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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2010

They'll be boys of summer


By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Benny Agbayani and Lenn Sakata were guest instructors at a coaches clinic Saturday.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lenn Sakata at a coaches clinic Saturday.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WAIPAHU There will be no professional baseball for Lenn Sakata and Benny Agbayani this season.

"Thirty-five years I've never had a summer in Hawai'i," said the 55-year-old Sakata, who starred at Kalani High before signing with the Milwaukee Brewers as a first-round pick in the 1975 draft out of Gonzaga.

Sakata, who played 11 seasons in the major leagues, spent the past two seasons managing Chiba Lotte Marines' minor league club in Japan.

Agbayani, who starred at Saint Louis School and Hawai'i Pacific, just completed his sixth season with the Marines, whom he joined a year after Bobby Valentine was named manager of the Nippon Professional Baseball club. When Valentine was fired after last season, it spelled the end for Sakata and Agbayani, who said the team bought out his option for this season.

Sakata and Agbayani were guest instructors at a Hawaii Winter Baseball Foundation coaches clinic Saturday at Hans L'Orange Park. Both will spend the summer at home.

"That's what kind of bothered me," Sakata said. "I wanted to keep the streak going into the 40s (years in pro baseball). But it's a difficult year to be out of work. I guess the economics, maybe my age, maybe my experience, too, hurts.

"I sent out resumes. I called people I knew. I had some people call for me. It's a different generation of front office people. The last time I had to do this was 10, 11 years ago, so it's not the same people running teams."

Sakata spent nine seasons managing in the San Francisco Giants organization from 1999 to 2007, as well as several stints in Hawaii Winter Baseball before signing with the Marines.

"I probably ran my course with the Giants," he said. "If I stayed, they would've eventually found a way to offer me something I'd refuse. That's the feeling I got when they offered me the Double A job (in Connecticut). I told them years ago I'd never go back East."

Still, he harbors no regrets about going to Japan.

"I'm glad I went there," he said. "I learned a lot. I wish I could've done it a few more years."

Agbayani, 38, has come to terms with retirement, but would reconsider if another Japanese team came calling.

"Other than that, now my family comes first," he said.

Agbayani, who completed his bachelor's degree from HPU in 2003, said he is an education assistant at Mililani High.

"I wanted something to just tie me down so I can see what I really want to do," Agbayani said. "I help the teachers and help the students, try to motivate them and try to help them in the right direction."

He also serves as a volunteer coach at HPU, helping coach Garret Yukumoto when time permits. Agbayani also spends time with daughters Aleia, 8, and Ailana, 5, helping in their development in soccer and softball. He's also getting his son, Bruin, who turns 3 on Friday, ready for sports. His wife Niela, a former Hawai'i Wahine softball player home schools the children.

"Now, I get to see what a summer is like in Hawai'i after all these years," said Agbayani, who spent five years in the major leagues, including four with the Mets. "It's been great."

Agbayani said he would be interested in coaching.

"I always have Bobby Valentine," Agbayani said. "He knows I want to coach with him. Anything open in Hawai'i, I'd be open to it. I just have to weigh my options."

Sakata, who continues to spend winters working out high school, college and pro players from here, said he will watch baseball and golf. But come July and August, he will start inquiring about coaching jobs again.