Before he grew taller than a bat, Micah Bello didn’t spend the entire time throwing ball with his dad in the back yard, the most common father and son baseball memory.
Instead, back then Mason Bello mixed in hitting and outfield drills for his 4-year-old son, who has sprouted and still has room to fill out on a 6-foot, 175-pound frame.
The lessons sunk in, and those tools, especially reading balls off the bat in the outfield, became second nature, much like riding a bike.
Saint Mary’s College recognized Bello’s skill-set early and offered him a rare full-ride scholarship when he was a Hilo freshman.
The Viking center fielder gave a verbal commitment back then and recently signed with the Gaels, who may or may not see him at their Moraga, Calif., campus.
The Hilo senior is expected to go within the top five rounds of the MLB draft, which will be held June 4-6 and televised on the MLB Network the first day and streamed on mlb.com the last two days.
“I’m excited about it,” said Bello, who has a 3.8 GPA and plans to major in kinesiology. “I’ve always wanted to play pro ball, but it became a real possibility when I made the Area Code team (in 2017), and from there I really thought I could have a future in this game.”
The best way to attract attention from MLB scouts is to play at the top showcases. Bello had strong performances at the Area Code Games in August in Long Beach, Calif., and the Perfect Game showcase in November when he led his team in homers and batting average.
Bello was named to the Perfect Game West All-Region first team, the only player from Hawaii selected.
A half-dozen scouts have been regulars at Kaha Wong’s batting cage behind Target and at Bello’s BIIF games.
“The scouts have said he’s going in the top five rounds and has all the tools,” Wong said. “Any time you go in the top five rounds, that’s a lot of money, and they want to know him as a person, player, teammate, and son.
“He’s a strong person, has a good family, and his mind is straight. His grades are up, and if things don’t work out he could go to school on a full-ride.
“The scouts want to know if Micah can handle playing pro baseball day after day. They know most of the kids who come out of Hilo have strong minds.”
Bello’s dad works at Hawaiian Tel, and his mom, Stacey Bello, is the principal at Keaukaha Elementary. His sister, Kanisha Bello, is a paramedic on Oahu and a Punahou girls basketball assistant.
If the scouts do more digging, they’ll discover Bello comes from athletic stock. His sister played hoops at Idaho and Hawaii. His first cousin is Kamehameha senior Nalu Kahapea, a 6-5 basketball/volleyball player.
Bello’s athleticism also carried over to the gridiron. He last played football as a 10-year-old. In something of perfect timing, Bello came out in his last year and played cornerback for the Vikings, who won the BIIF’s first state title.
“I’ve always wanted to play football,” he said. “The season was unbelievable. We put in a lot of work in the offseason and on the field with coach Kaeo (Drummondo). It was a grind the whole year. We worked for it (state title) and got it.”
Bello credited his dad and youth coach Lenn Miyao for building his swing. Wong has refined it. And the scouts have taken note.
“They said I have a nice swing,” Bello said. “They know coach Kaha works with me. They said I’m direct to the ball, have a good frame, and if I keep working and grinding I have a future. They know that coach Kaha works with my back hips and legs more with my swing.”
Bello’s speed is already better than MLB average. The right-handed hitter has been timed to first base at 4.1 seconds, which draws a 70 or plus plus grade on the 20-80 scouting scale.
In the 60-yard dash, Bello clocked in at 6.4 seconds, a 75 grade. That sprinter’s speed helps in the outfield, which he counts as his strength.
“It’s my fielding, my ability to track balls, get to the ball quick enough and make a throw in,” he said. “When I was young, my dad hit balls to me to track better and see launch angles. That helped me a lot. He hit a lot of fly balls.
“It was play and hit when I was younger. We never really just threw the ball. There was a purpose when we’d go and practice every day.”
In November, Bello took an official visit to Saint Mary’s and hung out with the Gaels for two nights. He also enjoyed his time with other students, teachers, and staff.
Saint Mary’s coach Eric Valenzuela is in his fifth season and led the Gales to their first West Coast Conference regular-season title in 2016 and first WCC Tournament title and NCAA Regional last year.
“Saint Mary’s was the first to offer a full-ride when I was a freshman, and I verbally committed,” Bello said. “Coach Eric is great with my family. He’s a great coach and turned the program around.
“The school is beautiful and reminds me of home. I like hunting, and I saw animals running through.”
If he sets foot on campus, maybe Bello can test his speed and run after a few. But before that, there’s business on deck.
The Vikings are the defending BIIF Division I champions. But this season, the league has only one automatic berth to the HHSAA tournament. The BIIF runner-up will have a play-in game.
Hilo (8-3) hosts Kealakehe (5-6) in the best of three BIIF semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at Wong Stadium.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Bello said. “We have to put in a lot of work.”
That’s a message Wong has been hammering home to Bello, who started on the job as a 4-year-old.
“I told Micah he’s going to be the next big person coming out of Hilo to go to the pros, and it’s all up to you,” Wong said.