Sunday, October 5, 2008

Play Ball! Batter Up!

The middle of fall is Major League Baseball playoff and World Series time. October means BASEBALL! In recent years, October in Hawaii has meant a chance to watch future baseball stars of the U.S. major league clubs and the various Japanese professional teams sharpen their skills in actual game situations.

Hawaii Winter Baseball (1993-97, 2006-08) is in the third year of its reincarnation after a nine year absence. During its 2006 “re-inaugural year,” I went to most of the Sunday games. Last year (2007), UH Manoa’s Les Murakami Stadium was undergoing renovations and all games were played at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu, which made it a little inconvenient, so I skipped going that year.

The “Class of 2006” has already made an impact on Major League Baseball. Rick Vanden Hurk (BeachBoys) is now a starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins. Joba Chamberlain (perhaps the most visible HWB recent alumnus) and Ian Kennedy (CaneFires) have pitched for the New York Yankees in starting roles. Joe Thatcher (Honu) made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres as a reliever and works out of the bullpen. Nate Schierholtz (BeachBoys) spent considerable time with the San Francisco Giants as an outfielder.

Winter league baseball is fun. You get to see a lot of young players, and recognize their names when they begin their Major League careers. And, it fills a baseball void in Hawaii, which hasn’t seen even semi-professional baseball since the Hawaii Islanders left in 1987.

I went to my first game of the season today. It was like old times again. It’s gonna be a couple-a months of fun Sundays, that’s for sure.

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