Sunday | December 17, 2017
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Wright On: Three Warriors, one major goal

Something just clicked.

Maybe it had to do with the moon and stars, the pull and release of the tides, who can say how these things happen? Pure coincidence seems a thin explanation, cosmology might be a bit much.

Something special happened five years ago when Waiakea High School used a combined no-hitter from Quintin Torres-Costa (six innings), and Kodi Medeiros (one inning), who were both working with catcher Kean Wong, in a 5-2 victory over Baldwin in the state championship game.

“Everyone knew what kind of talent we had on that team,” said Kevin Yee, a local Realtor who coached that state championship team, “and that made it a pressurized situation. It was almost like if we didn’t win the state championship, the season would have been a failure.

“That doesn’t leave much room for error,” Yee said.

With those three, there weren’t a lot of mistakes. The two runs Baldwin scored in that game were unearned, Torres-Costa struck out 13 and walked only one.

Off they went, Torres-Costa headed to the University of Hawaii, Wong, after another year of high school, became an employee of the Tampa Bay Rays organization and Medeiros had two more years of high school.

Eventually, both Torres-Costa and Medeiros — a first round selection in 2014 — were signed by Milwaukee, and here we are, five years and change after the state championship and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that all three former Waiakea players could be in the major leagues at some point next year, though you won’t get them to touch that subject.

That’s a good thing.

It shows they have learned their lessons well and in professional sports, the lessons come in a different manner than they did in high school or college.

At the highest level, what often happens is that the test comes first, then you get the lesson. You learn the lesson, you advance. It’s a process.

For instance, in 100 appearances on the mound for the Brewers organization so far, Torres-Costa, a lefty, has never started a game. This summer, he continued his rise through the organization, going from high-A to AA and he had a number of appearances that seemed to indicate he might be considered for of those one-batter situations in the late innings, lefty vs. lefty.

Would he be interested in that?

“Whatever gets a W,” Torres-Costa said in a telephone interview, “that’s what I want to do. I have confidence, I’ve learned a lot, but those kinds of things are all out of my control.

“Things I can’t control, I try not to concentrate on,” he said. “The things I can control? The effort I put in, how I work out day and night, how I eat and train, those are the things I focus on every day, so that when they want me, I’ll be ready.”

In AA ball, Torres-Costa is poised to make a run at the 40-man Brewers roster after a stint in the Arizona Fall League that starts Oct. 10 when he will perform for the Salt River Rafters, a team of players from the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Marlins and Rockies, who compete in a six-team, 30-game schedule leading up to spring training.

Wong, a second baseman these days like his older brother Kolten, had a rousing finish to his season, hitting a grand slam that made the difference as he went 3-for-4, and led the Durham Bulls to a 5-3 come-from-behind win over Memphis in the Triple-A National Championship.

Maybe something like that from a pitching perspective, will fall to Torres-Costa this year. At this time a year ago, Wong was in the Arizona Fall League doing some finishing work on preparation for Major League defensive shifts.

Those details no doubt benefited Wong who, in the seventh inning of the one-game AAA playoff, ranged for a ball in the shortstop hole and made a leaping throw to first for the out. In the eighth, the Hilo native tumbled into center field to rob a hit with an over-the-shoulder catch.

You get the idea Kean Wong will be with the Rays in AL East sooner rather than later. He was raised right, yes, by his father, the well-known Kaha, but also by his mother.

When he delivered that blast, Wong crossed the plate and looked to the sky.

“That was for my mom, (Keala), who passed away from cancer,” he told the MiLB website. “Just want to tell my mom I love her.”

It all seemed to fit on a night in which the game featured a delay to “Stand Up To Cancer.”

As his high school teammates have made upward moves, so has Medeiros, the youngest of the Three Warriors, and another lefty who had “maybe more raw talent but not as refined as Torres-Costa,” said Yee, the former high school coach.

“Having two left-handers who could throw like that and the rest of the guys we had was huge,” Yee said. “You just wanted to keep it all together, keep everyone focused.”

Mission accomplished. Of course, it was easier in high school.

“I didn’t know how to pitch in high school,” Medeiros said, “but it’s just like what people say, it’s a process working your way (to the major leagues). You just have to listen, learn and work on what you need to work on.

“Whatever they want me to do is fine with me,” he said. “I didn’t want to pitch in relief at first, but I got used to it and yeah, that is something to work on, but it’s a mental process that you have to get used to.

“As a starter, you have a schedule between starts every five days, but as reliever, you put the cleats on, put a glove on your hand and you can be called into a game in a spot every day.”

Medeiros had a career-high nine strikeouts in a game this season, hit a seven-inning start, another high. But what happens next is out of his control.

“I have no idea,” he said, “but I think I’ll be ready for whatever it is and it will all come out in spring training. This year I hit a place where I stopped thinking so much about what I was doing, my confidence went up, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.”

All three of them had similar advice for high school baseball players on the Big Island. Here’s how Medeiros put it:

“It’s mostly about keeping an open mind and being willing to work, work hard, every day,” he said. “If they are going into their senior year, I’d say enjoy it, but learn what you need to work on and get the work done, every day.”

It’s a kid’s game right up to the point it’s a business, but peal away a layer or two and you can still see the thrill a kid feels when he starts to get what baseball is all about.

It’s a feeling that never leaves.

Tips? Questions? Email Bart at bartttibuneherald@gmail

 

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