“That’s the first time he had to swing at a ball that fast,” said Scott Nakata, one of the parents, Saturday.
Nakata was watching his son go through some of the drills courtesy of the Kaua‘i High School baseball team.
Saturday was the debut of the 2007 version of the Red Raiders, and as part of the celebration, head coach Hank Ibia brought out his coaching staff and players to work with aspiring young players from the Lihu‘e Baseball League.
Although several youngsters had to leave early to take part in a baseball tournament taking place in Kalawai Park, about three dozen players from the LBL program were on hand with their parents.
“Remember last year?” Dean Toyofuku, one of the parents, asked. “It was rained out.”
But not so, Saturday. Despite bone-chilling winds that swept over the Vidinha Stadium complex, the youngsters were paired with Red Raider players to work through different drills throughout the diamond.
Other players were paired off with the Kaua‘i coaching staff and worked through batting practice and speed and agility drills off the diamond. Most the drills ran for about 15 minutes before the groups switched off.
“Don’t forget to check out Joy’s Country Store,” one parent said. “She’s taking orders.”
Joy Kouchi, one of the Raider boosters, was indeed set up for business.
“I’m just taking orders so people can have their clothes in time for the season,” Kouchi said.
From beneath her canopy that housed the boom box that emanated baseball-type music broadcast over two speakers set up on either side of the press box, the event resembled a season-opener.
Kouchi reached into one of the boxes and extracted an umbrella emblazoned with the Raider logo.
“This is all-weather,” she said of the wind-proof umbrella. “It’ll work anywhere.”
Baseball caps form the mainstay of her offering, a few already finding new homes atop parents’ heads. But new for this season is the popular ripstop nylon backpacks that are perfect for hauling the sunflower seeds and other goodies to and from the games. This joins her offering of tee-shirts and sweatshirts in different colors.
“We’ll have these at all the home games,” Kouchi said. “For today, this is the team’s annual Red-and-White inter-squad scrimmage, and you can tell who’s going to be playing for who.”
The first KIF baseball game is Mar. 17 when Kapa‘a travels to the Waimea High School athletic field for the season-opener.
Waimea was the KIF champion for 2006.