There's no mistaking twins' impact at Kaiser
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Even after coaching identical twins Andy and Scott Uehara every baseball season for the past 11 years, Peter Ho said he still has trouble telling the two apart.
"It's hard, unless I look at them real close," said Ho, who has been the twins' coach since their early days in Hawai'i Kai Youth Baseball all the way through four years of varsity play at Kaiser High School. "Lots of times I'll be talking to one of them, trying to tell him strategy and what to do, and then he'll stop me and say, 'Uh, I'm Scott,' or, 'I'm Andy.' The best way is just to say 'Andy-Scotty' — then both will come."
Fortunately for Ho and the Cougars, the twins' production at the top of the batting order has been similar as well. Andy bats leadoff and is hitting .313 with two doubles, one triple, five runs batted in, three stolen bases and 13 runs scored.
Scott bats second and is hitting .520 with two doubles, seven RBIs, four stolen bases and 10 runs. His on-base percentage is .587 and his slugging average is .600.
They are just as valuable on defense, with Andy playing shortstop and Scott in center field. Both also can pitch, and Andy has seen time at catcher.
Their multiple contributions have helped Kaiser race out to a 7-1 start in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association, tied for first place in the Eastern Division.
At 5 feet 5 and 130 pounds each, the twins are not blessed with great size. But both made the varsity as freshmen in 2003 despite standing about 5-3 and weighing a little over 100 pounds.
"Mentally, they were ready (for the varsity)," said Ho, who took over Kaiser's program that year. "They both know the game."
Following in the footsteps of brother John, a former Kaiser standout (Class of 2002), the twins began their baseball careers at age 5. They honed their hitting at a batting cage in their garage, then later would play "home run derby" in a nearby church parking lot.
"Sometimes we would just hit or throw on the street," said Andy, whose house is on a cul de sac.
The twins never needed somebody to play catch with or pitch to.
"We're brothers, but it's like having another friend," said Andy, the more vocal twin.
Scott added: "You're never lonely."
Not that the twins ever lacked other friends who played baseball. They and nine of their current teammates — Colby Ho, Jarryd Maeda, Kahanu Chan, Alex Talavera, Russell Sasaki, Evan Garcia, Mathew Muranaka, Michael Kawashima and Mason Masaki — have stuck together since those "Coach-Pitch" days in Hawai'i Kai Youth Baseball.
"Usually (Kaiser) loses a lot, at least six or seven kids who either quit or end up at private schools," Peter Ho said. "But I knew that if this group stayed together, they could do something special. I knew they had it in them, and I'm so proud of them because they've done well."
Ho's son Colby and Scott Uehara were named OIA East first-team all-stars as sophomores and have been among the league's top defensive players the past three seasons (Colby plays third base).
Last year, Scott Uehara robbed Kalani's Darren Takemoto of a home run with a leaping catch over the center field fence. In the Glenn Nitta Tournament championship game against Kamehameha last month, he made what Ho called an "unbelievable" catch of a deep fly ball hit by Makana Kitamura.
"It was over-the-shoulder like Willie Mays' (in the 1954 World Series), except Scotty jumped and was fully extended (before diving across the warning track)," said Ho, a former University of Hawai'i catcher. "But the amazing part is without hesitating, he got right up, turned and made a perfect throw to the cutoff man and we got the guy at third base to end the game. Most guys would have just held the ball up to show it to the umpire.
"In all my years of playing, coaching and watching baseball, I've never seen a play like that. It was better than ESPN."
Scott Uehara credits his defensive skills to an attitude more than extra practice.
"I expect the ball to be hit to me," he said. "I want it hit to me instead of anybody else."
Ho said Scott Uehara makes all the routine plays in addition to the spectacular ones.
"I don't think he's made an error in the past three seasons," Ho said. "He has decent speed, but his jump on the ball is probably something you would see at a higher level, like in college."
The twins — who both played varsity basketball — are looking at continuing their baseball career, perhaps at Merced (Calif.) Community College. But each has a cumulative grade point average of over 3.5, so baseball won't be the only factor in their college choice.
For now, they and the other Cougars are focused on earning a good seed for the upcoming OIA playoffs. Kaiser was upset by Pearl City in last year's first round.
Unlike other contenders this season, the Cougars did not have to spend time working on team chemistry since most have been together for the past decade.
"Everything's the same," Andy said.
And as he and Scott have proved, similarity can be a good thing.
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.