For decades, Waiakea has had teachers who doubled as baseball coaches on the diamond, focusing on more than just the game’s fundamentals.
Rory Inouye is the latest coach whose biggest contribution was not winning BIIF titles but leaving an imprint on his Warriors.
“Coach Rory has definitely taught the team life lessons,” pitcher David Nakamura said. “He realizes there is more to life than just baseball. He wanted the best for us, and we represented the school and the Waiakea baseball program.”
Said second baseman Casey Yamauchi, “Coach Rory has taught us to be men on and off the field. He taught us life lessons through baseball and our motto, ‘STRIVE,’ to be selfless, trustworthy, resilient, to be valiant and to exceed expectation.”
“He taught the team to focus, work hard and treat each other like family,” shortstop Trayden Tamiya said.
After four seasons, two BIIF Division I championships, and two HHSAA runner-up finishes, Inouye stepped down as coach on Wednesday.
Inouye, also a Waiakea teacher, has always preferred that the spotlight shine on his players rather than himself and declined to elaborate on his departure.
He offered a short statement: “We are Waiakea Baseball because of the support from the community, parents, faculty, administration, and most importantly, the boys,” Inouye said. “It has truly been a pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity. Lastly, I’d like to thank my coaching staff, which has been by my side the entire time.”
The late Ken Yamase, a Waiakea teacher and BIIF athletic director, put a lot of work in building the program’s foundation.
He passed the baton to Tom Correa, who also had the dual role, and he gave way to Gordon Mau, another Waiakea teacher.
Mau, who knew that the Warriors were loaded with future MLB pro prospects Kean Wong, Quintin Torres-Costa, and Kodi Medeiros, stepped down before the 2012 season.
That year, Kevin Yee guided Waiakea to the program’s first HHSAA state championship, and he resigned after the 2013 season to join the UH-Hilo coaching staff.
Yee wasn’t a school teacher, but he’s a longtime youth coach and maintained the cohesion and sound fundamental play from the other coaching regimes.
When Yee left, Waiakea hired Jensen Sato, another teacher, who coached for a year in 2014.
Then another Waiakea alum was brought back with Inouye, who was a catcher and played for Correa.
Inouye experienced a lasting family memory when he coached his brother Curren, also a catcher, for three years (2015-17).
Nakamura, who has a pragmatic perspective, got straight to the point on what made the Warriors so successful, not just on the field but off as well.
“The team was strict, well-disciplined, and relaxed. We had fun, which kept practices interesting. We were strict, so we would be productive, and we were well-disciplined to make sure we did the right thing on and off the field,” he said. “The team was successful partly because of the way coach Rory led the team and partly by luck.
“I say luck because it’s not always that you get a group of guys that act like one big melting pot and get along with everybody on the team. But coach Rory was like the catalyst. He would encourage us to go and spend time with each other and become closer to one another.
“We had potlucks after games, and we even had a fishing tournament. And from there, he would then have get-togethers at people’s houses, and we would grow even closer.”
The Warriors graduated four All-BIIF first-team picks in Nakamura, Tamiya, Yamauchi, and catcher Jacob Igawa.
But the offense returns the most promising slugger in the BIIF and perhaps the state in sophomore Kalai Rosario, who batted .538 with a .635 on-base clip.
The youngster with the exceptional hand-eye coordination and bat speed hit .556 (5 for 9) with seven RBIs against Campbell, Kailua, and Baldwin at the state tourney.
The pitching staff has a potential ace in junior right-hander Cody Hirata, who throws corner strikes and projects solid composure on the mound.
In the 5-0 win over Kailua in the semifinals, Hirata fired a one-hitter with one walk and five strikeouts.
Waiakea returns two All-BIIF selections in third baseman Stone Miyao, who can slide over to shortstop, and first baseman Khaden Victorino.
The Vikings also have to find a new coach after Tony De Sa resigned after eight seasons.
Hilo has always been competitive against Waiakea but plagued by defensive lapses, especially in the postseason.
The Vikings made a combined nine errors in losses to Leilehua (10-1 loss) in a state play-in game and to Waiakea (7-5 and 4-3) in the BIIF championship series.
Hilo also returns bright young talent in All-BIIF shortstop Maui Ahuna and honorable mention pitcher Nainoa Kane-Yates. One uncle (Tyler Yates) pitched in the big leagues, and another (Kirby Yates) is with the San Diego Padres.
Next season, crosstown rivals Hilo and Waiakea will look much different, especially with new coaches in place.