By JOE FERRARO
Hawaii Pacific University coach Garett Yukumoto and Konawaena senior Ryan Torres-Torioka are about the same height.
When the two had a conversation in December, Yukumoto told the 5-foot-6 Torres-Torioka something that showed they’re also on the same page. It was music to Torres-Torioka’s ears.
“He told me he didn’t care what size you are,” Torres-Torioka said. “It’s what you do (on the field) that interested him.”
Yukumoto backed up his words in the form of a scholarship offer to Torres-Torioka, who has signed a national letter of intent to play baseball for the Sea Warriors.
The scholarship will cover approximately 90 percent of his tuition and room and board.
Eastern Arizona College, a junior college in Thatcher, Ariz., offered Torres-Torioka a full-ride scholarship. The University of Nevada, the University of Northern Colorado, Western Arizona College, Holy Names University and Feather River College also expressed interest.
But Torres-Torioka, who is considering business management as a major, said Division II HPU offered what he wanted outside of the baseball diamond.
“I was looking for a place that would help me with my tuition and would help me out with my education,” said Torres-Torioka, who signed his letter of intent April 22.
Torres-Torioka credited Big Island youth baseball coach Kaha Wong for helping him improve as a hitter.
Torres-Torioka played in Wong’s summer wood bat leagues, and it was Wong who helped organize a college camp in which more than 60 high school baseball players showcased their skills in front of representatives from 18 colleges. There, Torres-Torioka, who has pitched and played second base and shortstop for the Wildcats, verbally committed to play baseball at HPU.
Yukumoto and Torres-Torioka had communicated a handful of times in the previous two months, with Torres-Torioka also performing in front of the Sea Warriors coach on Oct. 26 at a baseball showcase at Honolulu’s Hans L’Orange Field.
“(Yukumoto) liked me as a middle infielder, and he liked my hitting,” Torres-Torioka said.
Yukumoto also liked his arm, which could earn him a starting job. The Sea Warriors will graduate 10 seniors, including two starting infielders in third baseman Kale Sumner and shortstop Wade Tamaru, and Torres-Torioka said Yukumoto sees the Konawaena senior taking over at second base.
Tyler Tokunaga, a freshman who played his high school baseball at Pearl City last season, started 32 of the Sea Warriors’ 50 games, including the past eight at second base.
This season, HPU went 30-20, finishing sixth in the 10-team Pacific West Conference at 19-17.
“(Yukumoto) said I’m probably going to have to earn it, but more than likely I’m going to be starting,” said Torres-Torioka, who is hitting .386 with 17 RBIs and 24 runs scored for Konawaena this season.
Torres-Torioka, a four-year starter, earned first-team All-BIIF honors in his sophomore and junior seasons.
At HPU, he will play with a former Konawaena teammate in Dorian Rivera, the 2010 West Division Player of the Year. Rivera attended Arizona Western College, a junior college in Yuma, Ariz., before transfering to HPU.
Rivera is listed as a redshirt sophomore on the Sea Warriors’ current roster.
“It’ll be good because we’ve played together before and we’ll have that chemistry that we had before,” Torres-Torioka said.