Yukumoto ready to step up
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
It may be winter, but the days are long for Hawai'i Pacific's first-year baseball coach Garrett Yukumoto. But it's the price he is willing to pay to achieve a goal: To coach at the collegiate level.
"You make sure you cover certain things in certain hours," Yukumoto said. "If that means waking up early in the morning to fulfill some baseball things before I go to work, then that's what it has to be. After work, go to practice. After practice, go to the family. Then after family, you go back to whatever work you have to catch up on."
For Yukumoto, it isn't just baseball. His job isn't full-time per se. He is a vice principal at Leilehua High by day. The Sea Warriors' new mentor by twilight.
Yukumoto replaced long-time coach Alan Sato, who resigned after last season. Sato also held an administrative position with HPU when he was coach. Yukumoto took the HPU job with the understanding that the coaching might always be part-time.
"Right now, it's year-by-year," he said.
Still, the sacrifice is worth fulfilling a dream.
"The opportunity to coach at the next level was mainly the challenge," he said. "I coached at the high school level for several years and I thought it was time for me to see if I could take it to the next step, (try) a new challenge."
He spent the 1994 season as an assistant at HPU for his former coach David "Boy" Eldredge, who is in his second season as coach at Division I Southern Utah. Yukumoto, a 1988 graduate of 'Aiea, played at HPU in 1992 and 1993, graduating with a degree in human resource management. He was head coach at Leilehua from 2000 to 2004, leading the Mules to two O'ahu Interscholastic Association West titles.
"It's a good thing to give back to the program that I played for," Yukumoto said.
The Sea Warriors, a Division II independent, open their season tomorrow against Cal State Chico. They will play three doubleheaders in as many nights at Hans L'Orange Park in Waipahu.
What helps Yukumoto is 15 returning letter winners, including six starting position players.
"Being that this team is senior-heavy, we're going to rely on their leadership to carry our younger players throughout the year," Yukumoto said.
Key returning position players include shortstop Grandon Costa (.380, 20 RBIs), outfielder Brandon Sato (.343, 11 doubles, 15 of 15 steals), utility Chase Nakamura (.300), third baseman Danny Lee (.293), first baseman Jherell Miller (.288) and catcher Tyler Jefferson (.277).
The Sea Warriors also got some key transfers. Catcher Gavin Concepcion (Pearl City) is back after three seasons at Lewis-Clark State. Freshman second baseman Ryson Mauricio, an all-state pick from Kamehameha, transferred from New Mexico after the fall semester.
The pitching is led by senior right-hander Mario Ramirez (3-2, 6.00) and junior left-hander Brandon Muser.
But the other four projected starters — HPU needs six because they play six-game series — are young in freshmen Kevin Matsumoto (all-state from Kailua) and Turhan Folse, and sophomores Pierce Manglallan (Mililani) and Spencer Omalza, who played for Yukumoto at Leilehua.
Yukumoto said he will use a bullpen-by-committee.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.