Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

MMA BJ Penn vs. MLB Kurt Suzuki

BJ Penn (left) squares off with Kurt Suzuki - photo by Rick Ogata

   Ultimate Fighting Champion, BJ Penn met Major League Baseball catcher, Kurt Suzuki, in Hilo last week as the two exchanged pleasantries.

   Penn is the UFC World Lightweight Champion and Suzuki is the starting catcher for the Oakland Athletics.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Suzuki who resides on Maui is a big fan of BJ Penn and asked State House Representative Jerry Chang to set up a private meeting.

   Penn met Suzuki in his Hilo gym where the two exchanged autographs.  Later that day Suzuki greeted fans at the Prince Kuhio Plaza for an autograph session before flying back to Maui.

   All the photos in this post were taken by Hilo’s Rick Ogata.

Water training techniques



January 21, 2010 Posted by | Mixed Martial Arts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kurt Suzuki to meet BJ Penn in Hilo

Oakland A's catcher, Kurt Suzuki, will be in Hilo - photo by Kirk Lee Aeder

   Fans in Hilo will be treated to having local boy and now Major League Baseball success story, Kurt Suzuki, make an autograph appearance at the Prince Kuhio Plaza on Friday.

   Suzuki, who is the starting catcher for the Oakland Athletics, will be in Hilo for the day, before flying back to his home on Maui.

   At 26 years of age Suzuki has had a stellar career in baseball and much of his success is based upon his focus and dedication to the sport.

      Suzuki’s illustrious baseball career began on Maui where he was a star catcher for the Baldwin Bears.  Highly recruited out of high school Suzuki passed up a full ride scholarship to play ball at the University of Hawaii to become a walk on at Cal State Fullerton.

    “I always want to go away and compete against the best,” Suzuki said.  “Being a walk on at Cal State is what I felt was the best thing for me to do.”

   It wasn’t easy for Suzuki to gain a full ride scholarship to a Division I NCAA school, but he had always maintained a high work ethic and didn’t allow things to distract him from his ultimate goals.

   “There are a lot of distractions growing up in Hawaii,” he said.  “Beautiful weather, the beach, body boarding, are all things I enjoy doing.  But I prioritized what I wanted to do and made the time to work out on my baseball skills.”

   In his senior year at Cal State Fullerton Suzuki helped lead his team to a win over the Texas Longhorns in the championship game of the College World Series.

   At the end of the ’04 college season Suzuki was selected as an All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball and he won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher.

   Suzuki was chosen by the Oakland Athletic in the second round of the 2004 Major League Baseball draft and made it to the big leagues during the summer 2007.  Since that time Suzuki has become the starting catcher for the A’s and has recorded.272 batting average with 29 home runs and 169 runs batted in.

  Besides his autograph session at the PKP on Friday Suzuki is also coming to Hilo to meet one of his own sports heroes, Ultimate Fighter, BJ Penn.

   “I’m a huge fan of BJ Penn and I’ve always wanted to meet him and to see him working out in his gym,” Suzuki said.  “I never order Pay for View or watch Ultimate Fighting unless BJ is in the ring.  He is a world champion and he’s from Hawaii.”

Jerry Chang and son greet Kurt Suzuki

When Suzuki heard that House Representative Jerry Chang was willing to set up the meeting between the two professional athletes he jumped at the chance to meet Penn.

   “I’ve been watching BJ fight for the past three years and I always thought he was so cool and pretty crazy,” Suzuki said.  “Here is a local guy that has made it all the way to the top of his professional career.  It’s pretty amazing and it’s great to see guys from Hawaii succeed.”

   The Penn/Suzuki meeting will be a private affair, then later in the day Suzuki will make a public appearance to greet his fans. 

   Arrangement with plaza management will have Suzuki signing autographs where the new Big Island Sports Hall of Fame will hang their photo’s, near the entrance to IHOP and Macy’s Men’s, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Friday.

    “I believe it’s important to remember where you come from,” Suzuki said.  “I always want to do things for the community and to get involved anyway I can.  The fans here in Hawaii are the greatest and I appreciate their support.”

   Jerry Chang, chairman of the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame, was instrumental in bringing Suzuki to Hilo and arranging the autograph session.

   During the baseball season Chang went to New York with his son to visit his two daughters that live there and they all went to see the Athletics play the Yankees.

   “Prior to the game I contacted Kurt’s dad, Warren, who used to work for Dole Pineapple on Maui to see if there was a way we could meet Kurt after the game and get some pictures and signatures on some baseballs,” Chang said. 

   Chang learned from Suzuki’s wife that he was a fan of BJ Penn and an offer to arrange the two gifted athletes to meet was made by Chang.

    “When I mentioned to some of my baseball players families that Kurt Suzuki may be coming to Hilo they asked that I should try to do something where they would be given the opportunity to meet him,” Chang said.  “That is why I am arranging the autograph session at the site of the new Wall of Fame for the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame.”

   Suzuki is anxious to meet some of his Hilo fans and is looking forward to Friday’s autograph session.

