RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
When he graduates from Mililani, Dustin Antolin will be off to play for Central Arizona College.
Mililani’s main man
Trojans right-hander Antolin is among the state's top prospects
SOMETIMES, when the sky is clear and the crashing waves of the North Shore beckon, father and son are one.
The ocean is where danger lies. It is also where freedom reigns.
Lawrence Antolin began to take his oldest child, Dustin, to the beach for surfing when he was 12.
"That's our father-son bonding time," the son said. "Pipeline. Aliis. All over. That's what we both like doing other than baseball."
But there's a reason why Dustin stuck with his bodyboard, while Lawrence still uses a surfboard.
"I didn't want him to fall in love with surfing instead of baseball," said dad, who had Dustin in cleats and baseball jerseys before he was in kindergarten.
Dustin did more than fall in love with the game. Now a senior at Mililani High School, he clocks 89 to 91 mph on his fastball regularly. During a summer tournament in Arizona last year, the speed gun read 94 mph. That's why, in the eyes of many scouts, Dustin Antolin may be the premier Hawaii prospect in the Class of 2008.
"I asked him yesterday if he wanted to go surf," Lawrence said. "He said he had some things to do."
The beach, at least for now, can wait.
DUSTIN WAS 4 when he first began playing baseball. That's also when he met Kylen Cadiam, who became one of his best friends for life. In the COYBL, they played against and with each other on all-star teams through tee-ball, Pinto, Mustang and Pony age groups. It was the Mustang (9-10) all-star team that made it to the World Series in Irving, Texas.
By then, Dustin was a pitcher and outfielder, the same positions he plays today. Kylen was a lock at first base. Dustin, though, kept growing and growing. His fastball kept popping the catcher's mitt a little harder every year.
He keeps that fastball consistently at knee level, and mixes in a curve, changeup and slider. Mililani has benefited. Though Antolin is their ace, the Trojans are like every good team in the rugged OIA Red West, struggling from time to time. Errors doomed Mililani over the weekend, when Antolin lost to Aiea and Na Alii ace Randy Castillo.
The Trojans are 2-3 in the Red West after going 17-3 in nonconference games.
"We just gotta come back hard at practice and get ready," Antolin said. "It bothers me sometimes, but I just take it and work harder. Nothing is given to you."
Coolidge, Ariz., population 8,154, is also home to Central Arizona Collegee. Antolin plans to flourish there at the junior college level next season.
"It's in the middle of nowhere, so you can focus on baseball. There's one gas station and that's all," he said.
Cadiam smirks at the idea of his pal living in the desert. "I thought, 'That sucks,' " he said. "But it makes sense."
WITH HIS HANDS, Antolin is a fish in water. He sculpts in ceramics class and gets instant pleasure.
"I'm a hands-on guy. I made a piggy bank in that class. Whenever I get a $10 bill, I put in the piggy bank," he said.
If he comes across as laid back and always ready for a laugh, it's no surprise. Antolin and Cadiam don't think "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" is a monument to great TV -- they know it.
"I'm Will and Kylen is Carlton," Antolin insisted.
Mililani coach Dean Sato gives Antolin and Cadiam space because as two of the team's three seniors, they have led well.
"If there's a big loss or a crucial situation, Dustin's really loose. It's 'Coach, what's for dinner,' or 'How's the waves today?' Most kids of his caliber can be pretty tense, but he's laughing and saying, 'What's up, coach?' It's always fun being around him," Sato said.
Antolin still cracks up thinking about a game last year.
"The funniest thing I ever saw was when we played Pearl City. Adam Schroeder scored a run and Coach was so hyped up, he yelled, 'Yeah Adam,' and tapped him on the head so hard, he got dizzy," he said.
Antolin doesn't think he'll lose his relaxed approach any time soon. The focus is there.
"He's matured in the last year. He's stayed away from the girls, pretty much has his head set in what he wants to do," Lawrence said. "If the opportunity's there, he's gonna jump on it. That's the big difference I've seen in the last year. The maturity."
In other words, the son sees the larger picture now.
"Sometimes it was like nagging when I was little. It was baseball every day and I'd want to be a kid and just play with my friends," Dustin said. "But once it got to my last years of Pony, I buckled down."
In his day, Lawrence didn't have the grades to play at Mililani. His drive to see Dustin succeed might have been overwhelming if not for some quality down time.
"Taking him to the field, I don't think that was bonding to him. Going to the beach, there was no more baseball, just the freedom to be out there," dad said. "That's the time when we really bonded, started to build that relationship. Most of us dads think taking them to the field is building that relationship, but from the kids' point of view, it's driving them away."
It was after high school when Lawrence met Nadine in church. She was 19 and he was in college. He was from Mililani and she was from Waimanalo.
From there, Nadine became an administrative assistant, while Lawrence became a social worker. Their best work is at home, where Dustin is a bridge of sorts between the old and new. Grandma Nettie cooks up Dustin's favorite meal, eggs, on request. Britney, a junior, is a cheerleader, and 11-year-old Danielle is a rising standout in softball.
"She listens more to my dad. I try to tell her stuff, but she doesn't listen," Dustin said.
Britney and Dustin do share the same jersey number, however: No. 11.
SOON, THERE won't be a big brother in the house.
"If the blessing is there for him to get drafted, we'll take that blessing," Lawrence said. "For me, you're young once, you follow your dreams when you're young. I'm not putting school down, but school's always gonna be there."
It's all about the future now, but Dustin plans to remember the words of his father and mother, even if there's not much surf on the continent.
"My parents just tell me to be humble," Dustin said. "And serve the Lord."