Rainbow Wahine get ‘barreled’ with Easton bats
WHEN talking shop with Calin Thomas, you can actually imagine the white lab coats as he speaks.
"Not me personally, but we do have those here. Ours are Navy blue, though," he says.
Yes, Thomas works in a laboratory, surrounded by scientists and engineers. There are "countless hours of research and development," he says, they're always conducting experiments and tests, coming up with new innovations.
To improve the future of mankind?
Well. Kind of.
"You can hit the ball better," Thomas is saying, "over every inch of the bat."
Thomas is a "bat specialist" for Easton Sports. And today and tomorrow he and his engineers will stop their testing, shut down the lab long enough to watch the Knoxville Super Regional and live and die with their adopted team.
"Playing Tennessee is going to be tough," Thomas says, the excitement creeping into his voice. "We're pulling for them."
All year long everyone asked the Rainbow Wahine softball team what was different this season. Why was every ball they hit headed over the fence? Why were they punishing pitchers, scoring at will? How is it that the entire lineup was hitting home runs? And there were no answers. It was just a special season, that's all. They were practicing hard, of course. But they couldn't put their fingers on anything else that was different.
Oh, they did have these new bats this season.
"The Stealth Comp CNT," Thomas says, to be exact.
"We've done a lot in terms of working with composites in recent years," he says. "About five or six years ago bat technology really shifted from aluminum to composites."
And now Thomas is talking about fibers, and rolling something up like a burrito and epoxy and ...
Stop. Did he just say "space grade"?
"The same stuff used to make the space shuttle," he says.
UH is one of their sponsor programs -- "It's a mutually beneficial relationship," Thomas says. It is. UH gets the best technology these guys have been working on, free, and Easton gets to point out in its next brochure that the Wahine have now hit 80 home runs, and counting -- and the previous single-season team record was 42.
The "bat specialist" is quick to give credit to the UH athletes, their skill, their chemistry, their toil and desire and sweat. But a ridiculous sweet spot and a "barrel (that) acts like a hinge on a door" can't have hurt. What might have been a popup three years ago might now be a line drive.
It's been a special season -- the greatest season. And in some small way these Hawaii fans in lab coats feel like they're along for the ride.
"They weren't favored out of that regional at all," Thomas says. You can hear it. This is his team.
Today, the best team in Rainbow Wahine history is in Tennessee, a trip to the Women's College World Series just one step away. Today, in a lab in California, a group of engineers will put down their work for an hour and cheer like proud dads.