Chad Nacapoy and Jim Ramos were fairly familiar with each other whenever the Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly Pomona baseball teams met the last two seasons.
Nacapoy served as a catcher for Cal State L.A. and Ramos was the head coach at Cal Poly Pomona. The two crossed paths at Pomona last spring when Nacapoy attended an invitational tryout with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The two exchanged greetings and would keep in touch during the next several months before Nacapoy was scooped up by Tampa Bay in the 38th round in the 2012 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft in June.
Ramos contacted Nacapoy, a Crescenta Valley High graduate, and inquired about the possibility of him becoming a member of Team Philippines in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier. Ramos was the manager of Team Philippines.
Nacapoy didn’t waste any time considering the offer, though he first needed clearance from the Rays. Once Tampa Bay granted Nacapoy permission after he finished up with the Princeton Rays, a rookie affiliate, Nacapoy prepared for the international stage.
“It was just about being in the right place and the right time,” said Nacapoy, a former All-Area honoree who graduated last spring from Cal State L.A. “I said yes [to Ramos] about becoming a part of the team and it would be a great opportunity to play at the international level.”
Nacapoy grabbed his gear and headed for the Philippines on Nov. 9 for a series of workouts before the team participated in the qualifier. The Hawaii-native Nacapoy has family ties to the Philippines, as his grandparents were born there.
About half of the team featured American-born players and the rest consisted of Filipinos.
“We had a couple of practices and used that time to get used to each other,” said Nacapoy, a former Glendale Angeleno. “It was amazing taking in the excitement and seeing the Filipinos playing baseball because it’s an up and coming sport there.
“The country was excited about the team. It was a real good experience to be playing baseball there.”
The Philippines, ranked 31st in the event, began play with an 8-2 victory against Thailand in Taipei.
Nacapoy went two for six and scored a run against Thailand, which featured Johnny Damon, who won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and New York Yankees in 2009.
“It was an awesome experience to not only be playing in that game, but also going against Damon,” Nacapoy said.
The Philippines then suffered a 16-0 loss against Chinese Taipei, ranked eighth, in the next contest Nov. 16. Nacapoy went hitless in a pair of plate appearances.
“We got spanked around a bit,” Nacapoy said. “That was their national team and they went out there to send a message.
“They had a relentless lineup and play flawless defense. It’s fun to watch them play, but frustrating to lose like that. The atmosphere was awesome playing in prime time and in front of about 20,000 people.”
The Philippines saw its bid to qualify for the World Baseball Classic, which will be held in March, end with a 10-6 defeat against unranked New Zealand.
Nacapoy had one hit in four at-bats and scored one run. He finished the qualifier batting .250 (three for 12) with two runs scored.
“We held them close, but then it got away,” said Nacapoy, who attended Brigham Young University for two seasons. “I was proud of our team coming back, but we just came up a little short.
“It was an honor to be invited to play. We made history by being the first team from the country to compete and then win a game. I think the future looks bright there with respect to baseball.”
Pitcher Geno Espineli was a battery mate with Nacapoy.
Espineli, who pitched briefly with the San Francisco Giants in 2008, said he developed a good rapport with Nacapoy.
“He’s a proven catcher and a very good clubhouse leader,” Espineli said. “He stepped up for us and our pitchers were confident with the game that he called.”