What a trip —Dayton traveled to see Dayton
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Editor's Note: Dayton Morinaga has been a reporter with The Advertiser since 1991. An avid ocean sports reporter, he is a graduate of Saint Louis School and the University of Hawai'i.
It's Dayton, like Dayton, Ohio.
Having a relatively uncommon first name, that's often how I introduce myself.
It also happened to be the ultimate destination on a trip of a lifetime for me in 2001.
Dayton Morinaga in Dayton, Ohio.
It was the highlight of a 21-day journey made possible for me as the basketball beat writer for The Honolulu Advertiser.
It helped that the trip included an improbable run by the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team to the Western Athletic Conference championship, and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The trip included one game at San Jose State, another game at Texas-El Paso, three games at the WAC Tournament at Tulsa, Okla., and then the NCAA Tournament game at Dayton.
I was fortunate enough to be included on the entire trip, and I recall buying new luggage prior to the trip to accommodate 10 days' worth of travel clothes, not realizing at the time I would need twice that amount.
At the WAC Tournament, Hawai'i upset three higher-seeded opponents to win the conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
At that point, I was ecstatic just to be a part of it — my first year covering UH basketball and it results in a trip to "The Big Dance."
Then came the announcement that Hawai'i would take on Syracuse in a first-round game at ... Dayton, Ohio.
Destiny for me? Nah, more like dog luck.
In any case, it got me even more excited to extend the trip, despite the fact that I was out of clean underwear (a trip to a city that bears my name would be worth the inside-out underwear treatment, right?).
The experience of the 'Bows at the NCAA Tournament was well-documented — I recall my boss asking me to write two to three stories per day.
Predrag Savovic and Troy Ostler were the stars of the team. A star of the future — a freshman named Carl English — emerged during the team's fascinating late-season run.
Riley Wallace had arguably the best coaching season of his storied career, transforming a mix of international and domestic misfits into champions.
Beyond that, there was so much more that made the trip memorable for me.
When I first arrived at the media check-in at the University of Dayton Arena, the woman at the gate asked me if my name really was Dayton, or if I had made a mistake on the application.
And so it went throughout the week.
I remember meeting one of the media coordinators from the University of Dayton, who gave me preferred seating at a non-Hawai'i game because of my name.
"We've been waiting to meet you," I recall him saying, before he introduced me to other members of his staff.
One of those staff members gave me a University of Dayton T-shirt, and directed me to stores in the area that carried similar apparel.
I actually ran out of cash during the week in Tulsa, but couldn't resist the urge to put a load of "Dayton" products on my charge card. It's probably a reason why my name is still on the mailing list for one of those stores.
Most of all, the trip to Dayton made me appreciate what it meant to be a reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser.
Long days and nights on the job, a relentless pursuit of stories, quick and thoughtful writing skills.
For 20 years now — including 10 with UH basketball — I have been trying to do just that. Have I always succeeded? Hardly.
But like the trip to Dayton, this job brought something new and exciting to me every day, and that is what motivated me to keep trying.
Like the trip to Dayton, I will miss this job. Both were unique opportunities that I may never get to experience again.
Now, if anybody knows of a city named Morinaga, let me know ... I've got a lot of free time to visit.
UH basketball was just one of many sports I covered during my tenure at The Honolulu Advertiser. Among the other events that I consider defining moments:
• September 1996: Covering the Na Wahine O Ke Kai women's canoe race aboard an escort boat across the Kaiwi Channel.
It allowed me to witness up close how difficult it is for teams to paddle a 400-pound outrigger canoe across the 41-mile stretch of unpredictable ocean. I have been trying to cover the sport with respect and reverence ever since.
• March 1997: A trip with the Hawai'i Pacific and Brigham Young-Hawai'i basketball teams to the NAIA National Tournament at Tulsa, Okla.
It was the first significant road trip of my journalism career, and friendships formed during that trip still exist today.
• June 1999: Covering Egan Inoue's first mixed martial arts bout in Hawai'i during SuperBrawl 12, when a capacity crowd came to watch at the Blaisdell Arena.
At the time, mainstream media in Hawai'i mostly ignored the fast-rising sport of MMA. The Honolulu Advertiser has been covering it regularly ever since that Inoue victory over Marcelo Tigre in 1999.
• December 2002: Covering the first of three world surfing championships for Kaua'i's Andy Irons.
In what seemed like a scene from a movie, Irons rode on the shoulders of his friends, up and down Sunset Beach after he clinched the world title.
It was a surreal moment for me, personally. I first met Irons and his younger brother, Bruce, in 1992, when they were competing in the youth amateur ranks. That decade of covering the Irons brothers was like witnessing a dream come to life for them.