Efren Manalang Reyes, popularly known as Efren “Bata” Reyes, recently just cut short his trip to several competitions in the U.S. and went back home; saying he wants to take a break.
Bata said that fatigue was the reason he’s suddenly back home from the US. “Umalis ako May 16, pero umuwi kaagad ako. Pagod na. Nahirapan na ako,” he said. [I left on May 16, but I immediately went back home, I’m tired].
Getting easily tired is mostly felt by ageing people. ‘Bata’, at age 62, acknowledged that Father Time has caught up with him. He had his eyes operated on in 2005; claiming his eyesight isn’t dependable anymore to the point that long-range shots are more difficult to convert now. And aside from that, his wrists aren’t as steady as before.
“Kapag wala na talaga, magre-retire na ako. Ngayon nga gusto ko na mag-retire,” Bata told ABS-CBN News on Thursday after getting in a few rounds of English billiards.
Not only that his body has changed, Bata said even the game itself is different now. He currently plays one-pocket, not his signature 9-ball event, because one-pocket is ‘where the money is’ now.
Bata said jump cues are becoming more popular, a technique that Bata said undermines ‘safety play’ and defense, and takes away the thinking aspect of the game. (We may recall Bata rose to fame because of his ability to hide object balls and challenge defenses at the same time by playing unorthodox angles; making the world call him ‘The Magician’.)
Bata said: “Wala na akong tatalunin ngayon. Sa tournament wala na akong tatalunin, saka magastos lumakad.” [I can’t defeat anyone these days. I can’t win tournaments and traveling is costly.]
Since he returned from abroad, Bata said he has played in a small tournament in Metro Manila, “mga laban-laban,” to which he was invited. He used to kick everyone’s behinds in such contests, but not anymore.
“Medyo may takot pa sila, akala nila magaling pa ako,” Bata said. “May partida na nga ako sa kanila. Marami nang magaling ngayon. Ako na pinapatok ng mga kalaban.”
Bata said that some years ago, tournaments in the U.S. didn’t charge entrance fees, but now it’s not unusual to require players to shell out $2,000 to be able to join billiards events. Add $3,000 for airfare, accommodations and other basics, and that’s a $5,000 (around P250,000) total.
He added that there was a time when lucrative events offered a $100,000 (P5.06M) prize for the grand champion. But now, it’s down to just about $30,000 (P1.5M).
However, if organizers invite him and agree to shoulder essential expenses, he won’t hesitate to sign up and play.
Many analysts, fans, and current and former players consider Bata to be the greatest pool player of all time.
A winner of over 70 international titles, Bata was the first person in history to win World Championships in two different disciplines in pool. Among his numerous titles, Bata is a four-time World eight-ball champion, the 1999 World Nine-ball champion, a three-time US Open champion, a two-time World Pool League champion and a 14-time Derby City Classic champion – including an unprecedented five “Master of the Table” crowns.
By defeating Earl Strickland in the inaugural Color of Money event in 1996, Bata took home the largest single event purse in pool history.
In behalf of the Filipino people, we salute and thank you, Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes! Your name and your ‘magic tricks’ will forever be remembered!