Ah Yat, Nomura would like to see alumni game grow
The Hawaii vs. Alumni baseball game used to be much more than a glorified scrimmage.
As many fans would show up as for regular-season games -- sometimes more. And so many former Rainbows would suit up that it was hard to get everyone into the game. That problem was somewhat remedied some years by a "doubleheader" that included a fast-pitch softball game involving the old-timers.
On Saturday, just 412 fans took advantage of free admission on a beautiful day to watch Hawaii beat the Alumni 13-1. The score wasn't too surprising, since the Alumni had just 12 players available, and none were middle infielders.
Paul Ah Yat was one of just three pitchers. He had another commitment and arrived late, but in time to pitch a scoreless eighth inning and get a single off Rainbows ace Ian Harrington.
Ah Yat is optimistic that interest in the alumni game -- among fans and former players -- can be revived.
"Give it a couple years, I think the guys will start coming back," the former Triple-A pitcher said. "I think it has a lot to do with that year a couple years ago (2005) we didn't have it. It kind of made some of the alumni feel disconnected. It was an NCAA ruling and nothing you can do about it."
Ron Nomura served as the Alumni coach Saturday. At 50, he remains a link to the glory days of the late 1970s, when coach Les Murakami built the foundation of the program that would come within a game of winning the College World Series in 1980.
Of course, age and family commitments prevent many alumni from participating, and many live on the mainland.
"The main goal is just get the (varsity) team ready to play, and I think we did that for them," Nomura said. "Maybe we can get together earlier and help Coach (Mike) Trapasso get it organized on our end, so we can get more players out here and make it more of an event like it used to be. Maybe have a practice."
Trapasso said he is considering moving the game to the fall, as other programs have done.
Ah Yat, 32, who has been out of pro ball a few years, met his goal for the day.
"I was just happy to leave here without injury," he said. "That was the main thing, the main focus."
As for the current Rainbows, the former UH ace said he thinks they have a chance to match the accomplishments of last year's team that went 45-17.
"Beyond the score, they look real sound. I'm kind of excited to see where they go this year," Ah Yat said.
Young shines: Sophomore Nate Young singled, doubled and walked in six plate appearances Saturday, and played flawless defense at shortstop. He played all nine innings, as regular starter Eli Christensen was out with flu symptoms.
"He made three to five really good plays and had some good swings," Trapasso said. "I think you'll see more of Nate this year. Quite a bit more."
Young batted .211 in 38 at-bats last year, but had a .423 on-base percentage.
Single-game tickets on sale: Tickets for individual games go on sale today. Blue and orange section seats are $7 each. Red are $6 (adults), $5 (senior citizens) and $3 (students).
Season tickets are $185, plus an $80 premium seating charge (blue and orange), $145 (red, adult), $120 (red, senior citizens), $100 (red, students), $95 (UH Manoa Maniacs).
Tickets may be purchased at UH outlets, via etickethawaii.com or by calling 944-2697.
The season starts Friday with the first of a three-game series against Santa Clara at Les Murakami Stadium.
Franco healing: Left fielder and leadoff batter Jorge Franco went hitless in four trips Saturday, but he's recovering from turf toe that's limited his practice time.
"It's one of those deals it's getting better every day," Trapasso said. "His game is speed and quickness. He's not 100 percent, but he's getting better each day. A week ago, he couldn't have played at all."
Van Doornum shelved: Freshman utility player Jeffrey Van Doornum is out recovering from an appendectomy. He is expected back in a week or two.
"He's doing OK. He's been through a lot, shoulder surgery last summer and hadn't been able to throw," Trapasso said. "He was swinging the bat well."