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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 2, 2007

Pitcher Tatsuno gains college Hall of Fame

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Derek Tatsuno, right, and Les Murakami are the only two from the University of Hawai'i baseball program to have their numbers retired.


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If it weren't for an NCAA regional snub in 1978, perhaps Derek Tatsuno would not have won 20 games the following year.

It turned out to be one of the many highlights for the former University of Hawai'i left-hander, who has been informed that he was voted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame by a 90-member committee. He said John Askins of the College Baseball Foundation told him of his selection several weeks ago.

Last year's inaugural class included Will Clark of Mississippi State, Dave Winfield of Minnesota and Robin Ventura of Oklahoma State.

"It's kind of amazing for your name to be amongst all those big names that used to play in college and went on to play in the big leagues," Tatsuno said. "It's kind of surprising to see your name amongst these guys."

After a stellar four years of varsity baseball at 'Aiea High, where he graduated in 1976, Tatsuno went to UH, where he went 40-6, earning All-America honors as a sophomore and junior during his three seasons.

Tatsuno's biggest thrill was when he became college baseball's first Division I 20-game winner in 1979. He credits coach Les Murakami for scheduling 80 games in 1979, so the Rainbows had a chance to make the apparent 40-win quota for a regional berth. It worked and Tatsuno got his 20th win in the Midwestern Regional in Tucson, Ariz.

"Thanks to Coach Les, because he felt the year prior we got snubbed, he kind of went overboard in booking games the following year," said Tatsuno, who went 20-1 that season. "That enabled me to have that many starts."

His 20-win single-season record was tied in 1986 by Florida State's Mike Loynd, but his 234 strikeouts still stands as a national record, according to the 2007 NCAA Records Book.

Tatsuno is one of three Players of the Century selected by Collegiate Baseball Magazine and was named to Baseball America's All-Century team.

But he was more than just a great pitcher said former UH teammate Eric Tokunaga, an international scout with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

"The most impressive thing was that he was a complete player," Tokunaga said in a telephone interview. "Everybody thinks he was just a pitcher. He was an intelligent player, never made mistakes on the field, mentally or physically. There was nothing on the baseball field he couldn't do. That's what made him different from everybody else."

Tokunaga played shortstop in two of the three years that Tatsuno was with UH.

'Aiea High baseball coach Ryan Kato said Tatsuno is still recognized in the community. Kato said Tatsuno helped him coach last season. He said although his players did not know of Tatsuno's history, their parents did.

"Everybody still talks about him," Kato said.

Tatsuno will be officially inducted during the July 2 to 4 ceremonies at the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas. An official announcement of all the inductees is scheduled to be announced later this month, Tatsuno said.

Some of the other nominees are Barry Larkin of Michigan, Tim Wallach of Cal State Fullerton, Paul Molitor of Minnesota, B.J. Surhoff of North Carolina, Bob Gibson of Creighton (he's also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame) and John Olerud of Washington State.

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.