Rainbows show they can rake
Hawaii players display their pride by helping to maintain their turf
While only one guy on the Rainbow baseball team can be the cleanup hitter, every player is expected to clean up at Les Murakami Stadium.
Throughout the season, the 33 athletes team up with 12 University of Hawaii students -- who comprise the stadium's grounds crew -- to keep the field maintained rain or shine.
CHICAGO STATE (0-6) AT HAWAII (9-6)
When: Today and tomorrow, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday doubleheader, 1:05 p.m.; Sunday 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: Tomorrow and Sunday, KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: Tomorrow, Saturday (first game only) and Sunday, KKEA, 1420-AM
On game days, that duty is in the hands of the crew. For team practices, it falls upon the players to keep things looking good.
Third baseman Justin Frash has raked lately for the 9-6 'Bows, hitting 3-for-6 with a triple and home run in UH's last two losses against Wichita State last weekend.
He's has also had his share of raking around home plate -- the old-fashioned way -- making sure the dirt is perfectly spread. Meanwhile, other players hosed down the bases before Tuesday's practice and rolled practice screens into position.
"Yeah, as players we just need to keep the field maintained, and make sure the dirt's soft, never gets too hard," said Frash, throwing the rake over his shoulder on his way back to the team dugout. "We don't really want our coaches doing it because they're here to coach and we're here to play."
Coach Mike Trapasso has been known to get in on the action as well. He expects his players to show pride in their work on the field, and that goes beyond batting averages and ERAs.
Nobody is off the hook. It's up to the starting pitchers to shape the mound as they see fit the day before their game. Frash, meanwhile, brought his season average up to .333 while hitting in the 3-spot, but does just as much field work as the next guy.
At least one person has been impressed. Longtime stadium manager Glenn Nakaya praised the team for its dedication to labor.
"It's been great that this coaching staff has their players out there every day," said Nakaya, who's been at the stadium for 19 years, as manager for 12. "Before practices, and after practices, helping take pride in the field and doing it, so it's good."
Trapasso takes a no-nonsense approach to it.
"That's honestly something we talk to our guys about," he said. "Whether you want to do it or not, it's a pride factor and you should have pride in your facility, and take pride in maintaining it.
"When other, visiting teams come in here, the first thing they're going to see of our facility are our cages, and our screens in (batting practice) and how we set things up," the coach continued, observing that the flag hanging from the right foul pole wasn't quite straightened out. "If you don't take care of those (things), it just shows you don't have pride in your program."
At times, it's been a challenge. With Murakami Stadium's aging artificial turf (12 years and counting) no longer effective at funneling water underneath the playing surface, the bases can become a sloppy mess in no time during rain. So far only one game this season -- Saturday's contest against the Shockers -- was postponed for that reason, but this time last season was especially bad.
Trapasso and his players certainly had their share of messy playing conditions last season when 40 straight days of rain forced five games to be either postponed or canceled.
On those occasions, the grounds crew staff of six (half of the student workers are at any given game) was stretched to its limits trying to salvage the field with drying agent and tarps.
"If we can get the tarps onto the field quickly, if we can beat the rain, if we're that lucky, then the amount of work is reduced greatly," said Trace Lau, a 21-year-old UH senior who functions as a crew chief on game days. "We usually are able to salvage the field. If we aren't able to get the tarps on, and the rain does beat us, it makes the field conditions a lot worse and sometimes it's beyond our control of what we can fix."
Frash, also a senior, has no qualms with his workman's role before and after practices, as he did the exact same thing at Oxnard (Calif.) Community College for 2 years before coming to the 'Bows. There was no grounds crew whatsoever then.
"They (the crew) do a good job, and they can't all do it, so might as well help 'em make it quicker and stuff," Frash said. "It's a hard job, especially when it rains, it gets really bad out there."
This week's five-game series against Chicago State, starting today, has an unusual schedule: a doubleheader on Saturday sandwiched by three other game days. Compared to the hurdles he and his staff have overcame in the past, Nakaya isn't worried.
"It's just a matter of watching the weather and trying to plan ahead if this happens or that happens, what our alternatives are," he said, noting that the Easter Tournament normally played at this point in the season would involve up to three games in one day.
As for other inclement weather conditions, he'll take them as they come.
"No (high) wind, no tornadoes, no lightning yet," Nakaya said, laughing. "You never know."
One can bet that Trapasso and his players have clean-up contingencies in place for those, too.