Monday, July 19, 1999

Name: Ken Nakayama
Age: 58
Education: University of Hawaii
Position: Baseball coach for Molokai High
Hobbies: Spending time with family

Coaching for life

Two months ago, Molokai High School baseball coach Ken Nakayama got an unexpected visit from a friend he hadn't seen in nearly 10 years.

Masa Yonamine, a former football coach and athletic director for Waipahu High School, appeared at his dugout door during a game against the Hilo Vikings, a moment Nakayama would never forget.

The two exchanged hugs and Yonamine gave him a new baseball for his accomplishment in coaching a promising team.

"When I saw his team play, I couldn't believe my eyes," said Yonamine. For a small school, "Nakayama did such a tremendous job. To me, it was a miracle job."

The Molokai Farmers recently captured its first state championship game in a 6-2 victory over top-seeded Mid-Pacific Institute in the 41st Wally Yonamine Foundation Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament. What made this team special, Nakayama said, is that none of the players stood out from the rest. In prior seasons, the team depended on "studs," or star players like shortshop Miles Luuloa and pitcher Kekoa Colon.

This season, however, "these were a young bunch of kids who just wanted to play baseball and have some fun," he said.

Nakayama knows how to pull a team together and come out ahead, Yonamine said. In high school, for instance, he was "a helluva lineman."

They knew of each other when Nakayama was a baseball and football player at Kahuku and Yonamine was football coach for Waipahu at the time. Many years later, they became good friends when both were athletic directors.

Nakayama, who's been coaching for 25 years, said Yonamine and former Kahuku football coach Harold Silva are two mentors who made a big difference in his life. They taught him about teamwork, dedication and commitment - the values of coaching - in his early adult life.

Most important, they taught him that winning isn't everything, not worth as much as players learning about the values of life. His job, he said, is to make sure players show up at practices on time, work hard and show respect toward authorities.

"When my kids come back 10, 20 or 25 years later and say, 'Eh, coach, thanks for helping me. I'm a better person now because of what I learned from you,' that's what I cherish more than winning a game or title."

By Shirley Iida, Star-Bulletin

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