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This Rainbows baseball race will be fun to watch

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Billy Hull and I took a break from our NCAA hoops brackets this week to hold a draft. The Star-Advertiser’s University of Hawaii baseball beat writer joined me in trying to predict the first ‘Bow To The Show from coach Mike Trapasso’s first decade at UH.

There are enough ex-Rainbows with a legitimate chance to make it to the bigs that we could pick at least four each. Whoever breaks the tape will be the first UH alum to play in the majors since Scott Karl of the Angels and Jay Spurgeon of the Orioles both threw their final pitches on Sept. 28, 2000. Mark Johnson also pitched in a few games for Detroit earlier in the season. (In case you were wondering, Glenn Braggs was the first Rainbow to play in the majors, debuting July 18, 1986, with the Milwaukee Brewers.)

Billy drafted Vinnie Catricala (third base, first base, outfield, Mariners franchise), David Freitas (catcher, Nationals), Lenny Linsky (pitcher, Rays) and Blair Walters (pitcher, White Sox).

I took Greg Garcia (infield, Cardinals), Jon Hee (infield, Red Sox), Josh Slaats (pitcher, Rockies), and some guy named Kolten Wong (infield, Cardinals).

If one of your guys plays in the majors first, you win. If some other Rainbow neither of us drafted does, I win. If no one from UH makes it by the end of 2016, Billy wins.

But it’s going to happen, and probably soon. Maybe even sometime this season.

"It’s awfully fun to watch," Trapasso said. "When you think back to these guys being freshmen and recruiting them, there’s a flood of memories. No question we’re on the verge of in the next two or three years seeing some Rainbows in the majors."

The casual fan might think Wong is a lock to be first, since he was a consensus All-American and a first-round (real) draft pick. He’s getting some innings in the St. Louis big-league camp this spring, and drove in the tie-breaking run with a ninth-inning single in Monday’s win.

But Wong is headed into just his first full season of pro ball, and the Cardinals are smart about not rushing their top prospects. My estimate is he opens in AA this season, progresses to AAA next year and gets a September 2013 call-up.

Catricala has more pro experience and is turning heads as a nonroster invitee with Seattle’s big club. After his second spring homer on Monday, he is batting .316 in 19 at-bats. Since rookie ball in 2009, Catricala has been over .300 with power at every stop. "He won’t make the team (this spring)," wrote Geoff Baker, who covers the Mariners for the Seattle Times. "But might someday soon."

Defensively, between them Catricala and Wong have all of the corners and up the middle covered, too, in a pinch.

Glove versatility is also why I like Garcia and Hee as dark horses in this race. They don’t hit for power, but they do everything else well. And capable utility players are more valuable now since big-league teams don’t keep many bench players on their rosters.

"Jon showed he can hit in AA last year (.275 at Portland), and that’s usually the benchmark," Trapasso said. "I don’t think you can show me anyone in the majors who can play defensively as well as Jon at as many positions."

Garcia hit .290 and fielded well at Palm Beach (High A) last year. He and Wong could end up being teammates this year.

I asked Trapasso which of his former players he thought would make it first. "It’s like asking a father who his favorite child is," he answered with a laugh. "The guy closest in the timing factor might be Vinnie, if he keeps hitting those home runs. Lenny could be on the fast track."

So many alums with a legit shot at the majors helps recruiting. "It doesn’t hurt," Trapasso said. "That’s for sure."


Reach Dave Reardon at or 529-4783.

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