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Wong elevates Hawaii
to national prominence
By Allen Kha
second baseman and preseason All-American Kolten Wong (left) may
have been drafted in the 16th round of the 2008 Major League
Draft by the Minnesota Twins and developed into one of the best
hitters in college baseball, but he still was much of a hidden
gem nationally for the past two seasons.
Compared to the likes of Rice’s Anthony Rendon
and other national hitting stars, Wong’s accomplishments in his
college career – a .350 career batting average, 18 home runs, 92
RBI and 30 stolen bases among many other feats – have gone
somewhat unnoticed outside the Aloha State and the
That is, until he earned MVP honors for last
summer’s Cape Cod league after hitting .341 with 22 stolen
bases. His average was third-best in the Cape, and he finished
second with a .426 on-base average and fourth in slugging at
“Being able to prove myself in Cape Cod was
tremendous for my confidence, knowing that I can play against
some of the best pitchers in college baseball, that level of
competition and the wood bat,” Wong said.
“I haven’t really seen Rendon play, but I know he
is really good. At the same time, I know I can definitely be one
of the best college baseball players in the nation. It’s a
personal challenge, something that drives me to improve every
Wong’s coach Mike Trapasso hasn’t seen Rendon
play either but knows that his team’s spark plug deserves to be
known as one of the best players in college baseball.
“Kolten has a tremendous work ethic and is
looking to become better,” Trapasso said. “He’s a proven hitter.
Being the MVP of the Cape Cod league is a tremendous honor. He
can hit, he can get on base, and that’s what is propelling him
to start this season with national recognition.
“Seeing the teams we play on a yearly basis,
Kolten can hit against anyone that we play. He’s a special
talent and a great person to watch. He brings so much energy and
is a delight to play and coach.”
Wong, the national notoriety is a testament to his hard work and
his career coming full circle. After ending last year with a
promising showing in the Tempe Regional, where his Rainbows beat
San Diego twice to advance to the final game of the regional, he
wants to focus on what his team can accomplish this season.
“Outside of being drafted, I didn’t really get
any [college] offers other than Hawaii coming out of high
school,” Wong said. “But at the same time, Hawaii was really my
only college choice, being from here and playing at home.
“There are no professional sports teams here, so
[in Hawaii] it’s all about our sports teams and everyone follows
us. We have great facilities and support and playing at home is
a great privilege.”
Wong and Trapasso know the Rainbows face
challenges in their out-of-conference and WAC schedules. Hawaii
opens the season with home series against No. 10 Oregon and No.
7 Texas and faces challenges from conference contenders Fresno
State, Nevada, and a New Mexico State team that Trapasso
described as “tremendously good on offense.”
“Even though we play in a conference that’s not a
high-RPI conference, the WAC is still really competitive, and we
have to play well to be competitive,” Trapasso said. “We also
play the Oregon’s and Texas’s of the world to boost our
and some Big West teams like Cal State Fullerton.
“I relish these games particularly because I’ll
get to coach opposite of some of the best coaches in college
baseball, in [George] Horton and [Augie] Garrido. It’s going to
be a great experience for both me and my team and hopefully
we’ll start our season well.”
Wong, meanwhile, savors the opportunity to face
the Ducks’ daunted pitching staff and the Longhorns’ Taylor
“I relish challenges,” Wong said. “I want to play
against the best players in the nation, and I work hard so I can
become the best player I can be.
“I’m focusing one game at a time, because you
can’t look into the hype without hurting your team. I’m focused
on helping our team accomplish its goals.”
(photos courtesy of Hawaii Athletics)