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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hawai'i stepping up to plate

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

You know those credit card commercials in which David Spade says "no!" in about a couple dozen ways and languages?

Well, think of the University of Hawai'i baseball team as the one on the receiving end and you get a glimpse of what history says the Rainbows are up against in bidding to host an NCAA regional next month.

Since 1978, UH's bids to play host have been turned down about 10 times. After beginner's luck in 1977 the only time it has hosted UH has gone 0-fer. That's 0-fer the rest of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

So, you have to admire UH's gumption at putting in bids for both the regionals and super regionals this year. You have to give the point man, associate athletic director Carl Clapp, a hand for pluck and long-term vision now that UH has, at 40-13, a nationally ranked and tournament-worthy team for the first time since 1993.

Especially when a lot of people would tell you the whole exercise is a waste of the stamp. And the energy that went into licking it.

Even baseball coach Mike Trapasso says: "I guess you can never say 'never,' but it would be the shock of the year (if the NCAA put a regional in Les Murakami Stadium when the announcements are made Sunday). I just don't think there's any chance at all."

According to the NCAA, UH is one of 40 schools bidding for one of the 16 four-team regionals, which would seem not bad odds. I mean, what were the chances of the Rainbows going 16-3 on the road this year?

One of the last times UH had a regional-worthy team and was in a position to put in a bid was 1991, when the Rainbows were ranked 13th in both major polls, were leading the nation in attendance, pre-sold a third of the stadium, anted up a $153,000 bid and still got hung up on like a phone solicitor.

At the time, selection committee member David Keilitz said: "I'm not saying they'll never get (a regional) that's not my call, but I would say it will be very difficult because of their location."

And, Hawai'i hasn't gotten any closer to the continent.

The one thing that has improved is that instead of eight six-team regionals in a 48-team field, the NCAA now has a 64-team field with 16 four-team regionals followed by eight two-team super regionals. That's fewer teams that have to travel and less of a financial nut to crack.

But Clapp knows it is about more than whether UH gets the cold shoulder again this year. If a 12-year drought in NCAA appearances has taught UH anything, surely it is patience.

It is about setting a stage and letting the NCAA know that Hawai'i will be banging on its door again next year and every season after that if it has a postseason-worthy team.

The kind of thing that is required if the program is to build on its growth of the last couple of years.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.