Kamehameha senior Chay Toson put a lot of wear on his car’s tires, and traveled a long road with dedication as his constant companion to turn himself into a top-notch self-made ballplayer.
The 5-foot-8 left-handed outfielder and pitcher lives in Paauilo, a long way from the school campus in Keaau. And throughout his career, Toson made a daily drive to be one of two places, and often times both — Kaha Wong’s hitting cage and Warrior practices.
Toson played a dual role to help the Warriors win their third consecutive Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II championship and a runner-up finish at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
For the season, Toson batted .386 with 15 RBIs and a .977 on-base plus slugging percentage. On the mound, he was 6-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 42 1/3 innings. He allowed 24 hits and 34 walks, and struck out 43.
Toson was named the BIIF Division II Player of the Year, by the league’s coaches, giving Kamehameha back-to-back honorees with Bronson Pulgados, who’s now playing at Luna College.
“It was well-deserved, all the way around,” said Kamehameha coach Andy Correa, who was voted Coach of the Year. “He had a good year offensively and he pitched well during the season, and in the playoffs.
“He’s worked hard all four years. He had a good attendance rate, and he participated in all of the offseason training. He consistently worked hard to get better throughout his career. For somebody who had to travel from Paauilo every day to come into town to attend practice during the summer, he and his parents made a lot of sacrifices.”
Toson was at his pitching best in the BIIF playoffs. He fired a pair of 10-0 TKO five-inning shutouts, a two-hitter against Honokaa in the semifinals and a one-hitter against Hawaii Preparatory Academy in the championship series.
Four senior teammates join Toson on the first team: first baseman Paka Davis (.277, 11 RBIs, .750 OPS), second baseman Jordan Hirae (.370, 27 RBIs, 1.033), and outfielders Alika Young (.327, 10 RBIs, .849) and Matt Chun (.337, 14 RBIs, .949).
Toson, Hirae and Chun were excellent contact hitters with keen batting eyes. Toson had 17 walks and only one strikeout, and right behind were Hirae (17, 2) and Chun (17, 3). They put balls in play and kept Kamehameha’s offensive motor running.
Others on the first team were Konawaena senior catcher Evyn Yamaguchi (.500, 26 RBIs, 1.388) and senior utility Zane Gray (.452, 10 RBIs, 1.185), HPA third baseman Ian Rice, shortstop Koa Ellis and pitcher DJ Sekiya.
Kamehameha senior catcher Makoa Rosario (.419, 3 homers, 32 RBIs, 1.139) and sophomore shortstop Daylen Calicdan (.354, 27 RBIs, .869) received honorable mention.
The 2014 class is one of the league’s most talented in BIIF history. From the Division I and II first teams, nine of the 15 seniors will jump to the next level and play college ball.
On the Division I level, Waiakea senior pitcher Kodi Medeiros has a scholarship to Pepperdine, while Hilo seniors Jalen Carvalho, Micah Kaaukai, Isaiah Banasan and Jodd Carter also signed scholarships.
Toson has a scholarship to Arizona Western, Rosario to Central Arizona, and Hirae and Chun to Puget Sound. Yamaguchi signed with Eastern Arizona while Gray has a few offers on the table.
Wong and his late wife Keala Wong have three children, Kolten, Kiani and Kean. Toson could be classified as a hanai son because he spent so much time at the Wong house. And he looked at the BIIF’s player of the year award as a flashlight, shining the honor on everyone.
“It’s a blessing. All of the hard work has paid off with coach Kaha and coach Andy, too, and auntie Keala, who’s watching from up above,” Toson said. “Being from Paauilo, it’s really special because not a lot of people from there get recognition, let alone playing athletics. Being from a small town, where I have to drive one hour and 20 minutes to get to school, it makes me speechless.”
Toson’s life has always been on the run, waking up early to drive to school and getting home around 8 p.m. His parents, Cindy, a patient care coordinator at Hamakua Health Center, and Desmond Toson, a manager in the engineering department at Hualalai, didn’t see him much, but left an imprint.
“If you want something you’ve got to work for it,” Toson said. “Nothing in life is given to you. You have to commit yourself. Baseball is a game of failure and that’s how life is too. You’ll fail, but you have to let it go and move on to the next day.”