UH baseball reloads with 5 transfers, 2 from Hawaii high schools


‘Iolani’s Tate Shimao hits a two-run home run against the Mid-Pacific Owls on April 13, 2021.

In mapping next season’s roster, the University of Hawaii baseball team went the transfer route during this hectic offseason.

In the past week, the Rainbow Warriors received commitments from two Hawaii-reared infielders and three Division I pitchers.


Taylor Takata, a Kailua High graduate who played the past two seasons at Orange Coast (Calif.) College, and Tate Shimao, a former ‘Iolani student-athlete who played 71 games in two years at Cal Poly, will compete for playing time in the ’Bows’ infield. Their roles will be better defined if UH shortstop Jordan Donahue is selected in next month’s Major League Baseball draft. Second basemen Jake Tsukada and Stone Miyao completed their UH eligibility last month.

The ’Bows quickly filled the loss of pitchers Harrison Bodendorf, Alex Giroux, Brayden Marx and Hunter Gotschall to the transfer portal. Right-handed pitchers Christian Rodriguez (Cal State Fullerton), Max Jones (San Francisco) and Freddy Rodriguez (Cal Poly) will enroll at UH in August. Two weeks ago, right-handed pitcher Hekili Robello, a 2022 Hilo High graduate, announced he was transferring from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College to UH.

As a freshman in 2023, Shimao hit .256 in 42 starts at third base. But he was reduced to a limited role as pinch runner and pinch hitter this past season. Shimao was an infielder/outfielder and quarterback at ‘Iolani before deciding to focus on baseball as a junior. For his senior season, he transferred to Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High. He turned down offers from UH and USC because of coaching changes at those schools, and signed with Cal Poly.

“After being on the mainland for a while, I thought it would be cool to represent Hawaii again,” said Shimao, who leaves today to play summer ball for the Victoria HarbourCats of the West Coast League.

Takata excelled at Kailua High, but there were limited Division I opportunities following the pandemic. “A lot of the colleges were flooded with a whole bunch of athletes,” Takata said. “I knew I wanted to get some experience under my belt, and the (junior) college route was absolutely the way to go.”

He chose Orange Coast, where he could play shortstop, his childhood idol Derek Jeter’s position. “Growing up in Hawaii, I’ve always admired the athletes representing our state,” Takata said. “And now being one of them is a dream come true.”

Christian Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton, but did not fulfill all the requirements for a specific master’s program, prompting his entry into the portal. “You can’t beat Hawaii,” said Rodriguez, who received positive reviews of Hawaii from Donahue. JT Navyac, Rodriguez’s childhood friend, also will be joining UH head coach Rich Hill’s staff.

Rodriguez, who is 6 feet 6 and 223 pounds, averaged 8.01 strikeouts per nine innings during his CSUF career. He received medical redshirts as a freshman in 2021, and then two years later after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. But Rodriguez is back to good health, with his fastball averaging 91-94 mph and touching 95 mph. He throws four- and two-seam fastballs, a four-seam changeup, a slider and a 12-6 (down-breaking) curveball.

Rodriguez said UH pitching coach Keith Zuniga has the same leadership qualities as his father. “Having a coach who resembles some of the characteristics of my father on the baseball field and as a life coach is good for me,” Rodriguez said.

After four years at USF, in which he played for three head coaches and missed the 2022 season because of Tommy John surgery, Jones was seeking a fresh start. “I promised myself I wanted to use that year I had to miss and go somewhere fun and play on a winning team,” Jones said.

Jones is 5 feet 9 in cleats, but “I’m known for being a true competitor. I’m not afraid of anyone. I’m going to attack you. I might not have the fastest fastball, but I throw everything as hard as I can right at you. I don’t ever think height or size is a barrier for me.”

Jones relies mostly on a four-seam fastball that touches 92 mph, a 12-6 curveball, and a changeup. He also is a savvy entrepreneur. He owns an online business, 619 Finds, that sells vintage clothing. “I found some cool stuff, so I decided to sell it,” said Jones, who has run the business for seven years.

Freddy Rodriguez is joining Shimao in the move to UH. “For me, it was finding a place I trusted,” Rodriguez said. “Just talking with the coaches, I felt they believed in me a lot. I needed a home where they’d let me be me on the mound and just do what I do and develop and possibly get drafted next year.”

Rodriguez was a member of the Hawaii Elite traveling team.

His portfolio includes a four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider and curveball. He uses the CleanFuego system, which provides immediate video feedback, and long tosses to hone his mechanics.

Rodriguez, who is playing for the Portland Pickles of the West Coast League this summer, said Zuniga factored in his decision to join the ’Bows. “I believe in Coach Zuni,” Rodriguez said. “I know he’ll get me to where I need to go.”

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