Baseball Is A Year-round Sport For Saber Paul Arakaki

Wednesday - June 16, 2010
By Jack Danilewicz
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Campbell High center fielder Paul Arakaki can be counted among those who have benefited from the junior varsity season taking place in the fall.

In the current arrangement, prep baseball players in Hawaii who play on JV teams also can play varsity during the same academic year, should they make the team.

The term “developmental league” has been a recurring description in baseball circles. Prior to 2007, the JV season was played at the same time as varsity. In Arakaki’s case, he hit the 2010 varsity season in stride and quickly became a key contributor to a Sabers team that was the OIA runner-up in the spring.

“It (last fall’s JV season) was a big help to me,” said Arakaki, who will be a junior at Campbell. “My arm was still in shape (when the varsity season opened in February), and I could see the ball well.”

He made his way into the starting lineup by mid-season - no small feat for a sophomore who was learning a new position. A first baseman from the time he began playing through his freshman year at Campbell, Arakaki transitioned to center field once he made varsity in the spring.

“I had to grow into it, but I started to get it down,” he said. “I’m not that fast, but the coaches (led by Rory Pico) said I was good at tracking down balls. It was hard, but I started to get better.

“Our coaches (Pico assistants Earl Sarano and Kevin Nagamine) kept showing me things I needed to do - like working in (toward the infield), tracking it down, catching the ball, and making the right throws.”

Even so, earning a starting position as a sophomore took Arakaki by surprise. “I was shocked, but I was ready to play,” he said.

Arakaki was more than pleased to share the news with his father, Milton Arakaki, who played at Waianae and remains Paul’s greatest supporter.

“He taught me how to play when I was young, and he was pretty proud that I was starting,” Paul said.

Arakaki and the Sabers are currently in the midst of their American Legion League Summer season, and they’ve managed to recapture the momentum of the spring, taking a 5-1 -1 record into the weekend.

The season continues into July when ALL post-season begins. The first-place team from the league playoffs earns an automatic berth at the Western Regionals.

As was the case in the fall JV season, Arakaki is using his summer to maximize his talents, especially at the plate.“I’d say I want to work on my speed and my hitting. My hitting was all right (in spring), but I was way better, defensively.”

During the first half of the ALL season, teams are limited to wooden bats as a means of teaching players to make better contact.

“It was hard at first, but I’m getting used to the wooden bats, since this is the second year I’m using them. You have to adjust a little, but I’ve started to get hits again. Everyone is starting to hit more now and to make plays.”

As far as playing in center, Arakaki’s confidence has gone up, and he’s warming to the position.

“You can see everything from center field,” he said, “and there’s a lot of action, too.”

While Campbell is a place where multi-sport athletes are known to excel, baseball is Arakaki’s only sport, and he takes an all-consuming approach to the game. “It’s always (just) been baseball for me. I always think about baseball. I run, and I go to the batting cages with my friend (in his free time).”

The Sabers are clearly a baseball program on the rise, having won 17 league games in the OIA’s Red West over the past two years, including consecutive trips to the state baseball tournament. Arakaki hopes Campbell can make similar runs in 2011 and 2012.

“It was exciting (in the spring), and I hope we can go far again next year,” he said. “We’re looking pretty good right now. We’re all trying to better ourselves.”

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