Yates to speak at UH-Hilo fund-raiser
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
At its first four fund-raisers, the Hawai'i-Hilo baseball program had four people with ties to its Manoa campus as guest speakers. Now, Hilo will honor one of its own Monday at the Vulcan Baseball Dinner/Auction at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.
Atlanta Braves pitcher Tyler Yates, a Kaua'i native who pitched for UHH from 1996 to 1998, will speak at the fund-raiser for the baseball program.
"I'm very excited, more so because I wanted him to impart to the audience coming to our fund-raiser, especially to the players, that he had some adversity that he went through," UHH coach Joey Estrella said. "He had Tommy John surgery and had to clean out his rotator cuff. He pursued and pursued and worked at it. That's what the whole tribute needs to be. It's a tribute to him for how hard he worked to prepare to play at the highest level."
Previous fund-raisers had UH football coach June Jones, UH Wahine volleyball coach Dave Shoji, TV sports reporter and former UH football player John Veneri and former UH athletics administrator Rockne Freitas as guest speakers.
Yates, a 1995 Kaua'i High graduate, is second on the UHH career strikeouts list at 6.77 per game. He was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1998, but made his major league debut in 2004 with the New York Mets. Last year, he started spring training with the Baltimore Orioles, but was released and signed by Atlanta in May. He was 2-5 with a 3.96 earned run average
The Vulcans, who opened practice Monday in their gym because of rain, start their season Jan. 25 against defending College World Series champion Oregon State, and follow the next series with Kansas. Both were in the NCAA Corvallis (Ore.) Regional with UH-Manoa. Estrella said he has known OSU coach Pat Casey since the NAIA years when Casey was coaching at George Fox.
"For our guys to play that kind of level of competition right from the get-go is very exciting," Estrella said.
Next season, NCAA Division I's mandatory common starting date takes effect. Teams will start practice Feb. 1 and games can't start until Feb. 22. The nearly one-month delay will adversely affect UHH, Estrella said. Mainland schools, especially from cold-weather regions, were easy to attract for the Vulcans. Estrella said he has no teams scheduled for the last week of February yet.
"It's going to be tough, so unless we can get an exemption, we're going to have to work hard to put together a schedule that we have had in the past," Estrella said.
Estrella said the Vulcans are committed to Division I in 2008. But for 2009, he is considering the Pac-West (Division II) with the additions of Dixie State and Grand Canyon.
The Vulcans' fund-raiser starts at 5:30 p.m. with a buffet dinner at 6:30. There will be auction items as well. Tickets for the event are $50 per person. Call the UHH baseball office at (808) 974-7700.
HPU AT CORP
With Hans L'Orange Park undergoing renovations, Division II Hawai'i Pacific will play its home games at Central O'ahu Regional Park this season.
The Sea Warriors, who start practice today at Ke'ehi Lagoon, open the season against Chico State on Feb. 1.
"It's not the same atmosphere as Hans L'Orange, but we have to make do with what we have," HPU coach Garett Yukumoto said. "CORP is a nice field and a nice facility. We're thankful we have a place to play."
Yukumoto said some of the renovations at Hans L'Orange include the installation of a scoreboard, two more light poles and a new outfield fence for center field.
"Our plan is to go back next year," Yukumoto said.
The Sea Warriors have 52 games, including home-and-home series against Division I Hawai'i-Hilo in April.
Bill Bryant, University of Hawai'i assistant athletic director for compliance, said yesterday he could not get into details for the delay in pitcher Mark Rodrigues' petition for a sixth-year of eligibility because of an injury.
Rodrigues missed the 2004 and 2005 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery after transferring from Los Medanos College after the 2003 season. Rodrigues made his UH debut last season, when he was a fifth-year senior, but only his first season with UH as a player.
"It's an interesting process," Bryant said. "It's a process that a lot of times things go back and forth. We're very optimistic at this time, but we're not sure when we'll hear back."
In the meantime, Rodrigues cannot work out with the team.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.