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Dave Reardon

Evening QB

By Dave Reardon

Monday, November 27, 2000

Lenn’s limbo
may prevent
raising of bar

LENN Sakata survived 11 seasons as a major-league baseball player not because of physical talent, but because he always knew what to do.

Which makes his current situation more than a bit ironic.

The deadline to apply for the University of Hawaii baseball team's head coaching position is Thursday, and Sakata's name is not among the applicants -- not yet, anyway.

He doesn't know whether he wants to officially be considered or not.

"I'm probably about 50-50 right now," he said last night. "It could be different when I wake up in the morning."

Sakata, whose name has been bandied about for the job before it even opened, expressed interest, publicly and in a meeting with UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida, last summer.

Sakata is employed by the San Francisco Giants as a minor league manager, so he felt he left the meeting with Yoshida with the understanding that UH would contact him if the school was interested in him.

That never happened, leaving Sakata in what he says is an awkward spot. He is hesitant to apply for a job for which he has not received indication he would be a top contender, because it might upset his current employer.

"I'm caught in limbo and could get myself in hot water," Sakata said. "It could become a legal issue with the Giants, to leave at such a late date."

He's already received a contract from the Giants for the coming season. It awaits his signature and to be dropped in the mailbox.

So far, something has kept him from completing that simple task. While most baseball coaches would prefer to work in the pros rather than the college ranks, Sakata isn't quite sure.

"The part that's tugging at me is that I care about the (Hawaii) kids coming up. That's probably the biggest selling point (of the UH job)," the Kalani High graduate said.

"There's a lot more local talent than there was 20 years ago. These kids are hungry to learn."

One of them is Bronson Sardinha, an all-stater from Kamehameha and one of the two top prospects in the class of 2001. He recently committed to Pepperdine.

But Sardinha said he would have strongly considered UH if Sakata was in place as the Rainbows' coach.

"He's a great teacher who's been there at the highest level," said Sardinha, who worked out with the former big league infielder a couple summers ago.

IF Sakata does apply for the UH job, a hurdle to be overcome is his lack of a college degree. He left Gonzaga early when drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sakata, 46, could conceivably receive "life experience" equivalency for a quarter century of professional baseball playing and coaching.

UH, however, plans to use a selection committee to help choose the new coach. This committee will undoubtedly have some academic types on it who might not like the idea of hiring a coach without a degree -- and it might not matter that Tom House, one of Sakata's top choices for a possible assistant coach, has more sheepskins than Little Bo Peep.

Of course, this is all moot if Sakata doesn't apply for the job.

"Not hearing from them, I took it to mean they're not interested," he said. "I never knew if I was in the ballpark or not."

There are many who believe he belongs in the ballpark -- that ballpark being Rainbow Stadium.

But an overly long, drawn out selection process might have eliminated one of the best candidates.

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii from 1977 to 1998,
moved to the the Gainesville Sun, then returned to
the Star-Bulletin in Jan. 2000.
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