Tago learned from trip to Philippines

General : : General
Jim Ecker        
Published: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peter Tago's mother has always told him to be thankful for what he has. That lesson was drummed home for Tago when he visited the Philippines with his mother and grandmother a while back.

"It was a life-changing trip," he told Perfect Game.

Tago is a 6-foot-2, 165-pound pitcher and Aflac All-American who lives in Laguna Nigel, Calif., with his family. His father is Samoan and his mother is Filipino, and the trip to the Phillippines was something he'll never forget.

His mother and grandmother took him to their native land to visit relatives and see the country.

"The Philippines are a whole different world," he said. "It's unexplainable, all the people I've seen. I'd love to give back, but ..."

His voice trailed off as he revisited the trip.

"The standard of living is definitely not as high (as in the U.S.). The people, how poor everyone is," he said. "It touched me very much. It just made me thankful for what I have."

Tago, a senior-to-be in high school, has already become a world-traveler. In addition to his trip to the Philippines, he pitched for the U.S. team in the Youth Pan-American Championships in Mexico last September. He got the final out as the United States beat Mexico for the gold medal. As soon as the game ended, he got buried under a pile of happy teammates.

"I have to say, being on the bottom of the dog-pile is the worst feeling," he said with a half-wince and half-smile. "I was just getting crushed. It was crazy."

Tago has developed a habit of playing for the winning team. He helped the ABD Bulldogs Red win the title at the WWBA 17U National Championships in Marietta, Ga., this past week by out-dueling DeAndre Smelter of Macon, Ga., and the Canes Orange in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night. Tago matched his 94 mph fastball against Smelter's 95 mph heater in a memorable game that was tied, 1-1, after seven innings. The Bulldogs won in extra innings.

Tago did not travel with his ABD teammates from California to Georgia for the start of the tournament. Rather, he took the red-eye from Los Angeles International Airport on Friday night, arrived in Atlanta on Saturday morning and pitched an outstanding game that night.

"I flew out of LAX at 10:15 p.m. and got in around 6 a.m., slept all day, pitched at 7 p.m. and I'm chillin' today," he said on Sunday. "I slept probably the whole flight, then Mike (ABD Coach Mike Spiers) let me sleep through the first game on Saturday. And then I showed up for the second game."

His body had to deal with a three-hour time change from California to Georgia, in addition to the late-night journey that lasted four hours in the air, but he looked good and pitched extremely well.

"I felt great," he said. "I got full rest, my arm felt good. I couldn't ask for more."

Tago watched the Bulldogs win two more playoff games on Sunday, then reversed his journey on Sunday night, taking a 10 p.m. flight back to California, his chores done for the club. The Bulldogs proceeded to win the title on Monday. He was anxious to get home.

Tago's father, Frank, works at a Home Depot in California as a carpet representative. His mother, Joann, is studying to become a nurse. He has three younger sisters, ages 4, 5 and 10. "It's tough, putting up with little girls," he said, smiling, "but I love them."

Tago is looking forward to playing in the Aflac All-American High School Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego on Aug. 16, then getting ready for his senior year in high school. He's committed to play college baseball at UCLA, but will make a final decision about his future when he sees what happens in the draft next June. Either way, he'll be happy.

"My mom, she always tells me to be thankful for what you have."
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