Frash answers a big question for Trapasso
The senior will bat third in the lineup for the UH baseball team
Justin Frash is labeled as a great natural hitter, a guy who could walk up to the plate in his sleep and belt a line drive into a gap.
But that's just half of the equation for the third baseman who led Hawaii with a .359 batting average last season.
"You're not going to be a hitter like Justin without putting the work in. But there's something to be said about that cliché. You do have guys that are just natural hitters," UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "You combine the two, and that's when you get a guy who can hit .360 at this level. That's what you've got with Justin."
The Rainbows opened practice yesterday under threatening skies. It was the first of just 15 workouts to prepare for the Jan. 26 season opener against Santa Clara at Les Murakami Stadium.
Questions abound on the pitching staff and in several regular lineup spots. But Frash answers a big one for Trapasso.
The coach knows who his No. 3 hitter is.
Although not a classic power hitter, the left-handed hitting Frash will likely improve on last spring's 18 extra base hits in 217 at-bats with increased power from weight training.
"Over this summer I lifted a lot and ran and lost about 10 pounds. I hope to play at 195 (pounds) this year, which is what I'm at right now."
And he plans to be as disciplined at the dinner plate as he is at home plate (45 walks to 27 strikeouts in 2006).
"During the season I got up to 205 because I wasn't keeping up with my running and stuff and eating bad. This year I'm going to change things. It's my last year," the 5-foot-10 Frash said.
He also worked on his swing with his father, Roger Frash. Roger Frash, a first-round pick of the Mets in 1980, is an assistant coach at Oxnard (Calif.) College, where Justin played before transferring to UH.
"I learned a lot from my dad, the best hitting coach I ever had. I learned a lot from Coach Meij (UH assistant Keith Komeiji), too," Frash said. "I always have things to work on. Approach, a lot of different things. Coach Meij changed my hands. I feel like I have a little more power and I'm quicker."
Frash was bypassed in last year's draft. But another season like last year, with a little more pop, and he should get some attention from the pros.
"The makeup, attitude and desire are all there," Twins area scout Dan Cox said. "He knows what he's up against, his size. Thankfully he has a tool that makes him attractive. He hits. He's a hitting machine and he puts a lot of pride into it."
His position in the pros could be catcher. There was some thought about trying it this year, but Frash was out in the fall with a hip flexor. Trapasso's plan is to keep him at third, with perhaps some time at first base.
In addition to plenty of line drives, Trapasso figures to get leadership from Frash.
"He's not necessarily the kind of guy that's going to be a boisterous, get in your face type of leader," the coach said. "He's going to be a guy that just goes about his business every day. You hope that those around him are mature enough to pick up on that."
As for being a natural, Frash knows it's not that easy. Even when you have a sweet swing, discipline and effort are important.
"The game of baseball's a very difficult game. You can go 3-for-10 and be a Hall-of-Famer, but it's about preparation. I've just learned over the years. It's the night before, what you do. If you're out partying, doing something you shouldn't be doing it's likely you won't be having a good game," he said. "I came here to play baseball and go to school, so why not do it."
Rodrigues on hold:
Left-hander Mark Rodrigues -- expected to secure a spot in the starting rotation -- had to sit out UH's first practice yesterday as he awaited word on an appeal to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
The 2001 Kauai High School graduate missed two full seasons because of an elbow injury.
Trapasso said the school submitted paperwork last month and he expects the NCAA will grant the additional year to Rodrigues.
"Everything's been turned in and we're waiting to hear something any day now," Trapasso said. "We're confident it's going to be fine. It's just a shame that we're starting practice and we haven't heard anything yet."
Rodrigues started 12 games and went 4-2 with a 4.66 ERA last year, his only healthy season with the Rainbows.
Before transferring to UH after the 2003 season, Rodrigues pitched two years at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, Calif., and was picked in the 2001 and 2002 Major League Drafts.
"I'm just waiting for Coach to get the call," Rodrigues said.
Working his way back:
Outfielder Derek DuPree has made remarkable progress after tearing an ACL in July and undergoing surgery in August. Still, he doesn't want to rush things too much.
"I'm going to take my time," DuPree said.
Alumni game set:
The Rainbows will face a tough alumni team Jan. 20 at 1 p.m.
Matt Inouye, Isaac Omura, Justin Costi, Luis Avila, Robbie Wilder and Tim Montgomery are among the recent Rainbows expected to play against the current edition.
Pitcher Derek Tarapacki may be joining the Rainbows this week.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander won one game and lost one for Yavapai in the 2006 JUCO World Series. He was second-team all conference.