Geno Espineli, who had one season in the majors with the San Francisco Giants in 2008, posting a 2-0 win-loss record with a 5.06 earned run average.

The pitching staff also includes 21-year-old left-hander Ryuya Ogawa, who is a combined 0-1 and 3.60 ERA in five innings pitched for the Chunichi Dragons in the Japanese pro league over the past two years.

The Philippine national football team, the Azkals -- slang for mongrel dogs -- mined European soccer to improve the record of Asia's perennial doormats, who were ranked 195th by FIFA in 2006.

Former Chelsea FC youth players Phil and James Younghusband, as well as goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who plays professionally at Bristol Rovers, have since helped boost their ranking to an all-time high of 143rd.

Using a similar approach the Philippines' rugby union team, the Volcanoes, secured the services of six Australian-Filipinos who play professionally in Japan -- and have since risen to 56th in the world and fifth in Asia.