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StarBulletin.com

Wong's dad plays key role in power surge


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POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009

Kolten Wong did what most college freshmen do when they're struggling.

“;Hi, Dad,”; he said into the phone. “;I need some help.”;

Now, for Kolten last week, it had nothing to do with that nasty World Civ midterm, an overdue phone bill or missing the home cooking of the Big Island.

Kolten needed an adjustment or two. And his dad, Kaha, is no chiropractor. He's a hitting coach.

It had appeared last week that the Star-Bulletin's High School Co-Position Player of the Year of last season had adjusted to college pitching, and was producing consistently near the top of the Hawaii batting order.

But a rough night Thursday in the series-opening game against Loyola Marymount made Kolten feel like he'd gone back to whatever you call the place before square one.

“;He said he was frustrated because he'd never hit below .400, anywhere,”; Kaha said. “;I told him this isn't the Big Island where he could go in the batter's box, read the newspaper and still swing in time. This is different—the ball's on top of you if you're not ready.”;

Then, like all dads do, Kaha fixed his kid's broken swing.

On Friday, it was father, son, bat and a bucket of baseballs at Kalani High School.

Yesterday, it was three home runs for Kolten, including a three-run shot in the eighth that proved decisive to UH's seventh win in a row.

This was done at pitcher-friendly Les Murakami Stadium, and on a rare day when the winds did not favor the left-handed hitters.

Since father-and-son day at Kalani, molten Kolten is 6-for-11.

“;It had to do with his approach,”; Kaha said. “;He was trying to pull everything and he wasn't using half the field.”;

Going the other way for a hit to left on Friday opened up more possibilities for Kolten during the weekend. When a hitter establishes early in a series that he's willing to go with the pitch, it gives him more leverage in the war against the opposing pitching staff.

“;Make sure you give (Rainbows hitting coach) Keith Komeiji some props; he's helped Kolten with some things, too,”; Kaha said. “;And that was a good move by Coach (Mike) Trapasso to put him second instead of first. It helps him to see some pitches before he gets up there.”;

Kaha Wong has a lot of credibility.

He played two years at USC and is one of the state's best youth coaches.

He doesn't want to overstep or meddle, but at this point, who better to work with Kolten when he needs an adjustment?

You certainly can't argue with the results, for Kolten individually and the Rainbows as a team.

It's simple—without his efforts yesterday, the UH winning streak is over.

Kolten Wong is the most important player to the future of the UH baseball program. If he has a successful and happy three seasons at Manoa, it could signal the beginning of a flood of local talent remaining in the state to play for the Rainbows instead of going pro or to other schools.

And fans have been waiting for an exciting homegrown product to rally behind. It's too bad the 'Bows hit the road this week. You know the turnstiles would be clicking tonight if there were a game, fans young and old paying to see the hottest team in town and its new star.

There are other team leaders with more experience, but this could be looked back upon as the day it became Kolten Wong's team. It's like the time Colt Brennan completed a zillion passes in a row as a sophomore in a preseason 2-minute drill. Nobody had to say anything. Everybody knew.

The best UH baseball teams of decades past always had a good combination of mainland talent like Mark McWherter and local stars like Mario Monico.

What do they have in common with UH's precocious freshman?

They all hit three homers in a game.

Kolten Wong did it in his 16th outing as a collegian.