Plenty of memories for UH baseball players
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Although the Hawai'i baseball season doesn't end until May 26, the three-game Western Athletic Conference series against Louisiana Tech starting tonight will be the home finale for the team's 10 seniors.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
From left: Aaron Pribble, Jean-Paul Gauthier, Gregg Omori, Derek Honma, Ryan Yamamoto, Sean Yamashita and Lane Nogawa are part of the senior class that will play its final games this week at Les Murakami Stadium.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
And even though he is no longer active with the team, Ian Jones will join in on Saturday's Senior Night. He will arrive from Nevada today.
Here's what the seniors say about their Rainbow careers and their future:
Though seldom used in his two seasons (7 1/3 innings total), the right-handed relief pitcher from Coronado, Calif., didn't achieve stardom with the Rainbows. But he is planning to experience it in his future occupation. He wants to join his father's cosmetic dentistry practice in the cosmetic capital of the world: Beverly Hills.
"That's where the money's at," Gauthier said, breaking into a grin. "My dad's a dentist. It will be dad, son and son. My brother's a dentist, too."
Hanging out at his father's office as a youth, he said he got to see some stars. "I met (comedian) Steve Martin," he said.
Gauthier, a transfer from Saddleback JC, said he will transfer to Long Beach State to finish his degree in geography next spring. Then he will apply for dentistry school at USC.
Career highlight: "Playing Florida State (then No. 2 ranked) was pretty fun."
Has there been a more injury-prone Rainbow?
Honma bruised a collarbone as a freshman, broke his jaw in two places as a sophomore after getting hit by a pitch, had shoulder surgery as a junior and hurt his wrist this season.
Yet, the Pearl City High graduate who was a walk-on, is philosophical about all that has happened to him.
"The way I look at it, baseball is a microcosm of life," he said. "You have your ups, you have your downs. My career has been filled with ups and downs with the injuries and stuff. But bouncing back, having to grow as a person, all these experiences are going to help me as I go into my career. It helped me become a stronger person."
Honma will graduate in December with a degree in management information systems.
Career highlight: "Probably the Florida State series. Being able to contribute to the team and beating the second-ranked team in the nation is like the pinnacle of this year."
Reconstructive elbow surgery in March effectively ended the right-handed pitcher's UH career.
Jones, who graduated with a degree in communications last December, tried to give baseball another shot after taking a medical redshirt last year as he recovered from surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow two years ago.
He left the team in midseason and returned home to Henderson, Nev., outside of Las Vegas. He has been coaching his 11-year-old brother and rehabilitating his elbow with the hope of landing a pro tryout.
"If it doesn't work out, I'll be more satisfied," he said in a telephone interview from his Nevada home. "To go out the way I did at UH was not satisfying."
If baseball doesn't pan out, he already has a job lined up as a field service representative for Discover Financial Services in Las Vegas. He starts June 3.
Career highlight: "The series against San Francisco (as a freshman in 1998, when he picked up two wins in relief). I pitched against USF and Gregg Omori."
Matt Le Ducq
The left-handed pitcher who came to UH via Santa Rosa JC said his experience here will shape the rest of his life.
"Baseball has always been the best thing that has ever happened in my life," he said. "It's been responsible for every relationship, friend and place that I've ever been able to go. Two years of college baseball has been invaluable."
His steady relief outings have been invaluable to the team. His 3.80 earned run average leads the team among pitchers with 10 or more appearances.
Career highlight: "Just coming out and playing at home all the time in front of a couple of thousand fans. I would never have guessed that would happen to me ever."
It says a lot when your teammates choose you to be a team captain, even though an injury denied you from playing the season before.
But that's the UH outfielder's story. If there is any player who has literally left an imprint at Les Murakami Stadium, it is Martines.
Through his three seasons with the Rainbows he transferred from Texas Tech after his freshman year Martines sacrificed his body for the team by crashing into the outfield wall and bullpen fence, and diving on the unforgiving artificial turf. He paid the price last year when a shoulder injury forced him to take a medical redshirt.
"That's the game," Martines said. "But you gotta learn to play through things. I have no regrets about my career with what I've been through. I had a lot of fun."