   “Anytime I get asked to do an autograph session I’m willing to do it,” Suzuki said.  “The Hawaii fans are the best and I’m more than happy to do anything for them.”

   The Big Island Sports Hall of Fame will be making a formal dedication to their new “Wall of Fame” within the next few weeks.

   In the meantime if you’re in the neighborhood of the Prince Kuhio Plaza during “Furlough Friday” stop by and see a local boy that has made it big in professional sports.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Multi Talented Okamura Staying Fit

Marleen Okamura at Keaau Middle
Marleen Okamura at Keaau Middle

     Positive role models, we all need them.  Parents, teachers and coaches all have a lifetime influence on us and what we learn from them we pass on to our own children.

    Marleen Pascua Okamura, a counselor at Keaau Middle School, is a positive role model when it comes to health and fitness.

   Okamura has spent her life involved in a variety of sports activities and looks every bit like an athlete.

   “I played softball and baseball since I was five and I paddled canoe since middle school.  In high school I played volleyball and softball, I also ran track and paddled canoe,” Okamura said. 

   At Leileihua High School Okamura was an all-state athlete in softball and she also reached the all-state level for track while running on the Mules 4×100 relay team.

   Okamura was offered an athletic and academic scholarship to college and was able to play for Pacific University in Oregon and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

    During the offseason at UHH Okamura would cross-train by kickboxing and body boarding, and later went on to study Martial Arts and trained in muy thai kickboxing as well as grappling before giving birth to her son, Sky, in 2002.

   Today, at age 37, Okamura continues to paddle competitively with the Keaukaha Canoe Club at Hilo Bay.  She is also an assistant coach, along with Miri Sumida, for the women’s paddling program.

   “I love all water sports,” she said.  “I know that we have strong and talented women in our club and we definitely have the potential to do extremely well in both the regatta and long distance season.”

   Okamura has also set numerous other goals for 2009, “I plan on training for the Molokai Channel “Na Wahine O Ke Kai” which I have done several times, but would like to place in the top 20 with the Keaukaha.”

    Part of Okamura’s success in sports is due to her belief in a healthy diet.  At the top of her list is water.  “Water, water, water!!! Along with lots of fruits, vegetables, fiber, good protein and good carbs,” she said.

   “It’s important for me to watch what I eat because I want to stay healthy and not have complications later in life.  We have a choice, Prevention vs. Treatment, I would rather prevent things from happening now rather than go through treatment for the rest of my life,” Okamura said.

   “Being healthy and improving my health is a way of life for me,” she said.  “I will be the first to admit that things are not always perfect for me especially when family parties and holidays occupy most of our lifestyle and culture, but it’s about making good choices.”

   Okamura will exercise four days per week and now that she is into the canoe season she includes cardio exercises and agility training along with paddling.

    Besides regular physical exercise and a healthy diet Okamura also has a positive attitude about life and she loves her job.

   “As a counselor I am able to reach out to students, providing an atmosphere of learning in social, emotional and behavioral growth.  Having students spend their recess and lunch with me because they want to and not because they have to is a plus,” she said.

    Okamura is engaged to her college sweetheart, Michael Clarke, and the couple is both into exercise and taking care of their bodies.

   “Mikey (Clarke) was the 1991 Oahu Interscholastic Association player of the year in basket basketball for Mililani High School,” Okamura said.  “He also played football and was a star soccer player while growing up.”

   The couple will go to the golf course driving range to hit balls or to the courts to play tennis in their spare time.

   “Mikey is always telling me that I don’t have to kill the ball at the driving range,” Okamura said.  “I usually smile back at him because I know he is right, but it just feels good to whip something that hard and to see it disappear in to mid air.”

   Okamura is always learning and always open to new adventures in sports.  She is multitalented and has explored and continues to explore a wide variety of activities.

   “Just for fun I’d like to train in the rigors of the Mixed Martial Arts mat, possible with BJ Penn.  Mainly to see the result of MMA training, getting stronger, leaner and experiencing the intense training that men endure,” she said.

   Okamura strives to maintain her weight from college and would like to reach her goal of 10 to 15 percent body fat.  “I love working out and I do my best to stay in shape mainly because I love sports, but also to prepare for some of my future goals in athletics, like continuing to do marathons, O-C1 paddling, and maybe one day the triathlon,” she said.

    For those who are just starting out or thinking about beginning a fitness program Okamura has the following advice:

    “Make the decision first and let your actions follow.  And if you have a friend or friends that are willing to join you, have fun and make crazy bets along the way.  It’s funny to know what motivates people.  Years ago my friend and I made a bet to see who could drop down a few dress sizes.  I went from a size 7 to a size 4 and all for $50 and dinner,” she said.

    “Aim at nothing and you will hit it, so make sure you have short term goals, long term goals and daily goals as well.”

    “Always remember that successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do, so you decide.  Start Today!” Okamura said.

     Keaau Middle students should feel lucky that they have such a positive role model, just one of many, at their school.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Canoe Racing, Health and Fitness, Profiles | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments