Innings with Mike Trapasso
By Andrew Finley
Hawaii gets the college
baseball season under way against Hawaii-Hilo tonight at Les
Murakami Stadium in Honolulu. Coach Mike Trapasso, beginning his
seventh season as the head man for the Rainbows, took some time
to chat about his squad and coaching in Hawaii. Trapasso led
Hawaii to the NCAA Regionals in 2006 for the first time since
1993. He was named one of CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s three
finalists for national coach of the year for the Rainbows’
As a player, the
left-hander led Oklahoma State to the College World Series in
1984 and 85. He also pitched and coached for Team USA. Prior to
taking over at Hawaii, Trapasso spent seven seasons as an
assistant at Georgia Tech.
First Inning – What are
some of the unique challenges and advantages of recruiting for a
place like Hawaii?
We like to say that Hawaii
offers a unique college experience that cannot be offered at
mainland schools. The beauty, the beaches, the culture...the
fact that we have over 1 million people on Oahu, with no
professional sports teams, means the entire community focuses on
and supports the University’s sports teams. That’s why we get
great attendance for all of our nonrevenue sports. It also means
intense media coverage....virtually all of our home games are
televised statewide. Two
newspapers and two
sports-talk radio stations mean the University is always front
The challenge, however, is
getting recruits to come this far. Even the West Coast students
are 2,500 miles from home...and that presents a huge challenge
for us when recruiting. We tell kids that if you can get over
the distance hump...it’s a great place that is very unique. The
fact is though, that that’s a big hump to get over for most
Second Inning – What’s
tougher: getting a local kid to stay close to home, or getting a
kid from the mainland to come to Hawaii?
Getting the mainland kids
to come this far is the biggest challenge. There is definitely
talent here in Hawaii...but the state’s population is only about
1.5 million. There are local kids definitely who want to
stay home and local kids that want to experience the
mainland....much like other places.
Third Inning – What are
some of the challenges in scheduling and travel that go with
being so far from most of your opponents?
Scheduling is actually not
that difficult for us.....mostly because other teams want to
come out to Hawaii to play. We have other issues on the horizon,
with the condensed schedule, that may make it more difficult in
the future, but right now I’m finished with 2009 and have only
three open weekends for 2010.
Travel, on the
other hand, is a different story. Our shortest trip is
still a five-hour flight. So that makes travel fairly unique for
our program. But, as they say: That’s the price you pay to live
Fourth Inning – Talk
about taking the Rainbows to their first NCAA tourney in 13
years in 2006. What have been some of the keys to your success
in building your program into one that can contend for a NCAA
bid each year?
2006 was a fun year in
that we were able to say the entire team was recruited by our
staff, and we were able to get Hawaii back to the postseason for
the first time since the early 1990s. It was a culmination of a
lot of work by our staff, and hopefully something we can build
upon to enable us to continue having successful years on a
regular basis. We have to continue to recruit talented student
athletes that aren’t afraid of experiencing a unique culture
in a unique place.
Fifth Inning – What is
the relative strength of the WAC compared to past years? To
This year, I think our
league will be as strong as it’s been the last few years. Fresno
State returns most of their players and is a legit Top 25 team.
Louisiana Tech probably has the most overall talent. Nevada has
a very good offensive club.....and San Jose State has, in my
opinion, one of college baseball’s best coaches in Sam Piraro.
– You were strong on the road in 2006 before struggling last
year. In addition to better road play, what are some of the keys
for your squad this season?
We were 16-5 on the road
in ‘06, which I thought was quite an accomplishment when you
consider we travel at least twice as many miles as any other
team in the country. Playing well on the road for us is like any
other program...you have to focus on execution and playing the
game the way you practice. It’s about toughness.
This year, we are a young
team. We have 12 freshmen...15 new players overall. What makes
things interesting is that almost all of our freshmen are
pitchers. We have talent on the staff, but it’s young,
inexperienced talent. How they react to adversity and grow
through the course of the year will determine how much success
we will have.
Inning Stretch – Your stadium was refurbished over the
off-season. Isn’t your campus attractive enough already?
Our stadium did get a bit
of a facelift. We got rid of the old Astro-turf and replaced it
with Domo-turf (similar to Fieldturf). It looks great and has
been very well received by our players. After the season, we
will be replacing all of our seats in the stadium with green
chair-back seats. The total $2 million refurbishment is the
first phase in what will be an overall renovation to take place
over the next few years. Les Murakami Stadium is one of the best
venues in college baseball. It was showing some age and needed
some help...which we’ve started to do.
Eighth Inning – What do
you remember about pitching in the College World Series? Team
Playing at Oklahoma State in the mid-80s was a great
experience...one that was the reason I went into coaching. And
both playing and coaching on the USA Team was as great an honor
as any player or coach could receive...and were experiences I
will always cherish.
Ninth Inning –
Has the recent success
of the football team helped you with baseball recruiting? Any
chance that Colt Brennan will toe the rubber for the
Rainbows this spring?
I think anytime your
football team is doing well it helps with all other sports. We
had several games on ESPN this year and they were all three-hour
advertisements for the state of Hawaii.
As far as Colt pitching for us this year........I wish!