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Monday, December 28, 2009

Na Ikaika Koa Maui

The new GBL team in Maui has its name, and it's a mouthful. The Na Ikaika Koa Maui, roughly translated as the Warriors of Maui, will be managed by former RoadRunners manager Cory Snyder with former RoadRunners GM Rick Berry leading the front office. In fact, they have signed their first player as well. Three-year GBL veteran Mark Okano, known around the league as the Flyin' Hawaiian, was the first signee of Na Ikaika Koa Maui. Okano spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the OC Flyers. He began the 2009 campaign with the Calgary Vipers before making his way to the Edmonton Capitals late in the season.

Here's a little more about where the Islanders are heading, courtesy of the Maui News and GBL:

Valley Isle’s Golden Baseball League team to be called Na Ikaika Koa Maui

WAILUKU --- The name has been revealed, the logo is under construction, the team colors have a Rasta feel, the first player has signed, the manager has spoken, the front-office folks have shaken hands with the politicians.

Now, about five months remain before Na Ikaika Koa Maui will throw the first pitch of their existence in the independent Golden Baseball League.

At a news conference Tuesday morning in the Mayor's Conference Room, the team name was unveiled --- it essentially translates to ''the strong warriors of Maui'' --- Mark Okano, a 30-year-old veteran of the league, signed and officially became the first player on the roster and manager Cory Snyder, a nine-year major leaguer and former Olympian, talked about the future.

Among the names Snyder tossed around as possibilities to join Okano, an Aiea High School graduate, were Shane Komine, the former Nebraska standout who once made up the majors' first all-Hawaii-born battery with Oakland Athletics catcher and Baldwin graduate Kurt Suzuki; Keoni DeRenne, a former University of Arizona infielder from Iolani; Onan Masaoka, a former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher signed by Maui scout Iron Maehara in the third round of the 1995 draft out of Waiakea who last played in the majors in 2001; and infielder Milton Loo, a Molokai graduate and former ninth-round draftee of the Cincinnati Reds.

''I am talking to those guys,'' Snyder said. ''I hope to get all of them --- you want to see where they're at. I know Keoni is trying to get on with some other teams, Shane is trying to get on with some other teams. If that doesn't work out, I told them, 'Have your agent call me and we will work something out.' ''

Loo was a junior college All-American shortstop for a national runner-up team at Yavapai (Ariz.) Community College.

''Milton Loo is definitely on the list,'' Snyder said. ''We will see how it goes the next month or so, what the possibilities are to get those guys. Otherwise, we will open it up to all the local guys in spring training and see what happens. ... I will get as many local guys as I can. I know the talent we need to compete in the league. I know kind of where we are at and I will watch them in spring training. I will be able to say, 'That guy will work and that guy may not.' It is finding guys who are ready for this level.''

Waipahu graduate Jerome Williams --- a former major leaguer with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals --- has pitched in the GBL before. Snyder said he has not talked to Williams or his agent, but would inquire about his status.

Snyder said the league will offer eye-opening talent to Maui baseball fans.

''It is probably between a Double-A and a Triple-A level,'' he said. ''In Triple-A you have got the guys who have been up and down, so they have some big league time, they have some Triple-A time. You are going to have your

A-ball guys, you are going to have your rookies. It is going to be a Double-A to Triple-A league. Every team is going to have two to three former big leaguers on the roster. The competition is very good and people will be surprised to see what kind of talent we have.''

The team colors will be black, green, yellow and red and the logo is being worked on by team president Rick Berry. Michael Cummings, the CEO of XnE Corp., which owns the team, said he envisions the word ''Ikaika'' large across the breast of the uniforms with a smaller ''Koa'' below that.

Berry said he wants a logo that incorporates a Hawaiian warrior. Berry designed the logo for the St. George (Utah) Roadrunners franchise --- a bird running with a bat in its beak chasing a baseball.

XnE has owned the Utah team for three seasons, but is in the process of selling to concentrate on Maui and Hawaii. XnE owns the GBL rights to the state, and has said its goal is to have four teams in Hawaii in the future.

Snyder managed the Roadrunners the last three seasons.

''Of course, there is a little sadness with that,'' Snyder said. ''That is where I came back to start pro ball (managing) was St. George, so we have friends, we have a lot of people who are still there, but it is a new experience. I have been there for three years, we have done it, we have made the playoffs. We have kind of set the groundwork there, but me and Rick kind of felt, 'You know what? We want to go to Maui (and) we want to win the first year.' ... I think it is a good move for me and the league and career-wise, too.''

Berry said he has been working on this project for three years and is fully aware of the challenges that await.

''We just feel this is the right time,'' he said. ''I love Maui and I love the opportunity. ... In talking to a lot of people, it was just the excitement. You have to have a passion for it. There's facilities and all that that comes into play, but in talking to the community, just going into a store and saying, 'Hey, what do you think of this?' The excitement from the people and the passion is there. They say, 'You know what? Maui is a baseball town.' ''

The travel challenges certainly cannot be ignored. Berry said that home teams are responsible for supplying housing for visiting teams, and that he is looking for local hotel sponsors and an airline sponsor.

''We need both,'' he said. ''I need hotel partners. In St. George, we had about five or six different hotel partners. We traded rooms for advertising, promotions and tickets. ... Those hotel partners will not just be trading out rooms, but also getting revenue from the booster clubs and traveling (fans) from the visiting teams.''

The league season runs from May to August. A schedule is to be released next month.

''We are a little behind where we want to be right now, but we know what we need to get done and that really helps,'' Berry said. ''There is no question that the last three years in St. George is a definite plus for me to know what we need to get done and accomplished here.''

Berry said ticket prices will range from $5 to $14.

Cummings said a break-even attendance figure is about 1,200 per game.

Okano was a four-year player at New Mexico, and wore a 2008 GBL championship ring from the Orange County (Calif.) Flyers on Tuesday.

''I'm excited,'' he said. ''I mean, I'm a 30-year-old trying to get picked up. Like (Snyder) said, if you have a uniform on, you never know. This is my living dream, playing at home in front of the home crowd. It is very cool to be the first signee. Great name and this is Hawaii, you know, representing my home state. ... We want to bring one of these (championship rings) here.''

1 comment:

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