Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Hilo’s Fukunaga big hit with Waimea Waves

At the plate, Ryan Fugunaga batting over .400 with the Waimea Waves

At the plate, Ryan Fugunaga batting over .400 with the Waimea Waves

     Ryan Fukunaga, 2009 graduate of Hilo High School, has been invited to play baseball in the Hawaii Collegiate League.

    Fukunaga, a scrappy shortstop, is the only Big Island graduating senior in the six team collegiate developmental league on Oahu that is actively playing in the summer league which season goes from June 12 to July 30.

    Fukunaga began the summer playing in the other Hawaii Collegiate League, the Paradise College Summer League, but during his first three games with the PCSL he pulled a back muscle near his shoulder which affected his throwing.

    “After pulling a muscle I returned home to allow the injury to heal.  I saw a chiropractor and doctor and rested for two weeks before getting the okay to return to play,” Fukunaga said.

    But instead of returning to the PCSL Fukunaga was called by University of Hawaii assistant, Chad Konishi, to play in the Hawaii Collegiate League on the recommendation of Kaha Wong.

    “Coach Kaha has been my hitting instructor since age 10 and he called me during my two weeks rehab and asked if I wanted to play for HCL,” Fukunaga said.

    Kaha Wong is the father of University of Hawaii freshman sensation, Colton Wong, and a longtime fixture in the Big Island baseball scene.

    “The HCL called me and asked me to recommend an infielder and I told them about Ryan,” Wong said.  “Ryan’s a dam good kid with a dam good attitude.  He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he can help other Big Island kids looking to make it into that league.”

    “I was happy to make the switch to the HCL because they play six games per week (compared to two or three games per week in the PCSL) and often times we’ll play seven or eight days in a row.  There is a lot of college players from the mainland and they play at Division I level, which makes this league very competitive,” Fukunaga said.

    Joining the HCL’s Waimea Waves has given Fukunaga the opportunity to play in five games, thus far, going 6 for 14 at the plate with a triple; six RBI’s and has scored two runs as of Monday.

    “I had a good day at the plate today (Monday) going 3 for 4 with two RBI’s and I drove in the go ahead run in the top of the 10th,” an elated Fukunaga said.

    Fukunaga is the only Big Island Interscholastic Federation graduating senior to be invited to play in the collegiate developmental league which is sanctioned by the NCAA and Major League Baseball and showcases some of the elite college baseball players from around the county.

   Former BIIF players that were invited in the past and have played in the HCL are Matt Hassenritter (Hilo/UHH) and John Holley (Pahoa/UHH).

   Fukunaga is trying to hone his skills as he is committed to playing ball for Scottsdale Community College in Arizona in the upcoming 2009-2010 season.

  The “Fighting Artichokes” belong to the ACCAC Conference and their baseball team made it to the NJCAA Division II Baseball World Series last year.

    Fukunaga was recruited by several schools including UHH, Trinity, Occidental, Linfield, George Fox and Redlands, but elected to go to Scottsdale.

   “I decided on Scottsdale because they are a really good team and are in a league that is very competitive and they use wooden bats,” he said.

    “The regional scout for Tampa Bay referred me to Scottsdale and I’m looking forward to playing for them.  Because of my height (5’9”) I’m not sure if they will play me at short or convert me to second,” Fukunaga said.

    “Using wooden bats is much harder to hit than aluminum,” Coach Wong said.  “The Arizona league is a high caliber and just about every major league team has scouts in that area, so Ryan will get good exposure.”

    While playing for the Waimea Waves Fukunaga is optimistic about his batting coming around.  “I’ve been hitting good line drives, but at this level the players are quicker and get to the ball faster,” he said.

    “The league has good college pitchers that throw in the high 80’s low 90’s and this experience will help me adjust to that level.”

   “The pitching is legit.  They throw hard and they have a lot more experience which means they have more pitches,” he said.

    “The HCL has many college players and I think Ryan is one of the youngest playing in the Hawaii Collegiate league right now.  His success will open doors for other young people from the Big Island to play in that league,” Wong said.

   Fukunaga was a first team All-BIIF selection as a shortstop and led the Vikings in five offensive categories: doubles (six), triples (three), home runs (two), RBI’s (26) and runs (26) during the past season.

    “I’m really happy to be playing for the Waves as this is a good bunch of guys,” Fukunaga said.

July 16, 2009 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment