HILO — The independent brotherhood are all chasing the dream — to get spotlighted by a Major League Baseball affiliate — Hawaii Stars and Na Koa Ikaika Maui alike.
Ballplayers such as aspiring Star outfielder Keoni Manago, 23, hope to put up big numbers, get noticed by an MLB organization and signed to a minor league affiliate.
Manago, who played for the University of Hawaii at Hilo from 2008 to 2011, is standing at the first step of the ladder that he hopes will lead to a life of playing pro ball for a living. The 2007 Roosevelt graduate is on a three-day contract.
He does well he makes the team; he doesn’t and he goes back home to Oahu.
“It feels good to get back into baseball. I was training on Oahu to try out for mainland (independent) teams,” said Manago, who graduated with a kinesiology degree in May. “My first at-bat, I didn’t have my timing. My second at-bat, I was more comfortable. I’m coming back slowly.”
He batted 0-for-2, a flyout and lineout to third base, in Hawaii’s 2-0 loss to Maui in Game 1 of a North American Baseball League doubleheader on Friday at Wong Stadium.
The second game was tied at 1 after 11 innings. The game was still being played at press time.
Victor Ferrante, who came on in relief in Game 2, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 15th round in 2006. Manago went 0-for-1 against the hard-throwing right-hander, 0-for-2 against starter Matt Walker, and 0-for-1 against Vinnie St. John, a 45th-round pick in 2010.
In Game 2, Manago was 0-for-5, striking out against St. John, another pitcher with a rocket for a right arm, and the closer for Maui.
Eri Yoshida (3-0, 3.20 ERA) is scheduled to start for Maui (12-9) today. Game time is 5:35 p.m. at Wong Stadium. Ronnie Loeffler (4-0, 3.81 ERA) is slated to start for Hawaii (9-12), which has lost five straight.
Manago is the single-season UH-Hilo leader in batting with a .439 average in 2009, facing Division II pitching in the Pacific West Conference.
Former UH-Hilo second baseman Mike Higa, who played for Na Koa Ikaika, batted .407 against Division I competition in 2008.