Avila finds
a home at UH

Despite distance, the Venezuelan
feels comfortable at UH

Luis Avila should not be at all bothered with long Western Athletic Conference road trips with the Hawaii Rainbows.

Pacific at Hawaii

When: Today and tomorrow, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 5:35 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Les Murakami Stadium
TV: Saturday and Sunday live, KFVE, Channel 5
Radio: All four games live, KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $6 orange and blue sections; $5 red section; $4 seniors, and $3 students age 4-18, UH students in the red section.
Parking: $3

When he travels home, he starts with a flight to Los Angeles or Chicago, then takes a direct flight to Caracas, Venezuela. Avila made that trip in December to reapply for a student visa so he could enroll at UH and join the baseball team.

However, at this time last year, the 6-foot-4 first baseman was not on the Hawaii coaches' radar screen. He was playing junior college ball for Eastern Oklahoma State.

The summer before (2003), Avila played in the Virginia League, but was looking for a different venue last summer.

"I asked a friend (Derek Tate, a player for the San Francisco Dons), if he knew about another place and he suggested Hawaii or Alaska. Then I got a phone call asking me if I wanted to come play here," said Avila. "It sounded like a good idea."

Avila spent last summer with the Hawaii Island Movers.

"I had a lot of fun, enjoyed playing baseball here, liked the environment and the people around here," said Avila.

Although the UH coaches are not involved with the Movers due to NCAA regulations, they do watch a game now and then. Suddenly there was a big blip on their radar screen.

"I think within a period of 10 days I had calls from (UH assistants) Keith Komeiji, Chad Konishi and Brian Green about Luis. They told me he came into the office and told them he liked it here," said UH coach Mike Trapasso, who was with the USA team in Durham, N.C.

"I called Luis and told him I wouldn't be back in Hawaii until Aug. 1 and not to do anything until I got back."

Avila already was in a holding pattern despite the heavy recruiting efforts of Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma State.

"Coach Komeiji asked me if anyone offered me a scholarship. I had not committed. They were all waiting for the draft to see who they might lose and how much money they would have left," said Avila.

"I liked the plans UH had for me and money-wise, it was more accessible for me to come here. As an international student, it was too late to enroll for the fall semester, so I had to go home and straighten out my visa."

Avila majored in computer science with a math option at Eastern Oklahoma, where he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He will major in management information systems at UH.

Avila graduated from U.E. Paez in Caracas in 1998, then went to work in a clothing store. Several years later a friend suggested he try out with the Oklahoma Sooners, but OU didn't have enough scholarship money so he ended up at Eastern Oklahoma on a full scholarship.

"I didn't hang too much with Latin people so I could improve my English. I read a lot. When I came to this country I knew the basic stuff, like the colors and how to order a hamburger," said Avila.

He played two seasons for the Mountaineers and was an honorable mention All-America selection.

Despite not playing since last spring, Avila appeared in the four Alabama games and was 5-for-12 with three doubles.

"I really struggled early in the spring. Coach Komeiji and (Travis) Jensen worked me hard in the cage trying to find my rhythm," said Avila. "If you miss the first two at-bats, you have to realize the last at-bat may be the most important. I never feel disappointed and I learn from my mistakes."

He doubled in the game-winning run in the 3-2 win Saturday night and doubled in the first run in the eighth-inning rally that fell short in Sunday's 3-2 loss.

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