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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

House that Les built is now official

 •  UH tops Florida State, 3-2, in baseball season opener
 •  Ferd Lewis: Changing of guard for UH baseball

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's finally official.

Former UH coach Les Murakami is surrounded by family during the dedication ceremony of Les Murakami Stadium before last night's season-opener against Florida State.

Gregoryo Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Les Murakami Stadium is now the home of the University of Hawai'i baseball team.

The name change from Rainbow Stadium was carried out during a pregame dedication last night.

Murakami, riding in a wheelchair, was slowly wheeled out from the bullpen down the left-field line accompanied by family members.

As he made his way along the warning track to behind home plate, fans, friends, former players, and the current University of Hawai'i and Florida State baseball teams stood and applauded. A video tribute, which included footage from an appearance he made last season following a stroke in November, played on the scoreboard beyond right-center field.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who led the Rainbows to more than 1,000 wins and touched the lives of many over his 30-year coaching career.

Gov. Ben Cayetano and UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida were among those to offer their thanks during the ceremony conducted between home plate and the pitchers' mound.

"This has always been the house that Les built," Yoshida said.

Murakami read a short speech and wanted to thank Cayetano, UH president Evan Dobelle and the fans for their support. He also said he wanted everyone to support new UH coach Mike Trapasso.

The ceremony ended with Trapasso and Dobelle cutting a maile lei ribbon, officially commemorating the stadium name change.

"It's a great honor," said Murakami's wife, Dot. "It's overwhelming. I really don't know how I feel or my family feels. It's just unbelievable."

Dot, who has been married to Murakami for 37 years, said her husband is doing well in his recovery from his stroke.

Mike Trapasso made his debut as University of Hawai'i baseball coach a successful one with a 3-2 victory over Florida State.

Gregoryo Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"He's getting better," Dot said. "He tries very hard. He's real cheerful and positive and we're really thankful for that."

After the ceremony, a group of about 30 former players shook Murakami's hand and offered their congratulations.

"Coach Les has been like a father to me," said Ron Nomura, a former player and coach under Murakami. "He guided me the right way, taught me good values and that hard work is going to pay off. I was one of those lucky guys to be associated with him."

Said Bill Blanchette: "Out of all the buildings on this campus can you think of a more appropriate facility named after a particular person than Les Murakami Baseball Stadium?"

Murakami later asked Cayetano about his golf game.

"He was a good golfer," Cayetano said. "Les had a terrific short game.

"This is a terrific night for him and his family. He spent more than 30 years of his life investing in young people of Hawai'i and the University of Hawai'i. The thing I like the best about him is besides being a terrific coach, he is a terrific person. I know from his reputation he's built character as well as great athletes."

Lon Paresa, a coach for the KAC Astros, had his 7- and 8-year-old players on the field during the ceremony.

"I'm happy to be a part of his celebration," Paresa said. "It was a good opportunity for our kids to come out, and hopefully one day they'll be playing out here."

Some feel the naming of Les Murakami Stadium was overdue.

"It's certainly better late than way down the road," said Don Robbs, the voice of the Rainbows for 26 years. "I'm happy they're doing it now while Les and his family can understand how this community really feels about what he's done here."

Robbs also said Trapasso is a good candidate to fill the shoes of Murakami.

"Mike Trapasso is the perfect fit to carry on the legacy of Les Murakami," Robbs said. "I have no doubt this program will turn around big time in a short time."

Prior to this season, 2,304,198 fans attended games at Les Murakami Stadium since it opened in 1984.