Baseballers vow to come back stronger

Tyrone Milne, left, with Haydon Matthee, his teammate at Bellville and the SA team that was to play at the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in the USA.

Three Cape Town baseballers looking to don the colours of the national senior side for the first time saw their dreams being put on hold for a bit longer.

Sport in most parts of the globe has been cancelled to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The 29-member South African senior baseball side had already assembled in Tucson, Arizona, in the United States of America, for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers when the news came that the tournament was cancelled due to the outbreak of the virus.

The news actually came two days before the first ball was pitched in the tournament.

The SA side jetted back to the country where all the members of the team had to quarantine for 14 days.

Though the decision was understandable, there was a lot of disappointment for the side, particularly the six South Africans who were to play for their country for the first time at a senior level.

Three of those players are based in the US while the others are from Cape Town.

Jayson Ripepi, 28, from Mitchell’s Plain, had never played for South Africa before, not even at junior level and this was a dream come through for him.

The Maitland Giants pitcher/shot-stopper had never even been a part of a training camp before getting the news that he was to take a flight to America.

Even though he couldn’t believe the news at first, when it finally kicked in that he was to represent his country it was a surreal moment for him.

He was to complete a remarkable sporting moment for his family as he was to be the third Ripepi to wear the SA colours.

His two brothers have their national colours in the junior level, something that evaded him in his baseball career. Older brother, Casley is a member of Athlone A’s while younger brother Kyle is his teammate at Giants.

“I got the news that I was in the national team when we were about to play Grassy Park Crusaders and the representative of Cape Town Baseball Association broke the news to me.

“I couldn’t believe it until she showed me the squad list and my name was there and I was shocked.

“I didn’t expect it because this is the first ever call-up in the national team,” said Ripepi.

However, his dream of wearing the SA colours are yet to be realised as the world still battles the virus.

“We were feeling really good about the games and I feel like we’re ready to be very competitive.

“It’s not the end of the world so we will come back after this and continue to work hard and I will get my chance. When we got the news that the games were cancelled it was hard to take but we understood the reasons behind the decision,” he said.

Unlike Ripepi, Tyrone Milne has been a part of the national setup from under-16 level and went on to captain the SA under-17 side that came out tops of the African qualifiers for the World Cup that took place in Japan in 2015.

He went on to play for the under-18s and the under-23 side that also made it to the World Cup in Mexico in 2016. The 23-year-old was always destined to graduate to the senior side having represented SA in many of the junior levels.

Milne, from Bloubergstrand, is a member of Bellville Tygers and this too was to be his first time representing his country at senior level. He made the squad that took part in the African Olympic qualifiers last year but did not start a game.

He believes he had a big chance to finally make the starting line-up and go on to cement his place in the team.

“I have been dreaming about that moment for a very long time and when it finally came I was over the moon because it meant all the hard work I put in was being recognised.

“So when we learnt that the games were cancelled it was upsetting, we understand that at the end of the day it was a good decision to cancel but the dream lives on. I will continue working hard for my spot.”

Milne says his goal is to be a major player in growing the game of baseball in the country and will do that by being a role model to the younger generation of players. He wants to see as many baseball players taking up the sport at a young age to keep the passion alive for generations to come.

At 31 years old, Tyrone Baglione feels he is still going to be around for a long time now that he is finally part of the SA squad.

Even though the Durbanville player is yet to make his debut he feels the experience he gained by just being a part of the team will play a massive impact in his playing career going forward.

He too has a family name to uphold as motivation to keep going as his father, Jack, was a member of Bellville Tygers during his playing days.

His father never got to represent the country and it is up to him to lead the way and hopefully for many generations after him.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has not dampened his spirit as he believes he will be up to the task as soon as the situation is back to normal. He has been a part of the national setup before, having traveled to the likes of Mexico and Cuba at junior level and making the training camp of the under-23s.

Taking to the field for the SA senior team was to be his biggest achievement yet.

“We were very dis-
appointed but there is nothing we can do about it, everyone has to play a role in dealing with the spread of this virus.

“We had to quarantine for 14 days after our trip to the USA and I have a four-year-old daughter that I can’t see because of the lockdown and isolation.

“Everyone can just do their part so we can quickly go back to normal and do things we love doing.”

Baglione says he remains positive that when playing resumes he will take his place again in the national team and do his part in taking the SA side to the next level of competitiveness on the world stage.

He was also thankful of the support provided by the South African Baseball Union (SABU) during their quarantine period.

“It is tough not doing anything but we will be back and we will be back competition strong,” he said.