Why An Ex-Soap Star Cheers UH
Wednesday - February 16, 2011
Former soap opera star Bob Parucha vividly remembers the first time he came to Hawaii. “(Back in the ‘70s), I flew to Honolulu with nothing but a backpack and a Boogie board,” he recalls. “I took TheBus to the North Shore and stayed in a shed with an outside shower for $1 a day somewhere between Sunset and Pipeline. It was a great time.”
By the 1980s, the Southern California volleyball player-turned-actor was a regular in the soap Young and the Restless, where he played a character named “Matt Miller.” He also had a recurring role on Days of Our Lives. He came to the Islands a number of times during those acting days (and was often featured in a three-dot column written by now-MidWeek editor Don Chapman).
Flash forward to today, and Parucha (pronounced Paw ROO kah) is a successful California businessman who specializes in surf sportswear. This time, he’s headed to Hawaii for a very special reason: to watch his 18-year-old son Rob play baseball for the University of Hawaii. Bob will be in the stands and Rob will be in the dugout when the baseball ‘Bows open their 2011 season against nationally ranked Oregon this Friday through Monday, Feb. 18-21, at Murakami Stadium.
The younger Parucha is a pitcher from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach who earned his spot on the Hawaii roster as an invited walk-on.
“He was recruited very late and signed with UH just three weeks before school started,” says his dad. Coincidentally, his son’s tale of overcoming adversity almost sounds like a soap opera - except it’s true.
You see, at 9 months old Rob was rushed to the hospital with a lump on his stomach. A battery of tests soon revealed he had liver cancer and doctors said he had less than a 50 percent chance of survival.
“He had a huge mass in his liver that was growing into his spleen and kidneys,” Bob recalls. “He underwent chemotherapy and they performed what is called a liver trisection.”
In all, the youngster had six surgeries. “When we saw him at the hospital, he had 12 tubes in him - it seemed like he had tubes everywhere. It was a tough sight.”
After seven months of treatments, young Rob finally came home.
“I remember he limped up to the house and picked up a plastic bat and started swinging it,” Bob says. “The (cancer and the surgeries) didn’t impede his growth, but he had some processing and hearing issues, and he worked hard to overcome them. He worked with tutors and eventually became a ‘B’ student.”
He also became a very good athlete, and made the Mira Costa varsity baseball team as a freshman. But a medial collateral ligament injury to his elbow prevented him from pitching much of his sophomore and junior seasons, and for awhile it looked like he might have to give up baseball.
“The trainer worked hard with him and told him, ‘don’t give up,’ and he got stronger,” Bob says. By the time he was a senior, the younger Parucha had a breakout year, according to his dad, and pitched two complete games in the CIF playoffs and was named all-CIF second team. A Hawaii assistant coach saw him pitch in the summer and told him UH had a spot for him.
“The great thing is to see him embrace this opportunity,” Rob says. “He had a great scholastic first semester at UH and got his best grades ever. Then he called me the other day to tell me that when the baseball team ran their timed mile, he broke the record.”
“He ran a 5:05 mile - that set our team record,” says UH head coach Mike Trapasso, proudly. “He’s a great kid with tremendous work ethic and great character. We’ve had a number of invited walk-ons succeed over the years, and I know he’ll work hard to make it happen.”
“As a parent, I’m just glad he has this chance. Good things will happen,” Bob says. This weekend, Bob and Rob Parucha will be together again in Hawaii - and that’s no soap opera.
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