UH can learn from rival trailblazers


POSTED: Friday, February 20, 2009

A couple of weeks ago somebody asked me when sailing season starts.

That's a good one, considering how poorly the University of Hawaii sports teams were performing at the time—the men's volleyball squad and both basketball teams were all mired in losing streaks.

The sailors are always excellent, sometimes bringing home national championships. They even beat Navy!

Those of us with long memories recall when the baseball team nearly brought it all home, back in 1980.

The architect of that near miss, Les Murakami, talked the other night about how hard it is to get back to the College World Series, even under the best circumstances. It's been nearly 30 years and it might never happen again for the Rainbows, who start their season tonight.

But hope is what opening day's all about. And UH's veteran players actually have reason to believe anything's possible; the Rainbows seniors were on the same field with the national champions two of the last three seasons.

In 2006, UH's postseason ended at Oregon State. The Beavers went on to win the first of two CWS championships. Last year, it was Fresno State; the Rainbows were ahead of the Bulldogs 3-1 in the WAC tournament before Fresno went ahead and won on its way to the national championship.

It takes more than osmosis. As always, it will come down to pitching. Coach Mike Trapasso says the Rainbows have plenty of arms, but many are unproven. Tonight's starter, Jayson Kramer, was in the bullpen his first three years, and All-WAC preseason pitcher of the year Jared Alexander hasn't convinced Trapasso he's ready to throw in a game.

Trapasso does a lot of things differently than Murakami, but fully subscribes to Murakami's philosophy of playing the best nonconference schedule possible. That's why the Rainbows open with UC Irvine.

So if they don't start out with a sweep this weekend, don't head for the docks looking for spinnakers yet.

» Punahou's new athletic director, Jeaney Garcia, has one of the toughest jobs in the state. How do you improve on what Sports Illustrated calls the best high school athletic department in the country?

At least she has an ace card to play against parents complaining about their kids not starting. The story starts like this, “;Well, back in 1979 there was a certain backup forward on the basketball team ... “;

» I'm pretty sure that if one of UH's fine academic researchers secures a grant, the athletic department doesn't get a chunk of it.

So it's fitting that the athletic department gets all of the Sugar Bowl money to balance its books for 2007-08. There is no such bailout for this year.

» Chris Tormey—former head football coach at Nevada and Idaho—is a huge get for UH as an assistant.

You know he'll work 20-hour days when the Warriors prepare for Nevada. Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault was the AD who fired him in 2003 (coaching the Pack to a late-season win over UH wasn't enough to save his job) and took the position himself.