Wright On: The making of a Hilo pro athlete

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald
    Recent Milwaukee Brewers draftee Micah Bello received the push he needed from of his parents growing up. Mom, Stacey, provided the academic guidance, while his dad, Mason, handled athletics. At top right, Micah is pictured with older sister Kanisha.

We all want the best for our kids, so when they are athletic, it’s a natural instinct for parents to want to see them go as far as they can. You want to feed that interest, fuel the fire inside and see where it takes them.

It is absolutely possible, but here’s the tricky part — it will never be easy and it will always require both parents working as a team with defined roles.

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Also, don’t expect it to be your challenge now and then. The challenge is daily, for years, for decades, depending on the ages of the kids.

“I think we’re still on kind of a cloud about it,” Stacey Bello said Friday, four days after Micah, 17, her youngest, was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft. “We were on (Micah and older sister Kanisha), so many times, so many years, I know I haven’t got to the place where I feel it’s all over.”

Part of that relates to the fact that, while Micah told the Brewers shortly after they drafted him a week ago that he was definitely going to sign — probably not the best negotiating ploy, but he was ready — the actual signing is this week.

Bello’s parents Stacey and father Mason accompanied him to Arizona specifically so they could witness the signing, since Micah won’t be 18 until next month and requires a legal guardian to witness the contract details and his eventual autograph.

But for the Bello family, this was the back end of successfully nudging two offspring into careers through athletics.

First came Kanisha, nine years older than Micah and an outstanding basketball player in high school who used a scholarship to UH-Manoa to compete for the Rainbows. These days she is an EMT for the city and county of Honolulu, “ … a fulfilling job with amazing life experiences and the opportunity to meet and work with great people,” she said in a text message.

Kanisha Bello helped Kamehameha to a state championship in 2007, was all-conference first team a couple of times and was the player of the year for the BIIF twice.

“They were equally tough on both of us,” she said of her parents. “Mom kept us on it with the books and dad was relentless with sports.”

She signed with Idaho out of Waiakea High, things didn’t work out, she got her AA degree at a community college and then accepted the full ride at Manoa.

“He used to come to all my high school games,” she said of Micah, “and he got to see me at Idaho and UH. To be able to go through this experience with him and watch him play and develop into an unbelievable athlete and person? It’s the best feeling ever for this big sister.”

The parents had a plan. Mom, the principal at Keaukaha Elementary, would handle the academic side, making sure homework didn’t just get done, but got done in a way that would attract college interest, and dad Mason, a Hawaiian Telcom employee, who played high school basketball and baseball before joining the Air Force, would handle the athletic side.

It was a bumpy ride at times, to the point that mom acquired a second role along the way, with Micah.

“I was the buffer,” Stacey Bello said. “We would often take two cars to the game so that, if it wasn’t good, Micah could go home with me and then we could have a chat before dad talked to him.”

“My thing was I got to tell him these things so he wouldn’t be thinking everything was great and he didn’t need to work on anything,” Mason Bello said. “Kind of serious stuff, like, ‘Let’s work on this and that.’”

Micah remembers it all.

“He was pretty much right,” Micah said.

Even those times when he wanted to play video games and dad announced they were going to hit a couple baskets of baseballs?

“Yeah,” Micah said, with a smiling nod to his father.

As a senior, mom let him play football and Micah was a good player on the state championship Hilo squad, but even then, he knew it wasn’t his game for the long haul.

“Fun,” Bello said when asked what he remembered most about football for the Vikings. “It was all hype and emotion, all getting hyped up and taking it out on the field, kind of like the opposite of baseball. It was fun, but I was more tuned to baseball.”

He took seven years of instruction from Kaha Wong at his batting cages, benefited from good coaches all the way through school at different ages and began to realize he might be good around the time in 2014 his PONY team won the World Series in Pennsylvania.

Two years later it all came together when he received an invitation to San Diego to play for an Area Code team, designed for the benefit of baseball scouts seeking high school-aged players. On the first day, Stacey Bello said she was told there 500 scouts in attendance, “and it looked like it,” she said, “I couldn’t believe how many of therm were there.”

Area Code teams are like petri dishes for baseball scouts. Players are usually headed into the senior seasons and scouts conclude their observations with geographic plans to locate future high school draft choices.

“I wasn’t sure what I was getting into,” Micah said, of the Area Code team, “I wasn’t sure I ready to play with the best players in Hawaii, and this was more than just Hawaii.

“At the end,” he said, “I think I held my own.”

The only down side they could think of in all of this was that grandfather Sam Kaeo — Stacey’s father — or Poppa Sam as he was known to all, succumbed to cancer before he could see Micah drafted.

“He followed these kids everywhere,” Stacey said, “and it was both kids. Whenever Kanisha was playing, Poppa Sam was there and it was the same with Micah. He traveled all the way to Pennsylvania to see him (in the PONY League World Series), when he was trying to fight off the cancer, so it was sad for all of us that Poppa Sam couldn’t be here for this.”

The family flew to Arizona on Sunday to sign for their young son, then he will go directly to the Brewers’ camp where he will take part in workouts for a week with his new teammates and in another week, the rookie league begins play, on June 18.

“At some point, I feel like it will all settle down and we will exhale and adjust to all this,” Stacey Bello said, “but that hasn’t happened yet.”

As for Micah, it’s a whole new world out there waiting for him to start a career. Is it like the Area Code team, are there questions or concerns?

“Not really,” he said. “All I know, really, is where I’m going, but I feel like I’m ready to get started.”

The time is now. The teamwork of mom and dad succeeded, twice, and now it’s all real. Sign a contract, go show them how to play baseball.

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He’s ready.

Questions? Comments? Whistleblower tips? Contact Bart at barttribuneherald@gmail.com