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.

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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

Big Dog meets Kurt Suzuki during Autograph Session

Kurt Suzuki, Big Dog, UUH baseball coach Joey Estrella

   Oakland A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki spent part of the afternoon at the Prince Kuhio Plaza signing autographs for several hundred  fans both young and old.

   Suzuki just completed his second season with Oakland and was home on Maui when he decided to come to Hilo to meet BJ Penn and do an autograph session at the PKP at the site of the new wall for the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame.

   The line waiting to get a brief glimse of Suzuki stretched for more than 50 yards as fans waited  patiently to get a photo and an a signature.

Kurt Suzuki - photo by Kirk Lee Aeder

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Baseball, Events | , , , , , | 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

Autograph Session with Kurt Suzuki

Oakland A's catcher, Kurt Suzuki

   Major League Baseball player, Kurt Suzuki, will be in Hilo on Friday, Jan. 15, to meet fans at the Prince Kuhio Plaza from 1:30 to 3 p.m. 

   Suzuki, who is from Maui,  will be near the entrance of IHOP and Macy’s Men’s Shop.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Baseball, Events | , , | Leave a comment