Sharks' Campbell gets real taste of Hawai'i
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
While most of his fellow minor leaguers have found rentals in Waikiki, Honolulu Sharks' infielder Eric Campbell is getting a more realistic feel of what it's like to live in Hawai'i.
The Atlanta Braves' farmhand is being hosted by teammate Kala Ka'aihue and his family in Kailua for the Hawaii Winter Baseball season, which runs through Nov. 22.
"He's just helping me out like I helped him out," said Campbell, who is from Indiana.
Campbell and Ka'aihue ('Iolani 2003 graduate) are teammates on the Sharks after spending most of the summer in Rome, Ga., home of the Braves' Single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League.
"Eric took care of me up in Rome," Ka'aihue said. "He had a car. It worked out so that when he came down here, he could stay at my place."
Having a homegrown host allows Campbell to see and feel the Hawai'i that most visitors won't. Unlike most of the players here, Campbell has a readily available ride with Ka'aihue.
"You don't have to wait for the bus all the time or try to get a cab," Campbell said. "It makes it a lot easier. He knows where everything is. He gives me the scoop on all the good food."
He mentioned Zippy's, an affordable choice for players on minor league budgets.
Besides the eating, they're doing what kama'aina and visitors do a lot: golf and swim at the beach. One of Campbell's most enjoyable activities was Sunset on the Beach in Waikiki recently with Ka'aihue's family.
"We had a family cookout out there," Campbell said. "His family is great. Everyone's been nice. When (Kala's parents) came up to Rome, we just hit it off. It's like I'm one of their sons. That's what they're taking me as right now, so I'm having a great time."
At Rome, Campbell batted .296 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs, while Ka'aihue hit .329 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs. Ka'aihue was then promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League, where he pounded 13 more home runs before a hand injury ended his season. While Campbell played third base all season, he is being switched to second with the anticipation that Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles moves on after next season.
NOT JUST BASEBALL
While most of the HWB players are here to log in more innings and take in more at-bats, there are some here honing other skills off the field.
Sharks' pitcher Takanobu Tsujiuchi isn't only getting valuable time on the mound. The Yomiuri Giants' first-round pick from the 2005 Japan draft is also trying to learn English. With a lot of American teammates, he gets a lot of practice.
"I get to meet people and learn English and talk to the American players," Tsujiuchi said through a translator. "I want to use this experience in the future."
The experience works both ways. With more Japanese players joining major league clubs, English-speaking players are finding it helpful to learn Japanese. So the minors seem the appropriate place for language lessons.
"The Japanese guys on our team are great," West Oahu outfielder Peter Ciofrone said. "We have a translator (so we can) talk to them. We try to teach them English just like they're trying to teach us Japanese, so it's working out pretty well."
NO BLUES FOR BLUE
The league is using crews of three umpires for each game. Two of the three are minor league umpires with the third being from here. Like the players, they're trying to move up the ranks to the big leagues. The four minor league umpires assigned here are Jordan Baker, Daniel Bellino, Mark Ripperger and Aaron Banks. The four were chosen out of a pool of 183.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.