MARKUS Owens, the former University of Hawaii slugger, wistfully drools at those shorter fences at Rainbow Stadium the way an old shooter does the 3-point line.
Step right up, and
theres a ballgame, too
But the only shot he gets at "Baby Blue" is in the alumni game -- Owens is now the school's sports information department person in charge of baseball.
He suggested I write something nice about the things that are being done to try to get more people into Rainbow Stadium for UH games this season.
I didn't promise. But Markus is a nice guy, so I'll try:
Well, it's nothing to threaten the legacy of Bill Veeck. But you've got to admire the effort.
The collection of promotional gimmicks (sorry, "the campaign") is, for lack of a better word, cute.
Of course, there's supposed to be even less cute in baseball than crying.
But how else can you describe between-innings water balloon tosses and races around the bases between little kids?
For the over-15 demographic, there's a dirtiest vehicle contest, sponsored by a car wash.
It's too bad Nate Jackson's not playing baseball again this year. The "Guys-With-Pony-tails-Get-In-Free" night would have been fun.
It's kind of sad that schtick -- more than hard-hitting sticks -- is being used to sell the team now.
But hey, that's baseball these days, no matter where you go. The game by itself is not quite the perfect match for Generation XFL, so it has to be wrapped in carnival-like trappings.
It seems to be working at UH, at least a little. The crowds this past weekend were right around 1,000 -- nothing like the glory days, but better than last year.
As any promotions person will tell you, the goal is to get the consumer to try the product, and then, hopefully, the product stands on its own as one of quality.
SO what about the product? What about the University of Hawaii baseball team?
If you bring the keiki once on a Sunday for the total experience, will you, Mr. or Ms. Baseball Connoisseur, be back for more, because of the actual product?
If it happened to be the Sunday that was yesterday, my guess is yes, you'll be back.
Hawaii's 4-0 victory over Louisville was an example of solid if not scintillating baseball by the home team.
Sophomore starter Chad Giannetti showed a lot of mound poise in getting out of a no-outs, bases-loaded jam.
And Chad Boudon's name just sounds like a fancy mustard. He's a freshman who has hit three home runs already, which is three more over the fence than all of last year's Rainbows did at home.
Oh, and those questioning Danny Kimura's productivity might want to take a look at the on-base percentage column once in a while instead of being infatuated by batting average.
And how about Carl Furutani? The acting head coach has handled taking over for legendary Les Murakami the only way he can -- his own.
Whenever a pitcher's arm got hurt over the past 22 years -- which was often -- Furutani, fairly or unfairly, shouldered the blame.
Whatever the past, he's got the Rainbows hustling and running and believing in each other today.
It's good to see him enjoying some success in a tough situation.
Sure, UH is only 5-4. Nobody's saying this team is going to the College World Series.
But I'll be back, maybe even on my day off. I'll take a pass on the balloon toss, though.
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.
E-mail Dave: email@example.com