Baseball title in Kailua's destiny
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Tom Ishigo's family has been a part of University of Hawai'i baseball since the start of retiring coach Les Murakami's regime in 1971.
But an engagement with destiny prevented Ishigo and his son, former UH infielder Corey Ishigo, from attending Les Murakami Night at Rainbow Stadium last Saturday.
While the Rainbows were rallying to a 9-8 season-ending victory against UH-Hilo, Corey Ishigo was coaching the Kailua Surfriders to a 9-8 comeback victory over Mid-Pacific Institute in the state high school championship game. Tom Ishigo watched his son's team from the Aloha Stadium stands.
It was a special night for father and son. Tom Ishigo had known Murakami since 1964, when they were with the Sheridan AJA club. When Murakami got the UH job, he handed the Sheridan reins to Tom Ishigo. Because of his father's ties to Murakami, Corey Ishigo had spent much of his youth at Rainbow Stadium.
"I used to call (Murakami) 'uncle,' " recalled Corey Ishigo.
Corey Ishigo would earn all-state honors at Kailua High in 1990, but at 5 feet 6 and 163 pounds, there was doubt as to whether he had a future beyond high school baseball. He persevered and made the UH team as a walk-on. After red-shirting his freshman year, he eventually earned a starting spot at second base in 1992.
"That was my goal, my dream," Corey Ishigo said. "I've always wanted to play for him. I spent so many hours at the (UH) field.
"When I was growing up, (Murakami) told me to keep working hard, (that) there would be a chance to play college ball one day. He knew I loved the game."
As Corey Ishigo's passion for baseball became evident, his father suggested he switch college majors from business to education. Tom Ishigo knew it would be easier for his son to become a high school coach if he were a teacher.
Ishigo graduated from UH in 1996 with a degree in physical education. His first exposure to coaching was at Iolani School in 1996. He then went to Kailua, where he was the junior varsity head coach for two seasons before being promoted to the varsity three seasons ago. Ishigo has taken the Surfriders to the state tournament each season and has guided them to O'ahu Interscholastic Association titles the past two years.
Even though the Ishigos weren't at Rainbow Stadium on Saturday night, there was a connection between what took place there and what transpired at Aloha Stadium. Like the Rainbows, the Surfriders overcame an 8-2 deficit.
"Now that I think about it, it's amazing the same thing happened," Corey Ishigo said. "It was like Coach Les was watching over us, making sure I did the right moves and not give up on my team."
Making a case: UH designated hitter Gregg Omori was in the top five in six offensive categories in the Western Athletic Conference, but was left off the all-conference team.
Omori led in doubles (25), was second in RBIs (62) and total bases (142), third in slugging percentage (.620), fourth in batting average (.367) and fifth in hits (84).
Pitcher Jeff Coleman led the WAC in innings pitched (122¡) and was third in strikeouts (97).
Reliever Bryan Lee was third in saves (six).