Thursday, April 1, 1999
By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Lars Hansen thrives on challenges, so the
former soccer player became a catcher.
own game on
and off field
Baseball isn't easy for theBy Al Chase
Rainbows' catcher and
that's why he likes it
Lars Hansen is enjoying his senior season playing baseball for the Hawaii Rainbows. He finds a lighter academic load, depth at the catching position and being injury free very much to his liking.
His parents, Mary and Gordy Hansen, always encouraged their sons to make decisions and pursue endeavors they enjoyed. Lars has never had a problem following that advice. He thrives on charting his own course.
When Jed Hansen had an opportunity to play baseball in a better summer program in Olympia, Wash., it was his decision on whether or not the family would move from Tacoma.
The family moved and Lars hated it. He didn't have any friends in Olympia. So, he decided to commute a half hour each way to Tacoma to continue school.
And, just because his father (Seattle Pacific), oldest brother Mike (Washington) and Jed (Stanford and now in the Kansas City Royals' organization) played baseball, didn't mean Lars played.
"I was a year-round soccer player (defender) until I started high school," Hansen said.
"People just assumed I played baseball and was as good as Jed. Maybe that's why I wanted nothing to do with baseball. I wouldn't even play catch with Jed in the back yard. The 'talk' never came from my parents. They supported me in what I wanted to do."
But, Hansen finally made some friends in Olympia.
"One was this stud football and baseball player who encourage me to play baseball. Being around him and seeing everything Jed got to do baseball-wise -- he got a substantial scholarship to Stanford -- made me wonder if I should try it," Hansen said.
Hansen made the Capital High School team his freshman year. He discovered he liked the sport. He played third base for two seasons, then first base the final two years. He made the Black Hills All-League team three years and was all-state as a senior.
"Baseball has never been easy for me, in no way, shape or form. I think that's one reason why I liked it so much, because it's such a challenge. There's always room for more improvement," he said.
He excelled academically, graduating in the top 10 of his 325-member high school class with a 3.98 grade point average.
Hansen didn't want to burden his parents with the cost of a college education. He knew he could handle that academically or athletically. If it was through athletics, then he was heading south or anywhere with warm weather.
"When Coach Carl came to watch me play it rained all day. We all knew we were going to play. It rained the whole game and was freezing. He couldn't believe it," Hansen said.
The first southern trek was to Oregon State.
"The next weekend I came here (mid-February) and I didn't need to go anywhere else," he said.
He was recruited as a catcher and played a little as a freshman.
"It was a learning process and I'm still learning. At times it was frustrating but I try to work on the mental side of the game as much as possible. That's huge for a catcher," he said.
There were techniques to work on, specifically blocking pitches in the dirt and his catch and release on stolen base attempts.
"He's a lot better, probably not where he wants to be, but he's a steady player," said UH coach Les Murakami. "He's a pretty smart catcher. He watches opponents and knows what's going on."
Hansen calls his own game. Murakami believes that's the only way catchers can develop here.
There have been setbacks like a severely sprained left ankle his freshman year. Vertigo caused him to miss 27 consecutive games his sophomore year. Last season it was a broken thumb and a stress fracture in his lower back.
Hansen wanted to graduate in four years because very few athletes do it. When he saw the courses he had left, and despite a 3.75 GPA, he relented this semester.
He'll take three courses this fall to graduate with a degree in psychology. Why psychology? Because he enjoys it and didn't think the prerequisites for medical school mixed well with playing baseball.
Yes, he would like the chance to play professional baseball.
And, if that doesn't pan out?
"I think I might enjoy coaching and I'd want to be on the college level," Hansen said.
"I also think I might enjoy being a firefighter. You got kind of bizarre hours, but you have time off and I want to have a family, so I'd like to look into that."
Statistics: Batting .300 with five doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs. Fielding .994 (one error in 155 chances).