Semi-pro East Bay has the players — but not the time


 

By KEVIN JAKAHI

 Tribune-Herald sports writer

 In the series opener on Tuesday night, the Hawaii Stars looked like the Murderers’ Row New York Yankees against the East Bay Lumberjacks, a semi-pro baseball team from San Francisco.

 That 1927 Yankees team featured Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Almost every Star turned into some shadow of Ruth or Gehrig, teeing off for 14 hits, including five for extra bases.

 The Lumberjacks made six errors, which led to eight unearned runs in the 13-3 loss at Wong Stadium, and maybe a first impression that they’re an adult version of the Bad New Bears. Actually, East Bay has a few pieces of big-time talent.

 Rob Ellis, who took the four-inning loss with 10 runs allowed (six unearned), had cups of coffee with the California Angels in 1996, Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 and Texas Rangers in 2003.

 Travis Keating, who started against the Stars on Wednesday, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 34th round in 2008. He toiled three seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Single-A ball in 2010.

 Wayne Franklin spent seven years in the major leagues from 2000 to ’06, playing for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. He holds a 14-16 record with a 5.54 ERA in 143 games and 323 innings. However, he didn’t make the trip over.

 Ellis and Franklin are a pair of old-timers, ages 42 and 39, respectively, but Keating is just 27. The right-hander went 12-11 with a 3.45 ERA in 114 2/3 innings for Baltimore’s farm teams. He had a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio: 99 punchouts and only 26 walks.

 The Lumberjacks and Hawaii Stars conclude their three-game series at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Wong Stadium. Onan Masaoka (1-3, 7.57 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Stars, who will next host the semi-pro Santa Rosa Rosebuds in a three-game series that starts Friday.

 Roland Nazar is the manager of the Lumberjacks, founded five years ago by owner Tom McCray, who didn’t make the trip over.

 “We’ve got a mix of a few former pro players and collegiate players on the team,” Nazar said. “We play part time and will play about 30 games. Next year our goal is to be a regular pro independent team.”

 East Bay and Santa Rosa are sort of associate members of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, the league that features the Stars, Na Koa Ikaika Maui, San Rafael Pacifics and Vallejo Admirals.

 The problem for East Bay is not its defense, but finding time to practice, according to Nazar.

 “Everyone works 40 to 50 hours a week,” he said. “Everyone has a full-time day job and they have families.

 “We don’t work together enough. That’s why sometimes we’ll miss hitting the cutoff man or make errors. But we can play to the level of a Single-A team. Other times, we’ll struggle.”

 Working around the clock applies to Nazar as well. He’s an assistant coach at City College of San Francisco, well-known for its football program. The Rams have won nine junior college national championships, the last in 2011.

 As a side note to University of Hawaii basketball fans, Rams guard Quincy Smith signed with the Rainbow Warriors. The 6-foot point guard, who will have three years of eligibility, led CCSF to a 31-1 record.

 “I also coach a wood bat league, too,” he said. “Every year we get three or four Hawaii kids on the roster. We love Hawaii kids. They play hard and smart baseball.

 “We’re probably one of the best junior colleges in California. We’re always looking for Hawaii ballplayers. We’re traditionally a football school. We’ve won national championships, but we’re building the baseball program.”

 The Hawaii Stars showed the East Bay Lumberjacks the aloha spirit, subsidizing their trip over. Nazar not only made a recruiting pitch to the local high school players, but also took time to enjoy the Orchid Isle. The team visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Wednesday.

 “I’m very appreciative of the Stars,” he said. “It’s a paradise here. I’m blessed to be at this ballpark. It’s my first trip to the island.

 “It’s amazing, the people, culture and raw beauty. It’s breathtaking for me.”

 New pipeline

 Nazar is hoping that CCSF becomes a pipeline for Big Island ballplayers. In fact, there’s a Ram-Vulcan connection. Marc Caviglia, who played at UH-Hilo in 2004 and ’05, transferred from CCSF.

 He also plans to hook up with Kaha Wong, who has landed scholarships for over 45 ballplayers. Wong runs a hitting school behind Target in Hilo and takes players to annual showcases. He also runs the Big Island Wood Bat League, which starts in October.

 For information on Wong’s hitting school, wood bat league or showcases, call 895-4595.

 Nazar can be reached at the City College of San Francisco website: ccsf.edu or 415-239-3811.

 

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