They cover a lot of ground
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
As a former high school baseball player, University of Hawai'i senior Chris Ching figured being a grounds keeper at Les Murakami Stadium would be a nice way of staying close to the game. But for the past month, he seemingly has been making more mound visits than the Rainbows' coaching staff.
The month-long rain has kept stadium manager Glenn Nakaya's all-student crew busy this baseball season. Five games have been rained out since the month started with the Rainbow Tournament.
"This is the most rainouts I've ever seen," said Ching, one of two crew chiefs and a four-year veteran of field maintenance.
On a clear day, the grounds crew preps the field after batting practice and infield drills. They drag the dirt areas around the bases and home plate, manicure the pitcher's mound and line the batter's and catcher's boxes and foul lines. Then they can watch the game. They'll do some touching up between innings that hardly get noticed.
But the rain has kept the grounds crew more active than usual. When the umpires and players run for cover during delays, the crew heads out to the field to cover the dirt areas, such as the pitcher's mound, with tarps. When the rain subsides, the tarps are removed, but dirt has turned into a mug bog. The crew scatters a moisture absorbent called Turface Quick Dry to prep the field for play.
Nakaya said on an average season, they'll pour 40 to 60 50-pound bags of the soil conditioner. With nine home games remaining, 60 bags have already been used, Nakaya said. He ordered 160 bags for the nine games and for next season.
The rain, though, allows the grounds keepers to shine.
"We don't like the rain," junior Brett Kotake said. "But it does get our juices pumping."
"They have to get the field ready," Nakaya said. "They're under the gun, too."
Hawai'i coach Mike Trapasso praised the crew for its field work during the tournament. There were two postponements, but no games were missed. Both games were made up with doubleheaders.
Nakaya has two crews, a five-student crew led by Ching and another six-member team led by Brett Kimura, also a four-year veteran. As student-campus workers, each is limited to 20 hours per week, Nakaya said. It isn't hard to find students for the job.
"My friends asked me if I wanted to work," said freshman Patrick Yasukawa, a 2005 graduate of Waiakea High.
Plus, the benefits are good.
"(The stadium) is only a five-minute walk from my dorm," he said.
The crew includes UH's first female groundskeeper in Jenna Eggering, who is from California and returned home for the spring break.
Nakaya said she originally interviewed for an usher job at the stadium, but after hearing her background, he found her suited for the grounds-keeping position. Besides field work, the grounds crew also does general maintenance in the stadium. Eggering, Nakaya said, had similar experience working at band camps on the Mainland.
The crews develop a camaraderie much like the athletes.
"It's easy to work with these people," Yasukawa said. "They're all nice."
Other members of the grounds crew are Chris Cuyo, Monte Watanabe, Trace Lau, Troy Samura, Toby Yamashiro and John Moniz.
Chris Ching, a Kailua High graduate, played in the stadium when the Surfriders won the 2001 state title. He has seen some of his friends play, such as former Rainbow Isaac Omura, a Mid-Pacific Institute graduate who is from Kailua. Ching will graduate in the summer with a degree in economics.
Brett Kotake's father, the late Royden Kotake, was an outfielder for the Rainbows from 1974 to 1976.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.