RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eli Christensen has raised his average 65 points -- from .200 to .265 -- since becoming the Rainbows' starting shortstop.
Transfer infielder thrives for 'Bows
Starting shortstop Christensen turned out to be better than Trapasso thought
Eli Christensen and his wife, Lindsay, did not know until late last summer if they were going to stay in Salt Lake City or quickly pack and move on.
Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso had seen Christensen play, but toward the end of his sophomore season at Salt Lake Community College he had a better chance of transferring to Texas State.
Who: New Mexico State at Hawaii
When: Today, 6:35 p.m.; Tomorrow, 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: Tomorrow and Sunday, live, KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: Tomorrow and Sunday, live; Saturday, live updates, KKEA, 1420-AM
"They said they had a scholarship for me, but they ended up backing out. That kind of left me out to dry," said Christensen, who is from Provo, Utah.
The UH coaches told the middle infielder there wasn't room on the roster to walk on. But, Trapasso had second thoughts about the Rainbow infield.
"I saw him play one game where he got one ground ball and I liked him OK, but I held off. About three weeks before school started (last fall), I looked at our infield situation and decided to give him a call. Eli was still uncommitted and decided right then to join our program," Trapasso said.
"Obviously we were very, very fortunate the way things have played out. It is not often that someone with his talent is still available. It was one of those deals where you bring him in and he is better than you thought."
Christensen, who is majoring in personal finance and wants to be a certified financial planner for professional athletes, did a little lobbying
on the amount of his scholarship. Once that was settled, the couple packed up, then spent a week in a hotel before finally finding an apartment a week after school started.
"We figured we would end up in Utah eventually and I wanted a degree from a school that wasn't local. We had been married for about a year and we wanted to get away from family and be on our own," Christensen said.
He went on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after graduating from Timpview High School in Provo, then enrolled at SLCC.
A shortstop in high school and his first year with the Bruins, Christensen moved to second base last year while his younger brother, Zadoc, played short. In fall practice with the Rainbows, he worked at both positions.
Christensen continued at short and second through the first six weeks of the season before getting the job at shortstop in the final game of the Western Illinois series.
"Eli combines range and arm strength. You don't realize the arm strength he has. He has a quick release on top of that and it helps," Trapasso said.
When Christensen took over at short, his batting average languished around the .200 mark. Since then, he has raised his average to .265 by going 16-for-48 (.333).
"I thought the transition (to Division I) was fairly smooth. The conference I came from is good with a lot of good pitching," said Christensen, who admitted going from a wood bat back to an aluminum bat took a while to get used to.
Trapasso said, "All players have to make an adjustment to Division I whether they come from high school or junior college. You hope a junior college player can come in and make it quicker. You don't see a lot of Justin Frashes out there who step onto a Division I campus and do what he has done.
"Eli had to change his approach and his philosophy at the plate. For a little guy he was swinging big and still does it some times. He had to learn to hit in our ballpark, to hit to all fields and to shorten his swing."