The goal? Simple — defend the throne. The journey, on the other hand? The DLSU Green Batters know it won’t be easy.
The last time The GAME spoke to DLSU Green Batter Vince Flores was in 2023, fresh off of his first UAAP season, where his team successfully won the Men’s Baseball Championship — their second title in two seasons. This year, Vince has gone straight from UAAP rookie to team captain, ready to lead his team to their ultimate goal: to become the kings of the diamond once again.
“We have a target on our backs this year,” Vince admits.
Indeed, the teams will definitely be gunning for the defending champions as soon as the season starts, and Vince, along with the rest of the DLSU Green Batters, knows that the journey to a third straight title will not be without its challenges.
The squad’s new look
For UAAP Season 86, the DLSU Baseball Team has a lot of new faces. Several seniors and veterans from last season’s team have gone on to graduate, and in their place stands a number of rookies ready to step up to the plate.
“We have a lot of new players, so there’s a lot of work on that end,” Vince explains. “We’ve been working on our communication on and off the field. Sabi nga ni coach that he wants us to keep talking about baseball even though ‘di kami magkakasama sa field.”
Given that many of DLSU’s players this season are close in age, Vince shares that it doesn’t feel like there’s any “seniority” on the team — everyone is playing their role to the best of their abilities, regardless of experience.
This season, the Green Batters definitely have players to look out for. Joshua Pineda, for instance, was one of the team’s key players in last year’s title defense. And having played for the national team, Vince explains, “This year, nag-focus talaga siya sa pitching, so ‘dun yung malaking impact niya sa amin.”
In addition, Vince also adds that the youngsters from last season such as Lord Aragorn de Vera and Joseph Alcontin, who sent DLSU to the finals last year with his walk-off hit against the University of the Philippines, can be expected to play like seniors in the upcoming season.
With a good mix of fresh talent and experience, the DLSU Green Batters are eager to see how they measure up against the rest of the teams.
Scoping the competition
Though there is excitement among the DLSU baseball team members, there is also the reality that this UAAP season, many of the other teams have also beefed up their rosters with recruits and rookies to look out for. With this, even though they are the defending champions, Vince Flores notes that they may still be coming into Season 86 as underdogs.
“Malaking difficulty na nawala yung mga seniors namin, so hindi masyadong maganda yung outcome namin sa [pre-season tournament] last year. Nakita rin namin na nag-improve din ang lahat ng teams, so feel pa rin namin na parang underdogs kami,” he admits.
Similar to last season, Vince believes that the University of the Philippines will be among the top teams to watch out for, and they will be especially hungry to make a comeback after last season’s finale. In addition, Adamson also has their own set of impressive rookies that may shake up the competition.
Last season, DLSU also came into the baseball tournament as underdogs, and it turned out well for them. But this year, the pressure is different, even though they still feel like underdogs.
“We have to carry the fact that we’re defending champions and we want to get our third championship in a row, so we really have to work hard for it,” Vince shares, and he feels the pressure, especially as he’s been given the role of team captain just one year after his first UAAP season.
Ready for the first inning
As the leader of the team, Vince Flores prefers to lead by action. With this, he has been working harder than ever before, carrying a bigger responsibility and perhaps an even bigger goal.
“Being captain was a big adjustment for me — I have to be vocal. ‘Di na ako pwede at the same level as the rest, I have to be a leader. I have to step up,” he says.
This is a responsibility he has embraced with both arms, and he knows what the team needs to come close to their ultimate goal.
“I think number one is really focusing on our goals. We need to see that lahat on the same page. Second, we need to work on our communication. What we learned from last season is that everyone should be able to give out their opinions, lalo na sa field. And lastly, we have a ‘no more rookies’ mentality. Everyone has to step up, so kahit first-year ka pa lang, you still have to give it your all.”
The upcoming UAAP season isn’t going to be easy, and the pressure is definitely on the DLSU baseball team. But even with strong competition, high expectations, and a squad with a new look, ultimately, the entire team is excited to simply get the season going.
When asked what their team was most looking forward to, it actually wasn’t the possibility of winning a third-straight title. Even though this remains their main focus, their energy comes purely from the excitement of getting back on the diamond.
“Matagal na kaming hindi nakapaglaro with other teams, and I think lalabas agad ‘yun. We’re excited to just get back to playing again.”
Images from UAAP Media Bureau.