Sons in the footsteps of their dads, who are ex-national softballers
Three boys follow their dads' footsteps into Singapore's softball team
For former national softballers Ong Bin, Jeffeury Tan and Ngiam Swee Kee, their Father's Day presents on Sunday do not come from anything tangible.
Instead, they would derive greatest gratification in seeing that their sons - Aloysius Ong, Jeron Tan and Gerann Ngiam - have continued from where they left off, by representing Singapore in the Men's Softball World Championship which starts in Prague, Czech Republic, tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
It is the first time Singapore have qualified for the world meet since the 1992 edition in the Philippines, where Tan and Ngiam competed.
Aloysius, 18, is a pitcher like his father Ong Bin, 48.
He made his maiden appearance at the Men's Asian Championship in Jakarta last year, when they beat Indonesia 10-3 to clinch bronze and qualify for the world stage.
Aloysius, a Hwa Chong Institution student, credits his sporting progress to his father as he was able to hone his skills at international level, a rarity at his age.
Ong, a project manager in the civil engineering industry, funded week-long trips to Australia for Aloysius to compete in the Under-17 and U-19 National Softball Championships.
There, he played for Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).
Ong, who represented Singapore for 13 years from 1994, said he will strive to provide his son with opportunities that he did not have in his time.
"I was very happy to see Aloysius play in Australia because it's a whole other level (compared to here)," he said. "He became more confident and a completely different person."
This father-son pair share a special bond as pitchers, with Aloysius "following his legacy and striving to outdo him".
Unlike them, Jeffeury, 51, and his son Jeron, 19, play in different positions.
Jeron is the top pitcher of the team, while Jeffeury was an outfielder for 22 years. However, Jeron continues to look to his father for guidance since picking up softball at the age of nine.
He was the youngest Singaporean athlete at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil, when he was only 15.
"I picked up softball quite fast because every week (my dad and I) would go to an open field to train," said Jeron, who has also competed in Australia.
Jeffeury, who was the president of the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association from 2013 to 2017, was proud to see his sons Jeron and Jerel, 22, follow his footsteps and represent the Republic.
Jerel, however, has since stopped competing at the national level.
Jeffeury will continue to encourage Jeron's travels to help him expand his repertoire, despite the pinch on his wallet.
He said: "It's very rewarding to see him and know that the effort has not been lost.
"He may be young, but he now plays like a senior player, like he's 25. The maturity is faster.
"When I played at the world championships, I remember I came back a lot more mature too."
During Singapore's last world championship appearance in 1992, Jeffeury and Ngiam Swee Kee, 56, were fellow outfielders at the tournament in Manila.
Ngiam, who works as a technical officer, has fond memories of when Singapore held softball giants New Zealand for several innings and also defeated the former Czechoslovakia to finish 15th out of 18 teams.
However, he predicts a tough time in the upcoming competition, as Singapore are drawn with top sides such as Canada (world No. 2) and Australia (No. 4).
"Mentally, they have to prepare themselves. No doubt, they are playing tough opponents... but it's a chance to play with the world's best and gauge their standard," said Ngiam.
His son, Gerann, 27, initially felt tremendous pressure when he made the national team in 2009, as he felt that he had big shoes to fill.
He said: "What helped was focusing on small steps, instead of on winning... and also that I could always go home and talk to my dad about it."
Ngiam is Gerann's role model and advised him on how to become a better team player back when he was in polytechnic.
He said: "He was young and had an ego, so I had a pep talk with him to explain how one should approach the game.
"When I spoke to him, I spoke as a friend and not as a father. No arguments, but just to explain the needs of the game."
Singapore captain Ivan Ng, 31, said the world championship will help the team build momentum ahead of the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games in the Philippines.
The Republic have finished with a bronze in the last four editions that softball was offered in the biennial meet.
Ng, who has been in the national team since 2004, said: "This team are young-spirited with a much stronger grit.
"They have a lot of pride and want to show and prove everyone that they are good."