Maui stocked with homegrown talent
BY Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
Nine players from Hawai'i will be attending spring training early next month for Hawai'i's newest pro baseball team, Na Koa Ikaika Maui.
The Maui team is part of the 10-team independent Golden Baseball League. The league opens May 19, but Maui doesn't make its home debut at Iron Maehara Stadium until June 8.
Some of the Hawai'i players have previous experience from minor league affiliates of Major League Baseball. Some earned invitations to spring training from a local tryout held at Hans L'Orange Park last month.
Baldwin alumnus Gered Mochizuki, an infielder who played in the New York Mets farm system last year, is the only player from Maui.
Other Hawai'i players bound for spring training on Maui are: catchers Aaron Asher ('Aiea/Hawai'i Pacific), Avery Kagawa (Waiākea) and Jowen Murray-Thornton (Saint Louis); infielders Michael Higa (Pearl City/Hawai'i-Hilo) and Rex Rundgren (Mid-Pacific); outfielder Mark Okano ('Aiea); and pitchers Kaimi Mead (Roosevelt/HPU) and Clayton Uyechi (Wai'anae/UH-Hilo).
Infielder Rodney Choy Foo (Kailua), one of the earlier players signed, has withdrawn from the team, pitching coach Brendan Sagara said.
The team is managed by former big leaguer Cory Snyder.
Meanwhile, Hawai'i has only four players who made big-league rosters, three of them from Maui.
Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino (St. Anthony), Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki (Baldwin) and Seattle relievers Kanekoa Texeira (Kamehameha-Kapālama) and Brandon League (Saint Louis) are the only big leaguers from here. Texeira is from Maui, but attended Kamehameha on O'ahu. He made his big-league debut on Tuesday.
The other players with ties to Hawai'i are spread around in various MLB-affiliated minor leagues.
Maui's Derrick Saito (Baldwin 2005), a left-handed pitcher, is in extended spring training on the disabled list because of elbow issues, said Casey Brett, an assistant in the Mariners' minor league operations.
Also, former Hawai'i catcher Landon Hernandez was signed by Grand Prairie (Texas) of the independent American Association. His teammate is another former Rainbow, infielder Joe Spiers.
Also, pitcher Reid Santos, a Castle graduate and former Hawaii Winter Leaguer, is with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.