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Kalani Simpson

Sidelines

By Kalani Simpson

Tuesday, January 28, 2003


This coach's trap is
baited with optimism

HE'S still got it. He still sells me. Mike Trapasso can still stand up there and say all the right things and make you believe.

He needs to, again.

Trapasso, coach of the Rainbow baseball team, stands in front of the Honolulu Quarterback Club. This is a great audience. A warm audience. A welcoming audience. But these people know their stuff. They don't just know history. They are history.

"We're excited. It's like an expansion team," Trapasso tells them.

"We have some options, we have some depth," Trapasso says.

"Last year was a transition year. And we took our lumps and I took my lumps," he says.

He did. They say that 70 coaches expressed interest in the UH job. Last season, there were days when the 69 other guys breathed a sigh of relief.

Trapasso arrived too late to clean house, but everyone knew that he would, eventually. It was awkward, at times, for everyone. It was frustrating, at times, for all of them.

The team batting average dropped 40 points from the year before.

This is what is known as a transition year.

At the end of it all, the Rainbows had won 16 games in 56 tries, and Trapasso parted ways with the hand-picked No. 1 assistant he'd brought with him specifically to tackle this job.

"I take all responsibility for last year, because I hired the staff and it didn't work out, and obviously the buck stops here," he says.

"We're better coaches now, with what we learned from last year. We're better coaches for that," he tells the Quarterback Club.

And the transition has been made. The house is clean, the shelves are stocked. The Rainbows have an enormous class of red-hot recruits, the kind Trapasso is famous for. The biggest, he says, is a new hitting coach, about whom he raves.

And it's exciting again, and fun again, a new team and new start, the kind of start every new coach dreams of making, before the ugliness of transition gets in the way.

"We're really excited about where we are. We definitely have a team that I think can be competitive," he says.

"We're improved at most positions and maybe every position," he says.

And he talks about getting in rhythms, and playing young pitchers, and ambitious scheduling, and the future.

It's morning in Manoa.

He tells a story about one of the few "old" players still around, of Nate Jackson bursting into his office and declaring himself ready for action. "Excuse me?" Trapasso says then, "um, you know, I'd like to see that in writing ...?"

But Nate insists that despite the recent heart surgery the doctor has cleared him. But Nate plays in the outfield and Trapasso is concerned. "I mean, baseball's not a contact sport, but what's going to happen if you go running into that wall?

"And, of course, typical Nate Jackson, he said: 'Well, that wall gonna break'."

Already, they're running through walls.



Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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