This is the sixth in a series of previews of Team Guam heading to Saipan for the 2022 Pacific Mini Games
By Jay Leon Guerrero
The next generation for Guam Baseball has been tapped by the Guam National Olympic Committee to represent Guam at the 2022 Mini Pacific Games. Fifteen of the 20 players who made the roster are young prospects under the age of 20.
Like tennis, baseball will be playing for almost the entire duration of the competition with games spanning from June 16-24. There are five participating countries with Guam, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau and the CNMI vying for the gold medal.
This will be the first time since 2011 that baseball will be featured as a sport in the Pacific Games or Pacific Mini Games. Saipan won the last gold medal in New Caledonia at the Pacific Games in 2011.
According to the Mini Games website: “The host nation will surely be hoping for a repeat performance when baseball returns in 2022. It most recently appeared at the Pacific Mini Games in Palau back in 2005 when Guam won the event undefeated. Guam also won gold at the 2003 Pacific Games in Fiji, whilst Palau won gold at the 2007 Pacific Games in Samoa”.
The team is preparing itself for the long schedule and team manager Joe Tuquero is preparing the team for different scenarios. “Based on past experience from my days at playing in the Games, Fiji and the Solomon Islands have very athletic players. Baseball was very new to them back then so we have to assume that they have improved over time,” said Tuquero.
“As for Palau, we were just there recently for friendship games and they too are a strong team that has a mixture of young and veteran players. In fact, they had one or two players that played here in the GML who had left to Palau to go back and train with their national team,” said Tuquero.
“Saipan is the defending champion of the Pacific Games and they are the host country so they will have their best. They have a couple of good, quality pitchers that are in their prime so with them being on their home turf, they will be tough,” said Tuquero.
With baseball making its return after an 11-year hiatus, the Guam team is looking to continue to re-establish itself as a powerhouse in the Pacific. The Mini Games will be the start of that journey for the next generation of ball players entering the Games.
They’ve been fine-tuning their skills in the ongoing Guam Major League, where they sit comfortably in first place at 9-0.
With 15 of the 20 players under the age of 20, Tuquero said the five veterans are crucial in their role. He said he values their leadership and experience to guide the younger players to play their best.
Jathan Muna-Barnes is one if those veterans who said he is eager to take the field with the squad.
“I’m super excited for these young gentlemen. They work very hard and are crazy talented. To share the field with them and play ball with them is an honor.”– veteran Jathan Muna-Barnes
“We’ve been working really hard and we have good chemistry as a team because we’ve been playing together for some time now,” said Jeremiah Sablan. Sablan, a high school All-Island player, will be playing catcher for Team Guam.
2021 high school MVP Ashton Tedtaotao said the team is excited to take the field and represent Guam to the best of their abilities. “This is a nice opportunity for us to go off-island and play with this team I’ve been playing with since ever since,” said Tedtaotao.
“The coaching staff is very knowledgeable and they have been with me for almost half of my life. They are doing their best to teach us the game of baseball and have fun as well.”– Ashton Tedtaotao
The young team has been off-island before for strictly baseball tournaments such as the Little League or regional tournaments. Tuquero said he is excited for his team to experience the magnitude of playing in the Mini Games and the pride of representing Guam alongside other sports.
The first games will be played on June 16th at the Oleai Sport Complex, a day before the opening ceremonies. The team will have the honor of attending the Opening Ceremonies and will make that march alongside fellow athletes from Guam playing other sports.
“Two coaches and three players have been to a Games before so this is going to be a new experience for them. I hope they soak it in and enjoy the experience. At the end, we want to represent Guam well on and off the field,” said Tuquero.
Roster for Guam Baseball:
Brian ‘B.J.” Balajadia
Ricardo Leon Guerrero II
Franklin Ninete Jr
John Salas Jr
Joseph Tuquero – Manager
Franklin Ninete – Coach
John Salas – Coach
Zhavier Panes – Trainer
The 2022 Pacific Mini Games will commence from June 17-25 in the Northern Marianas Islands. A total of nine sports will be played with seven sports played in Saipan while the other two sports take place in Rota and Tinian.
Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Beach Volleyball, Golf, Tennis, Va’a and Weightlifting will be in Saipan. Beach Volleyball consolation matches will be played in nearby Tinian and the triathlon will take place in Rota.
The Guam contingent will be the largest since the 2005 Mini Games held in Palau. Guam’s best performance was in Palau with six gold medals, nine silvers and 14 bronze medals.
Guam sent small contingencies to the 2009 (Cook Islands), 2013 (Wallis and Futuna) and 2017 (Vanuatu) Mini Games but were unable to come home with a gold medal.
The 2022 games will be the first time since Palau hosted the Games in 2005 that Guam will be sending a larger contingent. Guam will be sending more than 50 athletes which is the largest to date.
PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
GPS Sports Calendar