Wahine hoping to cash in at regional
By Stephen Tsai
In its version of moneyball, the Hawai'i softball team displays a daily dose of responsibility.
For each trip, including this week's stay in Northern California for the NCAA Regionals at Stanford University, head coach Bob Coolen figures out the meal allowance for the week, then hands each of the 20 players on the travel squad what is referred as the "mystery envelope."
"They always enjoy the large-denomination bills," Coolen said. "I give them the 100s and the 50s."
For the regionals, a separate account is used to pay for the Rainbows' lodging and ground transportation. That leaves, according to UH's estimate, about $36 per player per day for meals. Of that amount, $2 is deducted, then pooled to buy snacks. Coolen does all of the shopping on the road. The players, who are given their entire week's allowance up front, are responsible for their meals.
Before distributing the envelopes, Coolen said he tells the players: "This is your money. It's not for a tattoo or a piercing or hair coloring."
Coolen said the veterans are mindful of reminding the first-year Rainbows to spend responsibly.
"They sort of educate each other," Coolen said. "It becomes a responsibility. I'm not a bank. If you lose it, you can't come back, and put a card in, and say, 'I lost my money.' They have to learn to budget. They do a good job. Nobody starves."
Coolen said he settled on the early-distribution practice after years of players questioning the amount of the per diem.
"We have a maturity level, and it's conveyed to the freshmen," Coolen said.
Coolen is not excluded from the budgeting.
"I have to bring all of the money with me," Coolen said. "I can't just go and write a check and say, 'Please, give me $5,000.' "
For now, the Rainbows hope to cash in on their success in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Rainbows went 19-1 to win the WAC's regular-season title, then went 3-1 in the WAC Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M., to claim the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals.
The Rainbows practiced Sunday and Monday at New Mexico State's facilities. Yesterday, they were rewarded with a late checkout time.
"We didn't have to leave (the hotel) until 12:15 (p.m.)," centerfielder Kelly Majam said. "We slept in until 10ish."
Because the semester ended last week, the Rainbows now have more free time. They brought an academic adviser to New Mexico last week to administer about 30 final exams.
"It's been nice," said Majam, who rooms with rightfielder Kanani Pu'u-Warren. "We'll stay up late and read. It's like a vacation."
Yesterday, the Rainbows drove to El Paso, Texas, then took a flight to Los Angeles. After a short layover, they took a flight to San Francisco. Then they drove 35 miles to Newark.
"It was a long trip, but we didn't mind," Majam said.
Coolen said going through Los Angeles provided significant savings. The El Paso-Los Angeles-San Francisco route cost $212 per ticket one way. It would have cost more than $300 per ticket to travel directly from El Paso to San Francisco.
"The (travel) agency was stoked," Coolen said. "We had a good deal, and our kids are used to flying. It worked out."
Because of two large conventions, the Rainbows could not reserve hotel rooms in the Stanford vicinity yesterday. Newark, which was incorporated as a city in 1955, is located on the southeast edge of the San Francisco Bay.
But the Rainbows ended up staying in a hotel in which each room had two bathrooms.
"Three to a room, with two bathrooms?" Coolen said. "They loved it. I told them: 'You're like pro players. You're living the life.' "
This morning, the Rainbows will practice for two hours at San Jose State's facilities. After lunch, they will check into a hotel near Stanford.
Another practice is scheduled for tomorrow at Stanford, their final preparation for Friday's opener against Big West champion UC Davis.
"Making the regionals is part of our goal," Majam said. "We still want to go all the way to the World Series. We still have a lot of work to do."
The Rainbows, who set the NCAA record for home runs in a season with 141, benefitted from the thin air in Las Cruces.
Although the conditions will change at Stanford, the Rainbows should draw more supporters. Starting pitcher Stephanie Ricketts, for instance, was raised in San Jose.
"We'll have a lot of fans there this weekend," said Majam, who was raised in a Southern California suburb. "That will be real helpful. There will be a boost of energy playing in front of our families and friends."