Friday, June 28, 2002

Hawaii Winter
Baseball on deck

Local organizer Duane Kurisu
says hard work could make
it swing again by next year

By Nick Abramo

Duane Kurisu is looking to bring back Hawaii Winter Baseball for 2003.

A high-ranking official in the commissioner's office of Major League Baseball recently asked Kurisu if he would be interested in running the developmental baseball program.

"The ball is in our court to put together plans," Kurisu said. "It would be easy to say yes, but difficult to actually make it happen. It's definitely something I'm thinking about because my heart is really with baseball."

The local league has been in limbo since 1997.

Kurisu has kept a few workers in his Honolulu office in hopes of showcasing top baseball prospects, not only from MLB, but from Japan and Korea as well.

"It's accomplishable," he said. "We have the experience and the know-how to make it work. But it's a huge undertaking to get it started. You're dealing with 12 teams from Japan, eight teams from Korea and 30 from Major League Baseball ... and TV and radio operations and all the marketing."

Hawaii Winter Baseball played five seasons (1993 to 1997) with four teams: the Honolulu Sharks, Maui Stingrays, Hilo Stars and the Kauai Emeralds, who eventually became the West Oahu CaneFires.

The league is remembered for some of the top talent it brought to Hawaii, including Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.

Kurisu, a minority investor in the Star-Bulletin, said if he moves ahead for a 2003 startup, he would need to submit a plan to MLB in July. He added that all 30 MLB teams would also have to approve the plan.

A lack of a solid financial subsidy from MLB was part of the reason HWB suspended operations five years ago.

Kurisu did not elaborate on how much backing MLB would provide if HWB started up again.

"It has to be done, whether it's 2003 or some time later," Kurisu said. "It has to come back. It's too important of an institution to let die away."

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