'Bows share senior moments
BY Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
When it comes to fixtures in University of Hawai'i baseball, there's Harrison Kuroda.
The right-handed pitcher is the senior member of the seven Rainbows whose eligibilities expire with the end of this season. Bowing out Sunday with Kuroda will be catcher Kevin Fujii, first baseman Kevin Macdonald, outfielders Christian Johnson and Matt Roquemore, third baseman Josh Chevalier and pitcher Nate Klein.
Just how long has Kuroda been a Rainbow? He was a red-shirt freshman when Isaac Omura played his final season in 2005. Omura returned to UH this season as a volunteer coach after five pro seasons and Kuroda is still on the team.
"That's going to be a tough one, seeing Harry go because Harry's been here as long as I have, it seems, having been here for six years," ninth-year UH coach Mike Trapasso said with a laugh.
Kuroda's career has been one of perseverance. After graduating from Mid-Pacific Institute in 2004, he injured his throwing shoulder sliding into a base in summer ball before enrolling at UH.
Kuroda red-shirted his true freshman year, but reinjured the shoulder again. This time it required surgery, and he had to sit out the next season, too.
Shoulder surgery for a pitcher usually spells the end of a career. Yet, the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Kuroda — who once threw in the low 90 mph range in high school — made his UH debut on March 3, 2007, pitching one inning, allowing a hit, a walk and a run against Chicago State. It was his only appearance that season.
He made eight appearances the next season, and 15 last season, when he went 4-1.
Kuroda was cleared by the NCAA for a sixth season because of the injury hardship. He has made seven appearances this year, his last coming April 30 when he threw two scoreless innings against Nevada.
"Coming out of high school, it wasn't the career I envisioned," Kuroda reflected. "But in the end, everything turned out pretty good."
Being the veteran, his teammates, even his fellow seniors, look to him for leadership.
"Everyone looks up to him," Klein said. "You have a question, you see Harry."
Kuroda graduated with a degree in sociology last year.
Having red-shirted as freshmen, Fujii and Roquemore are the next-most experienced Rainbows.
An early-season injury his freshman season allowed Roquemore to redshirt in 2006. He's been a steady contributor since. Roquemore has one career home run he hit two years ago at Louisiana Tech. He nearly had his second at the same park.
"Two years ago, that would've left (the park). I told him, 'You're too old,' " joked Kuroda.
Roquemore graduated last spring with a degree in sociology.
"I enjoyed going to the beach and enjoyed being with my team on and off the field," he said. "We do have a close team off the field. I don't think too many people know that."
STAND AND DELIVER
Fujii has been primarily a reserve catcher, but when called upon, he has delivered. When Landon Hernandez missed the end of last season, Fujii was one of the team's sparkplugs when he was named to the all-WAC tournament team.
"His mound visits are very entertaining," Kuroda said of his batterymate.
Fujii will graduate this weekend with a degree in speech.
"I'm really glad that I chose UH, to play here in front of family and friends," Fujii said.
Macdonald is the only four-year starter among the seniors. He has played other infield positions and the outfield before settling in at first base in his sophomore season.
Macdonald's home runs last season rank third among the school's single-season leaders. His 23 career homers rank third in school history, trailing only Greg Oniate (24) and John Matias (30).
"He can always see the light at the end of the tunnel," Kuroda said of Macdonald. "He's the optimist."
Chevalier, Johnson and Klein were here for just two seasons each, as they transferred from junior colleges.
Chevalier, a reserve third baseman, grew up in a military family and attended Air Academy High in Colorado Springs, Colo. But he wanted "a different experience."
Chevalier will graduate after the summer session with a degree in business marketing.
"It will be tough, leaving the guys behind, going our different ways," he said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Johnson and Klein were expected to be big contributors this season until they were sidelined by injuries.
Johnson, a 2006 'Iolani School graduate who came here via Central Arizona JC, dislocated his right shoulder and tore his labrum while diving for a foul fly at Sacramento State almost a month ago.
"Even though it was only two years, I had a blast here," said Johnson, who will earn his speech degree this summer. "I got to come home, play in front of the hometown, my parents, my family...We played great competition. I can tell stories to my grand kids about who I played (against)."
Kuroda knew "CJ" before they became teammates.
"He played Little League with my brother," Kuroda said. "I was really sad to see him go down. I had that same injury and it's not fun, so I feel for the guy."
For Klein, lightning has struck twice, as he has suffered an elbow strain that also derailed his season last year. But he's still grateful for playing here.
"It's been great," said Klein, who graduates Saturday with a degree in economics. "I've never played in front of fans like this. It's a great atmosphere to play in. I had a great time playing here."
Kuroda is a rival of Klein in a fantasy baseball league.
"He's a real fun guy to be around," Kuroda said. "He's one hell of a competitor. He's another guy who has had his injuries this year and I wish things had happened a little bit different for him."