Waianae has produced several outstanding baseball players who have gone on to successful careers on the diamond. Senior pitcher Clayton Uyechi is another ballplayer at the leeward school who may follow on the same path.

Trying to uphold
the tradition

Pitcher Clayton Uyechi
is one reason Waianae
is thriving this season

Tradition runs deep in Waianae.

In a community noted for its grit and athletic talent, many future baseball stars have made their way off the Leeward Coast to enjoy widespread talent on the diamond.

Former Seariders Richard Tacgere and Louis Pakele both played at Hawaii-Hilo before playing professionally in the California Angels system. Then came current Waianae coach Kekoa Kaluhiokalani and another former Vulcan, Ken Coyaso, who each enjoyed outstanding collegiate careers of their own.

Seariders assistant coach Walt Grilho starred at Hawaii Pacific, while fellow alum Kaulana Kuhaulua opens his fifth season in the Minnesota Twins organization this year.

The Seariders baseball squad is reminded of that tradition every day it takes to the practice field, with Kaluhiokalani providing a link to past glory.

But ask Kaluhiokalani about true toughness, and he'll defer to his 5-foot-9, 160-pound ace pitcher, Clayton Uyechi.

On Feb. 8, 2002, Uyechi's toughness was tested severely.

"Clayton and his brother had just gotten of the bus," Kaluhiokalani said. "Calvin saw the car in time, but by the time he went to save Clay it was too late. He got smashed pretty good. It happened right in Maili."

The Uyechi brothers had just gotten off of their school bus that day, and began to make their way across Farrington Highway in a crosswalk, when a car sped through a red light. The car crashed into Clayton, then just a freshman at Waianae.

When Clayton Uyechi isn't pitching, he plays shortstop for the Seariders, who are off to a 4-1 start in OIA West baseball.

"I don't remember too much," Uyechi said. "I know we were supposed to start practice on the field the next Monday. I just woke up on the side of the road. I was kind of out of it, so I really don't remember much about the actual accident. Later on, I found out that I broke my shoulder, tore my ACL, and broke my jaw in three places."

After rehabilitation and three months of living on soup and milk shakes due to a wired jaw, Uyechi actually battled back to pitch in the junior varsity playoffs despite losing 25 pounds.

"It took a lot of rehab and patience for Clayton to get back on the field," Kaluhiokalani said. "His work ethic and toughness allowed him to come back faster than I think most boys his age."

In fact, Uyechi played both his sophomore and junior seasons without the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Uyechi incurred another setback when he tore his medial collateral ligament as his knee buckled running through first base in a game against Mililani.

"I rested for about a week and tried to come back," Uyechi said. "I didn't know I tore it and I re-injured it in batting practice that week. I guess I had been playing without an ACL for two years. The doctors removed a pin that was in place of my ACL last May."

Still, Uyechi played well enough to receive honorable mention All-OIA West honors both seasons.

This season, Uyechi finally feels like himself, and people are taking notice. With a low-to-mid 80 mph fastball and a biting 12-6 curveball, Uyechi has been a big reason for Waianae's 4-1 record at the mid-point of the OIA season.

"I guess you could say I feel normal for the first time in a long time," Uyechi said. "I'm glad I'm finally healthy."

Waianae's starter at shortstop, when he's not toeing the rubber, Clayton is batting near the .400 mark for a hot-hitting Seariders club and has been outstanding on the mound.

In a season-opening loss at Mililani, Uyechi posted a complete game, allowing just one earned run in the defeat. In Waianae's win against Campbell, Uyechi earned the complete-game win, striking out 10 in a showdown against Sabers ace Tristan Bailey.

"His talent, toughness and eagerness to compete put him in that category with some of the best players to come out of Waianae," Kaluhiokalani said.

"He and his brother are not very big kids. Their dad (John) did a lot for them. They studied the game and he taught them fundamentals and technique, so when they came out they were already solid players."

Calvin was an All-State third baseman and the 2003 league Player of the Year for Waianae two years ago.

"Clayton can definitely compete at a D-I school," Kaluhiokalani said. "He's got a good fastball and he's only 160 pounds, if he's lucky. If he fills in and gains a few pounds, who knows what could happen. He's also got that curveball and he's got a pretty good power changeup, too."

After a strong showing for Team Hawaii in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic, in which he earned a win and a save in two appearances against some of the top prep talent in the West region, Uyechi has received interest from the University of Hawaii and Hawaii-Hilo, as well as a couple of West Coast schools.

Uyechi credits Kaluhiokalani and his teammates with his development.

"He's (Kaluhiokalani) a good coach," Uyechi said. "He teaches us a lot more than just baseball. He teaches us about life and standing up for our actions and being responsible.

"It feels great this season, but I couldn't do it without my teammates. We've been together since young time, we grew up playing together, and we have really jelled on the field. We've got some good players and a lot of them are only juniors."

While the second half of the league schedule will be challenging, with games against Aiea, Leilehua and Pearl City looming, Uyechi knows that he has already proven his mettle.

"Coming back after the accident has been a great achievement in my life," Uyechi said. "Going through all of that has proven to me that I can get through anything if I work hard enough. Playing my last year has been great so far. I just wanna continue playing."

With tough and talented Uyechi leading on the mound and in the field, a playoff spot may not yet be certain, but it is assured that baseball in Waianae is alive and well.

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