After an entertaining few weeks crammed with celebrity endorsements, a baseball clinic at Olympic Stadium and a fundraising gala dinner at BBQ Party restaurant, the Cambodian National Baseball team were brought back down the ground with a bump on Sunday, suffering a comprehensive 6-1 loss to a team made up of Japanese expatriates.
Despite some considerable excitement for their first competitive match of the season held at their training ground in Prasath Balaingk district, Kampong Thom province, the national team struggled to compete from the off. The top of the first innings saw the Cambodians fail to connect, while the Japanese managed a few hits in response but without scores.
From the third to the seventh innings the visitors steadily took control, adding runs consistently to take a 6-0 lead with the home side simply stunned.
Finally in the ninth, Cambodia managed a lone run in consolation with Van Tiths batting in Choey Sovann. There were tears of disappointment at the end and many players felt emotionally and physically exhausted.
“We judged them wrong,” said pitcher Moun Chanthon. “They came out hard and we were not expecting that they were so good at this game against our team.
“We tried everything we could to get back in the game, but we were losing hope since the first four innings. We felt ashamed as we looked over at our coaches.”
However, the locals were adamant that they would learn from this loss. “[The Japanese team] taught us so many lessons today. This game is very important to our team,” added Mich Phea.
Cambodian Baseball Federation President Joe Cook, who followed the game online from his base in the US, said he had completely overestimated the strength of his team against a foreign ensemble, but recognised positives from the defeat.
“To me, this is what I have been waiting for. It’s this kind of game that I really wanted the CNBT to witness and experience from,” he said by email yesterday.
“When they lose, they will understand better and know what we need to do to get better .... I never thought a team in Cambodia would ever beat [the national] team. But I have been proven me wrong. We don’t need to go to play against other teams in other countrys. Just here in Cambodia, there may be a lot more teams that are capable of beating our team. We just have to wait and look harder.”
Cook said he had a two hour meeting with the team in the fallout from the game.
“We must pickup all the pieces and work better together as a team,” he said. “If not, we won’t stand a chance at the 26th SEA Games [in Indonesia in November].”