Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, September 20, 2001


Hawaii players
progress in pro ball

Nine participate in independent
leagues around the country

By Al Chase

Nine baseball players with Hawaii connections competed for teams in independent minor leagues this summer.

These leagues do not have working agreements with major league teams and are not members of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. However, teams in these leagues sell the contracts of players who perform well to major-league teams on a regular basis.

Independent ball is a chance to start a career after college for those players who are not drafted or to continue on when released by a major-league organization.

Sean Murphy posted the best numbers among the hitters, finishing with a .318 batting average for London, Ontario, in the Frontier League. The Mid-Pacific Institute graduate, who played college ball at Hawaii, Oklahoma and Southern Nazarene, also stole 19 bases in 25 attempts.

Damon Yee, released by the Houston Astros during spring training, signed on with Dubois County in the Frontier League. The right-hander from Punahou and Vanderbilt won a spot in the Dragons' starting rotation and finished ninth in the league with a 3.28 earned run average.

"I really enjoyed my time there. It wasn't the most glamorous place, but there was the opportunity to pitch and play every day. That was the important thing," Yee said.

"The competition was surprisingly good. There are a lot of mature players in that league. I felt good about my season and hopefully opened some eyes. It was a pretty good experience."

Yee wants to stay in the game, but wants to make sure he is in a situation where he can progress. He is thinking of retaining an agent, realizing how difficult it is to attempt to stay connected to the game without contacts. He also will remain on the mainland during the offseason to take advantage of tryout opportunities.

His biggest surprise came when his teammates asked Yee if he knew another player from Hawaii when the Dragons were on a bus trip to Johnstown, Pa. Yee was more befuddled when he found out the player listed Punahou as his high school.

It turned out to be Gabe Memmert, who went to Punahou but played high school ball on the mainland, then went on to at McNeese State and Maine.

Memmert has played the past four seasons for the Johnnies. The left-handed hitting first baseman had his lowest batting average (.228) this year, but had 17 doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs.

Patrick Scalabrini got off to a slow start with the Quebec Capitales in the Northern League as a part-time player. Once he started playing every day, his batting average jumped about 70 points in three weeks to a high of .256, leveled off, then slid to .241 at season's end.

The former Hawaii third baseman experienced a late power loss, going the final month of the season without an extra base hit.

Ian Perio began the season with Dubois County, struggled with a 4.50 ERA, then was released, but signed the same day with Fort Worth, Texas, in the All-American Association. The left-hander from Castle High School, Arizona State and the University of San Francisco, solidified the Cats' bullpen, posting a 1.63 ERA in 14 appearances.

Jeff Martin, cut loose by the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training, joined the San Angelo Colts in the Texas-Louisiana League. Martin, a right-hander who pitched for Kailua through his junior year, was 5-4 with a 4.76 ERA. He fanned 100, while walking just 33 batters.

Former Punahou and San Francisco outfielder Pat Walsh joined Dubois County for the stretch run. In seven games, he was 6-for-15 (.400), stole two bases and knocked in two runs.

Scott Suraci, released by the Minnesota Twins during spring training, had brief stints with Evansville, Ind., in the Frontier League and Schaumburg, Ill., in the Northern League with little success. The former Hawaii Pacific right fielder never got going offensively, hitting .183 and .130, respectively, before being released.

Infielder Key Voshell, who played two years at UH before transferring to Louisville, started at Richmond in the Frontier League. The Philadelphia Phillies purchased his contract in July.

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