Tatsuno found peace after glory
THE plan, with Rainbow baseball back big in the news again, and Derek Tatsuno making an appearance at the Honolulu Quarterback Club, was to paint a picture of those old glory days, when UH baseball went big time, big time. To ask him to put us in the moment when he was unstoppable, 1977-79, when he mowed down everyone he faced, setting the NCAA record for strikeouts. To ask him to describe what it was like to win a mind-boggling 20 games in a season, to give us the feeling of being The Man when UH was on its way to the top of the world.
But then, there he was. Quiet, easygoing. Satisfied. Easy grin.
The more he talked the more apparent it was that it would have been ridiculous to try to get him to go back in time to those glory days. It would have been silly to even ask. He isn't living in those moments. Not anymore.
There might come a day when he'd come back to the game, maybe help out some kids. Someday. Maybe.
He's just a guy who used to play baseball, a long time ago. He's at peace. It's in the past.
THE QUESTION COMES: "Is there any truth to the story that the Japan catchers couldn't handle your ball? So they changed your delivery? Is that true?"
"Who did you hear that from?" Tatsuno said, trying to play it down. Then: "No, that is true."
He'd been so dominant at UH, so brilliant, won 40 games in three years. Then, he went to Japan, instead of the American major leagues, for "long-term security and future goals."
They couldn't catch his ball.
In Japan a fastball is a straight ball. Tatsuno had been so unhittable precisely because his heater tailed. "I tried to explain that if the catchers had a hard time handling the ball, the hitter would have the same thing," he said.
"You asked for (his former UH catcher) Ron Nomura to come down?"
"Who did you hear that from?" Then: "That is true."
But no, instead he had a new delivery, then an injury. By the time he made it back to America the brilliant, incredible, unhittable Manoa fairy tale was over -- he was a Triple A guy.
Some would be bitter about that. Some would live in the old glory days or wonder "what if" every day.
Instead, easygoing, easy grin. No regrets.
That's good, someone said, because "that broke our hearts, a lot of us," that he never made it to the majors because he went to Japan.
"I know, a lot of people told me that, too," he said. "I don't have half of my behind. They kicked it so bad."
He laughed. It's in the past.
He's at peace.