By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The abdacademy.com’s second ann ual Hilo College Camp will feature more teams than last year, but the price will be the same for Big Island baseball prospects looking for a collegiate home.
Last year, 13 colle ges attend ed the two-day showcase, which is still $300 or $350 for players not in the Big Island Wooden Bat Lea gue, run by coordinator Kaha Wong.
That’s a dramatic difference from the Arizona Fall Classic, considered the most prestigious showcase on the West Coast. But the tab runs in the neighborhood of $1,400, and the Oct. 11-14 event is invitation only.
Waiakea senior catcher Kean Wong, junior pitcher Kodi Medeiros, Hilo senior shortstop Chayce Kaaua and junior outfielder Jodd Carter are scheduled to play in the Classic. Wong, Medeiros, and Kaaua are Haw aii verbal commits.
There won’t be Major League Baseball scouts at the Hilo College Camp, but at least there will be 18 colleges in attendance, including Division I schools Hawaii and Temple, Division II members UH-Hilo, Hawaii Pacific, Holy Names and St. Martin’s, and three Division III colleges Stevens (N.Y.), Pacific and Puget Sound, where 2003 Waiakea graduate Kainoa Correa is the recruiting coordinator.
NAIA schools Arizona Christian and La Sierra (Calif.) along with junior colleges Arizona Western, Cedar Valley (Texas), Chemeketa (Ore.), Colorado Northwestern, Howard (Texas), Southern Eastern Iowa and Southern Nevada will also be there.
“The biggest advantage is you’re not paying $1,400,” Kaha Wong said. “If you’re up in Arizona, you’re playing against other guys from Los Angeles, Arizona and all over the country.
“The scouts at the Hilo camp are there to watch only you. They’ve all got scholarships in hand. The schools are not only looking for kids who can play, but kids who have good grades and a good work ethic and attitude.”
Wong also suggested that it’s a good idea for younger players like freshmen and sophomores to attend to get their names out to the schools. All are returning for a second straight year, except for newcomers Temple, Holy Names, Arizona Christian and Colorado Northwestern.
Holy Names, a member of the Pacific West Conference along with UHH and HPU, has been active in recruiting from the Big Island. The Hawks, who will travel to play the Vulcans and Sea Warriors next year, have three Hawaii Prep graduates: pitcher Jayse Bannister, catcher Matt Kiyota and infielder Micah Ashburn, the latter two 2011 grads.
The Hilo camp follows one on Oahu, run the previous two days by coordinator Mike Spires. He had the contacts to bring in the colleges, but the price tag to cover all expenses is $5,000, half of the bill delivered to Wong’s doorstep.
“The reason I’m doing this is to get opportunities for kids who can’t afford $1,400 or to spend money to go to the Oahu camp,” he said. “I want to see a lot of kids attend, so we can continue this camp. It’s a good bargain to spend $300 with the possibility to get a scholarship that’s worth 10 times that amount.”
Wong helped a dozen recent high school graduates land scholarships, including full rides for Honokaa pitcher Dylan Shiraki and Kamehameha pitcher Kaimana Moike to Eastern Arizona junior college, after Lon Morris folded its program.
“The coach (Jim Bagnall) there called me and said Dylan is doing good. He’s throwing 84 to 86 mph and nobody is hitting him yet,” Wong said. “The coach said Kaimana is well-disciplined and shows a lot of respect. That’s the kind of stuff I like to hear and it’s good so we can send more kids to college.”
Kolten’s fast track
After the Texas League championships wrap up, Kolten Wong is scheduled to fly home on Monday to catch his breath after his first full season in the minors at Double-A Springfield.
Wong, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has been assigned to the Arizona Fall League, which starts in October. The top prospects from every MLB organization routinely play in the league, which serves as a polishing prep school.
The 2008 Kamehameha graduate skipped a full season in Single-A ball, seemingly putting him on the fast track to reach the big leagues. The second baseman is the organization’s No. 4 prospect, according to mlb.com, which ranks his teammate, outfielder Oscar Taveras, at the top spot.
However, Wong was not called up by the Cardinals when rosters expanded from 25 to 40 on Sept. 1, due in part because he was in the playoffs and more likely because he’s not on the 40-man roster.
St. Louis doesn’t have to put him on its 40-man roster until four years after the 2011 draft. If he were put on the 40-man roster, another player would have to be put on waivers, allowing any team to claim that player.
From a financial viewpoint, once a minor league prospect gets promoted to the majors, his service clock starts ticking. Any player on a 25-man roster for at least three years is eligible for salary arbitration.
Also, another financial headache for MLB teams is the status of “Super Two” salary arbitration players. Basically, it’s players with two years of being in the big leagues, and ranking high in their class in service time.
What: Hilo College Camp
When: Dec. 10-11
Where: Wong Stadium
Skinny: 18 colleges to scout players
Info: Kaha Wong, 895-4595