Winter Baseball, Hot Warriors

Bobby Curran
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Friday - October 06, 2006
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Last Sunday marked the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season and the arrival of the playoffs, but it was also opening day for the Hawaii Winter Baseball League. And it was a terrific beginning.

Since games are played simultaneously at Les Murakami Stadium and at the Hans L’Orange field in Waipahu, I decided to stay close to home and opted for the Honolulu Sharks vs. Waikiki Beach Boys at UH. We loaded up the family and headed to the ballpark. Max is 3, and already insists on bringing his glove. I don’t have the heart to tell him we’re going to sit behind the screen. Finn is a year and a half. As long as there’s lots of people and noise, he’s good to go. My wife Jo likes the rhythms of baseballs, that you can chat and watch the game.

Traffic was light, parking a snap, and there was one man on line for tickets. I bought a pair of lower level seats four rows behind home plate - kids under four are free - and the tickets were six bucks apiece. For the best seats in the house! That’s got to be the best sports bargain in town.

I was thrilled to see a lively crowd (1,595 turnstile) that spanned the generations. Plenty of kids, a smattering of college-age kids, parents and a good sprinkling of the retirement crowd - a mix more typical of baseball crowds than any other sport.

At first I couldn’t spot what was different from most crowds at Les Murakami, then it hit me. It was the colors - not the mostly green you see at UH games, but the bright colors of the new HWBL uniforms.

And the baseball was excellent. Fans of the previous incarnation of Hawaii Winter Baseball know that they are watching many players who will end up in the major leagues. Some 130 players who passed through in the past years made it onto big league rosters.

“If anything, it seems that the organizations are sending even better players,” says Pal Eldridge, who is paired with Ken Wilson on the ESPN 1420 broadcasts from Murakami Stadium. “There are excellent prospects here.”

Plenty of give-aways during the game and mascots cruising the stands contribute to the minor league atmosphere. Be aware the concession lines are long - Max highly recommends the frozen chocolate malted milk cup. Make your plans to head to either Murakami or Hans L’Orange; truly great fun for the whole family.

The UH football game with Eastern Illinois was an aesthetic success for the Warriors, who won handily 44- 9. The crowd, however, was small with a turn-stile count of only 22,480.

Hopefully the fans will come out to see the Nevada Wolfpack visit this Saturday. Should be a shootout of epic proportions. Both teams are very capable of putting up huge numbers; neither has been able to consistently stop opponents.

Former Kamehameha standout Caleb Spencer is Nevada’s most reliable receiver. Hawaii QB Colt Brennan came close to setting a couple of records last week. He was five yards short of Dan Robinson’s 354 passing yards in a half, and one TD shy of Nick Rolovich’s six first half TD passes.

Seems like the only thing that Brennan will need to shatter some records will be an opponent that keeps pace long enough to warrant keeping the junior gunslinger in the game.

For the first time in memory, June Jones made a post-game appeal for the fans to come out and help the Warriors to a home field advantage. Those who respond should be in for a treat.

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