Eric Kadooka made a stunning, seemingly out-of-the-blue decision last week, leaving his position as baseball coach at Maryknoll.
But he did it after lots of reflection on the state of the program he was running. The Spartans were 4-9 in the ILH when he departed.
“I don’t blame anybody, but I felt that if I removed myself from the situation, it would give another coach a chance to see if they can make that connection,” said Kadooka, who won seven straight Division I state baseball championships at Punahou from 2004 to ’10. “There are steps you need to take to get into contention. I couldn’t get them (the players) to buy into it. There’s always more stuff to do to advance. Lift weights. Bottom line, if you don’t do more, you don’t do well.
“In our league, there are good players everywhere, but the more you do things to improve yourself the better your chances. I couldn’t get them to make that commitment that’s required. I gave it three years. It is what it is. I thought I would be able to influence people and make them better and I didn’t. I probably should have waited until the end of the season, but I was thinking the faster they can get someone else to give it a fresh shot the better off they’ll be. There’s no hard feelings.”
Kadooka realizes that he set the bar high, with a goal to contend for the state title since coming to Maryknoll starting with the 2017 season.
“That (seven state titles) is difficult to live up to,” he said. “When you’ve done it, all you want is to be at that level, whether the goal is realistic or not. That’s all you envision is being at that level.”
Kadooka didn’t think it was unrealistic for Maryknoll to win a state title.
“I knew what I was up against,” he said. “I’ve been doing it so long. I love the ILH and its brand of baseball. You gotta compete every day. There’s no good or bad teams. You play three games a week and anybody can beat anybody. So to win it all, so many things have to go right. You consistently have to do a lot, put in the work making yourself better. You pull your weight or you get run over. I could not change the culture. It takes a whole tribe to make that change.
“But it’s baseball. It’s not life and death.”
Kadooka wishes the best for new Maryknoll coach Alakai Aglipay, who he coached at Punahou.
“He’s very level-headed and very mature for his age,” Kadooka said about Aglipay, who played for the Ewa Beach 2005 Little League World Series championship team. “He’s appreciative of what he’s got. He’s young enough to relate to the kids and he’s old enough to make that separation between coach and player.”
Kadooka will continue to remind the ILH coaches that the league hasn’t won the state championship since 2014.
“At Punahou, I always felt the league prepared us to put our best foot forward,” he said. “That’s why when coach Don Botelho (former ILH executive director) would have informal coaches’ meetings after the season, I would always bring the state trophy. I wanted them to share in it. The league is such a grind. They are helping teams move forward to be better. Every game, you have to perform or you’re going to lose.”
Kadooka, who is 51 now, will take a break from coaching, but he does plan to go to Maui to watch the state tournament next month and he does think he’ll coach again at some point.
“Almost every day, I forget that I don’t have to be anywhere, that I don’t have to be at practice,” he said.
“I was so lucky to have learned from lots of people through the years. Coach Pal and Dave Eldredge at Punahou, Dunn Muramaru (Mid-Pacific), Vern Ramie (Kamehameha), Dean Yonamine (‘Iolani). I was just somebody who wanted to listen.”