Yukumoto busy rebuilding HPU
Stealing an hour of Garett Yukumoto's time for an interview is a huge coup, considering the unbelievable value placed on each minute of every day.
As the new head coach for the Hawaii Pacific baseball team, Yukumoto handles a workload that should be shared by three people. Besides his actual on-field coaching duties for the Sea Warriors, Yukumoto also tends to the scheduling, recruiting, equipment, sponsorship, travel, fundraising and facility needs for the HPU program.
In addition to those duties, Yukumoto must also monitor his players' academic progress and other personnel concerns.
All things considered, the 35-year-old's duties for the diamond Sea Warriors is not unusual to the profession of small-college coaching. But Yukumoto has a "day job" as well, as a vice principal at Leilehua High School.
Even as he sits at his desk for the interview, Yukumoto is in perpetual motion. Whether taking calls from recruits or opponents' coaches with scheduling concerns, the former Hawaii Pacific outfielder also handles all the paperwork necessary for a high school vice principal.
As he talks on his cell phone to coordinate the delivery of portable toilets to the Sea Warriors' home field at Hans L'Orange Field in Waipahu, he also attends to fellow educators who drop into his office with questions and concerns about a number of situations with students.
"I have to manage my time well to balance all the job duties of both positions that I have to encounter," Yukumoto said. "This is something that I've wanted to do for some time now, and I knew I'd be busy."
Busy may be a gross understatement, not that Yukumoto is complaining.
"I guess I usually wake up at five, make some phone calls, get dressed and drop my boy off at school," the Aiea alumnus said. "I get to school by seven, and I'm here 'til about four, and then it's off to practice at Keehi Lagoon until around 7:15. Then I'm back on the phone to recruits and scheduling, and I always set some time aside for my family (wife Darcy and young sons Trey and Ty). After that I tie up loose ends and I usually get to sleep about one o'clock."
When Hawaii Pacific announced Yukumoto as the new head of the Sea Warrior program on Jan. 9 of last year, some around the state may have been surprised.
Those in the local baseball community are well aware of his involvement with many levels of the game.
Yukumoto's ties to HPU run deep. He played under former coach David "Boy" Eldredge on the Sea Warriors' 1992 and '93 NAIA District 29 championship squads that advanced to regional tournaments.
Like Yukumoto, Eldredge, who is now the head coach at Southern Utah after top assistant coach posts at Loyola Marymount and Brigham Young, had to work a full-time job during his tenure with the Sea Warriors.
"It was good that I had an opportunity to talk to him," said Yukumoto of Eldredge. "I was able to ask him what it was like, and get advice, because he's been in this program and had to deal with a similar situation and how to make things work here."
The Sea Warriors opened their 2006 campaign last week against Cal State Chico, ranked sixth in the nation in Collegiate Baseball's Preseason NCAA Division II rankings.
Although Yukumoto and company lost the series, the effort was strong, considering that they were facing one of the top programs in small college baseball. The Wildcats have been to the Division II World Series in six of the past nine seasons.
The performance of this year's team and the future of the program will depend on HPU's senior leadership.
"With this year's team, we'll need to have a good mix of leadership and youth," Yukumoto said. "I'm gonna expect our upperclassmen to take the lead for us to produce some solid framework for our freshmen."
Yukumoto notes that seniors Brandon Sato, Grandon Costa, Mario Ramirez, Gavin Concepcion and Jherell Miller will set the tone for this year's team.
"We need all of these guys to lead by example and show the rest of the team how things are supposed to be on the field and off," Yukumoto said. "Besides being our top players, they also have to lead off the field as well, which includes academics.
"These guys have a lot of time at the college level, and they can help our younger players progress a lot faster, and show them how to be complete student-athletes."
Over the not-so-long run, Yukumoto hopes to help Hawaii Pacific to prominence. In the early to mid-1990s, the Sea Warriors used a core of local talent to build a perennial district power that advanced to five regionals and the 1991 NAIA World Series.
"It'll take us a few years to get our feet wet and set the groundwork," Yukumoto said, "but I'm positive. I'm willing to put in the work."