Honu Declared HWB Champions

WAIPAHU, Hawaii—North Shore manager Kevin Bradshaw got the obligatory water cooler treatment after his Honu were declared champions of the 2007 Hawaii Winter Baseball season, but he wasn’t the only one to get wet.

Monday night’s championship between the Honu and Waikiki BeachBoys at Hans L’Orange Park was canceled because of rain.

Although the rain stopped shortly after the 6 p.m. starting time, the field conditions were considered unsafe. Also, the players and coaching staff had flights to their homes later that night and the next day, so the game could not be rescheduled.

The Honu (26-12), who won the Western Division by 12 1/2 games, were awarded the overall title by virtue of having the best record. In fact, they posted the only winning record in the four-team league. The BeachBoys (19-19), who clinched the East title on the last day of the regular season, were runners-up.

“It was kind of the downer for the fans and a downer for us because we didn’t get to play it out to see who really would’ve won,” said Honu third baseman Mat Gamel (Brewers). “But I understand the field was kind of unsafe, so it’s really not worth getting anybody hurt to the point where it might be a career-ending injury.”

Obviously, Bradshaw (Tigers) was pleased with this team’s performance for the season.

“Unfortunately, you never want to settle it with a rainout, but at the same time, I’m very proud of these guys,” Bradshaw said. “The record we had, the way we went about our business, the way we played the game. Our win-loss record speaks for itself.”

Although the Honu had the best record, BeachBoys manager Donovan Mitchell (Mets) liked his team’s chances.

“I’m very disappointed,” Mitchell said. “It would’ve been a good championship game. We had our best pitcher (Kyohei Muranaka) going against one of their best pitchers (Shinya Nakayama). You just never would’ve known in a one-game playoff. But you can’t do anything about Mother Nature.”

Muranaka (Yakult Swallows) was 3-1 with a 2.00 earned run average, which was sixth-best in the league. Nakayama (Orix Buffaloes) won the most games in the league at 6-2, 3.12.

For their title, the Honu received Sony Walkmans, while the BeachBoys were given Sony noise-canceling headphones.

The 200 or so fans who showed up were rewarded with free food and drinks, compliments of the league chairman Duane Kurisu. Prizes that were to be given out via drawings during the game were still handed out to those who hung around. Fans were able to score autographs from the players as they waited for their buses. Players also dished out equipment, such as bats, that they didn’t want to lug on the plane.

This was the second year of the revived developmental league that originally ran from 1993 to 1997. Unlike last season, Les Murakami Stadium at the University of Hawaii was unavailable because its turf was in the process of being replaced; it is the only true baseball stadium on the island of Oahu.

While Aloha Stadium can change into a baseball configuration, it can’t during football season.

Most of this season’s games were held at Hans L’Orange, which is a municipal recreation park that required major upgrades to satisfy Major League Baseball. Kurisu said MLB threatened to cancel the season upon learning Murakami would not be available. But Kurisu said his brother, Hervy Kurisu, the league president, convinced MLB that Hans L’Orange would meet its standards. Six games were played on Big Island and six more on Maui.

Both islands had teams that played in the original HWB. As for expansion to those islands, Duane Kurisu said that is up to MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball, which also provides players.

“We’ll take each year as it comes,” Duane Kurisu said.

Kurisu said games will return to Murakami Stadium next season, but there will be fewer there because of limited access since the Rainbows hold fall workouts during the same time.