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On scholarship: Dealin’ Dragon secures future

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Caden Perreira was a hidden diamond out in Honokaa, and all he needed was a chance to shine to find a home on the college level.

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Caden Perreira was a hidden diamond out in Honokaa, and all he needed was a chance to shine to find a home on the college level.

The Honokaa senior pitcher signed a national letter of intent with Cal State San Marcos, a Division II school in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

“It feels good,” he said. “All my hard work has paid off.”

Perreira, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound right-hander, joined Kaha Wong’s Big Island Baseball organization in 2011 and started to get noticed at the Trosky showcase, which runs in December at Wong Stadium.

There were 62 participants at the recent Trosky showcase, including a few from Oregon, Kauai, and Maui.

Big Island Baseball not only hosts the Trosky showcase but also travels during the summer to the Firecracker Classic, a recruiting supermarket for colleges.

Perreira liked the smaller setting at the Trosky showcase where players had a chance to work individually with coaches from about a dozen schools.

“You don’t have to go to a big showcase to go to college,” he said. “But you have to work hard and do your work.

“During the BIIF season, I’d practice two hours with my high school team and two hours with my dad (Danrick). It made a difference practicing extra with my dad.”

One of the highlights of Perreira’s junior season was a one-hit masterpiece against Hawaii Prep in which he struck out 15 batters.

Wong’s Big Island Baseball has landed scholarships for more than 75 BIIF players and most have been hitters.

Joining the organization turned out to be a home-run call for the Perreira family.

“I love it. It’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” Danrick Perreira said. “It shows that anybody from anywhere can go to college. It just takes time and effort.”

Perreira plans to major in kinesiology at Cal State San Marcos, which finished with a 23-25 record last season.

Besides the warm weather, he pointed out one of the attractions was the pitching coaches.

Cougars assistant Jared Suwyn was at Palomar College for three years, and four pitchers earned Juco All-American honors. Mark Wilson is a volunteer coach and also serves as the head coach for the U.S. World Baseball team each summer.

Most of Wong’s BIIF scholarship players are from Hilo, Kamehameha, and Waiakea, the BIIF powerhouses. Perreira is a rarity because he’s a Dragon and also a pitcher.

In fact, he didn’t think a scholarship would be waiting on the table.

Then Perreira joined Big Island Baseball, and the Honokaa Dragon ace was able to put his hometown on the map.

“No, I wasn’t thinking about a scholarship. I played baseball because it was fun,” he said. “Then I got experience playing with coach Kaha and at the Trosky showcase. I got a scholarship offer my sophomore year. It was the best decision I ever made.”

In a new NCAA baseball quiet rule, only Division I coaches are restricted from working camps and recruiting in-person from Nov. 11 through Feb. 28. The summers are fine, so Wong’s Firecracker travel squad will continue to put in appearances.

That likely increases the value for the Trosky showcase because Division II or III coaches don’t have that quiet period recruiting restriction. Also, NAIA and junior colleges don’t fall under the NCAA umbrella.

Perreira will be the only player from Hawaii on the Cougars roster, but he may be the first to start a pipeline. That’s because several of the smaller colleges make annual trips to the Trosky showcase.

He echoed his personal pitching coach about hooking up with coach Kaha, who sort of resembles his dad in a way.

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“My dad always made me work hard, even when I didn’t want to,” Perreira said. “The best thing about coach Kaha is he’s very strict. You have to work hard.”

Perreira did and was rewarded with a scholarship, which shined a bright light on the hidden gem from Honokaa.