When healthy, as he was in 1999, Martines was dangerous. He batted .355 with 46 RBI. Yet, when even a shoulder injury his junior year took its toll, he still finished with a .280 batting average. And even after not seen live pitching for a year because of the medical redshirt, he enters tonight's series with a .295 average.
Martines will graduate next spring with a degree in sociology. He doesn't know if a pro opportunity will come, as it did as a high school senior at Punahou. He was drafted in the 31st round by the Detroit Tigers, but opted for college.
If his playing days are over, Martines said he would like to coach.
Career highlight: "When we swept Wichita State (No. 2 then, but No. 1 in preseason in 1999). That's probably the most fans I've played in front of at home and the loudest I've ever played in."
A Rainbow who learned that home was a drag bunt away.
The Mid-Pacific Institute graduate originally started his career at Creighton, where he ended up red-shirting as a freshman. He returned home, played all the infield positions except first base, until finally settling at second this year.
Nogawa will graduate next spring with a degree in sociology after originally majoring in accounting. He is considering a career in law enforcement like the FBI, which uses agents with backgrounds in business for white collar crimes.
Career highlight: "Hitting my first collegiate home run against UH-Hilo (In the Easter Tournament)."
Yet another Rainbow whose career started on the Mainland.
The Iolani School graduate wasn't recruited by UH, but was by San Francisco, where he played for two seasons. But inclement Bay Area weather and homesickness brought him back.
"The best part about playing for UH is playing in front of my family and friends, and the guys I grew up with and played with when I was younger," the first baseman said. "That's the reason I came back, to play in front of the hometown crowd. It is what you dream about as a little kid, to play baseball for the University of Hawai'i."
Omori enjoyed an incredible season last year, when he led the WAC with 25 doubles. He also was among the league leaders with his .367 batting average (4th), .620 slugging (third), and 63 RBI (fourth).
After a slow start, Omori has lifted his average to .289 and leads the team with 31 RBI.
He will graduate in December with a degree in sociology.
Career highlight: "When I hit a grand slam against San Jose State to win the game last year." (It accounted for all of the runs in a 4-0 win on March 23, 2001.).
The left-handed pitcher from San Anselmo, Calif., raised two averages on the team: Height (he's 6 foot 5) and grade point (3.94 cumulative).
Pribble was versatile, having been used as a starter and reliever. But as a sophomore, it was discovered he could hit.
During a road trip that rendered a number of players suspended for one game in 2000, Pribble was pressed into action as a hitter. In the six games he played as a hitter, he batted .381. Then he hit .318 last year in limited at-bats. This year, he is 1-for-3, pretty much guaranteeing he will leave UH with a .300-plus career batting average.
Pribble will graduate in a few weeks with a degree in political science with a minor in speech. If a pro career doesn't beckon, he is looking to law school.
Career highlight: "I can't say as it was an overall feeling of being grateful for having the chance to come out there, develop bonds with the people I've been able to meet. That's what I'll take with me most is the people and the good times I've had here."
Like Iolani classmate Omori, Yamamoto transferred from USF. But entering this series, his career has been limited to 14 1/3 innings. Still, the experience was worthwhile.
"One of the best parts about playing for UH was the overall experience of playing Division I," he said. "It helped me learn a lot on and off the field."
Yamamoto will graduate this summer with a degree in history.
Career highlight: "Getting the start against Florida State this season was a good experience."
The right-handed pitcher out of Pearl City High began his UH career primarily as a reliever, until last year when all 17 of his appearances were starts.
This year, he began in the bullpen, but will make his eighth start of the season tomorrow night.
Although recruited by USF, Yamashita listened to his heart.
"Getting to play in front of family and friends, I guess for a lot of local people it is fulfilling a dream," Yamashita said. "Almost everyone, when they were small, watched the (UH) games."
Yamashita will graduate next spring with a degree in sociology. Like Nogawa, he also is considering a career with the FBI.
Career highlight: "Getting my first (collegiate) appearance, putting on a uniform and actually going out there with a stat. It was against UCLA and I was kind of nervous. One, two, three. I was kind of relieved after I got out of there."
Leila Wai contributed to this report.