Murakami recalls 31-year career of highs and lows
In an interview with The Advertiser, Les Murakami reflected upon some of the best players, highlights and disappointments of his Hall of Fame coaching career at the University of Hawai'i.
On his first win:
UH 6, BYU 5. March 27, 1972.
"It was against a big-time college for one thing and it was on the first (campus) field we could have called our own."
His favorite UH team:
The 60-18 (19-5 WAC) team of 1980.
"There are a lot of favorites, but the one that went to the World Series has got to be the favorite. I'm not saying it was the best team, though."
His best team:
The 38-14-1 team of 1978.
"I thought the best team we had never went anywhere. That's when we had Richard Olsen, Derek (Tatsuno), Vern Ramie, that group. We never went anywhere 'cause we were playing all these foreign teams and they didn't count. It seemed like the magic number (for NCAA playoff selection) was 41 or something like that. That's why the next year we played something like (84) games."
His biggest disappointments:
"Losing both games of a doubleheader to Peter Kendrick (of BYU) in the WAC playoffs (of 1981) was one of many disappointments. That and the (NCAA West Regional) championship game we lost to Loyola Marymount at UCLA (in 1986). We did everything right and saved our best pitchers for one game. We had to win one of two and we lost two of them and, I think, we were leading in both."
Best UH long-ball hitter:
"I think pound for pound the best we had was (5-foot-5) Greg Oniate. Of course, as far as power is concerned, it was hard to beat a guy like Joey Meyer."
Oniate hit 24 home runs in a career that stretched 1980-83 and Meyer 23 in 1982-83.
His most dominating player:
"It has to be Derek (Tatsuno). He was the one guy who could dominate against anybody. He's probably the only person I can honestly say that when I walked onto the field I never thought I'd lose (with). He could dominate the opposition. He was that good."
Tatsuno, who was 40-6 as a Rainbow, was college baseball's first 20-game single-season winner (1979).
His favorite player, catcher Ron Nomura:
"I never had a player that worked as hard as he did in practice and in games. He played hard all the way. I feel sorry for the guys who never saw him play. He played hard and half the time he played hurt. He had only limited talent but whatever he had he put it all on the line."
Nomura played from 1976-79.
"I think Mario Monico was probably the best hitter we've ever had. He was like a hitting machine."
Monico hit .367 in a career that spanned 1982-85.
Best players played against:
"Travis Lee (San Diego State), was one of the best. (Mike) Mussina (Stanford) was one of the toughest pitchers. I don't think we ever hit him."