Tebow, D'Arnaud commit to Philippines IX

Tebow, D'Arnaud commit to Philippines IX

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine national baseball team got a major boost when Makati-born Tim Tebow and Fil-Ams Chase D’Arnaud and Andrew Magno committed to play for the Three Stars and the Sun in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) qualifiers at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona, on March 20-25 with the prospect of advancing to the fifth tournament proper involving 20 countries next year.

Tebow, 32, is a celebrated athlete who was a star quarterback with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets in the NFL. He turned from football to baseball in 2016 and is now in the New York Mets spring training camp. Tebow has been cleared by Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Luis Rojas to leave camp to suit up for the Philippines in the coming qualifiers.

Tebow was born in Makati to missionary parents. He lived his early years in the Philippines and grew up in Florida but often visited the country of his birth to continue his parents’ missionary work. It was reported that for 15 straight years, Tebow spent at least three weeks each year in the Philippines attending to children with physical disabilities. He opened a hospital in Davao in 2014.

“I’ve just got such a heart for the Philippines,” said Tebow, quoted by writer Anthony DiComo. “I’ve just really had a love for the people for a long time. To be able to represent them will be really cool----really, really cool. You don’t get a lot of chances to represent people or places that mean something to you. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been back (to the Philippines). I’ve spent a lot of time. Love the people.” Tebow even speaks a little Pilipino.

D’Arnaud, 33, was drafted twice in Major League Baseball. First, he was picked on the 44th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005 but postponed his entry to the pros and enrolled at Pepperdine University. In 2008, D’Arnaud was chosen on the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went on to play for the Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. The 6-1 outfielder has also played with the minor league affiliates of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.

D’Arnaud’s mother Marita is a Fil-Am classically-trained music teacher and opera singer. His brother Travis is a catcher with the Braves but isn’t in the Philippine lineup. Magno, 21, was the Detroit Tigers’ 15th round draft pick last year from Ohio State. He’s now pitching for the New York-Penn minor league Norwich Sea Unicorns, the Tigers’ Class A short season affiliate. His father Manny is a Fil-Am.

Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) secretary-general Pepe Munoz said the national team lineup is shaping up “very nicely.” “It’s not just Tim, Chase and Andrew but watch out for J. R. Bunda and Yuki Takayama in pitching, the Conlan brothers Brady and Riley and Andre Mercurio,” he said. “We still have our work cut out for us. Panama and Spain are very strong but I’m confident we’ll be very competitive.”

Bunda, 29, was born in Hawaii of

Filipino descent. The six-foot pitcher played for the University of Portland varsity then for a series of minor league teams, including the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in the North Division of the American Association last year. Takayama, 21, is a 5-11 left-handed pitcher with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Eastern League. Takayama’s mother is Filipina. Brady Conlan, 26, is a 6-1 catcher who played at California State Dominguez Hills and the Lake Erie Crushers in the East Division of the Frontier League in 2018. His brother Riley, 23, is a six-foot outfielder from California State Northridge and saw action for the British Columbia Bombers in the California Winter League last year. The Conlans’ mother Felicia is a Fil-Am. Mercurio, 27, is a 5-9 outfielder from San Jose State and has played for the Florence Freedom in the West Division of the Frontier League the last four seasons.

Munoz said the UAAP baseball season starts March 11. A conflict in schedule with the WBC qualifiers has made several national players and coaches unavailable for Tucson. Munoz said the Manila-based players continue to work out with the local coaching staff led by Wilfredo Hidalgo and Keiji Katayama.

The Philippines is bracketed with the Czech Republic, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama and Spain in the qualifiers. The format is a nine-game double elimination round with the top two finishers moving up to the 20-team WBC next year. The Philippines opens its campaign against the Czech Republic on March 20.

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