Welcome pro baseball back to the islands
The Hawaii Winter Baseball league is planning to return in October.
AFTER a nine-year absence, winter baseball is set to return with four Oahu teams
. The 40-game, two-month season is a desirable addition to University of Hawaii sports and professional golf tournaments that will remain the focus of sports events in the state.
Details about the resurrection of the developmental Hawaii Winter Baseball league are expected in the coming weeks, according to Duane Kurisu, president of the league that existed from 1993 to 1997 and who has been working in recent years to restart the league.
The league shut down because of lack of a significant investment by Major League Baseball, according to Kurisu, a Honolulu real estate and media investor. A member of the Star-Bulletin's board of directors, Kurisu is part-owner of the San Francisco Giants.
The former league had five teams on four islands and featured prospects -- such as Ichiro Suzuki -- who later became major league all-stars. Kurisu has kept the league's offices open and promoting local baseball clinics.
The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon reports that financial support from Japanese baseball is considered a key component of the winter league's revival. An announcement is expected to be made in Japan next week, and a source told Reardon that "the league is definitely a go."
Outside financial help seems necessary to support pro sports teams in Hawaii. The Triple-A minor league Hawaii Islanders played for 27 years before folding in 1987 because of dwindling attendance at Aloha Stadium. The Hawaiian Islanders arena football franchise folded in 2004 after losing $1.3 million in its third season.
A team assigned to the American Basketball Association fell apart last December after only two games; players were promised but received no pay, and team owner Orrys Willliams was swiftly barred from further league association.
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