Going in to Friday’s Kailua vs. Castle baseball game, we heard reports there would be a new head coach in Castle’s home dugout. We just didn’t know who it would be.
Maybe the reports of a transition were overblown. Maybe it would still be Rocky Fraticelli, the Knights’ coach on the diamond since 2012.
Sure enough, though, Fraticelli was not in the dugout. But who was that in there, wearing his maroon cap and sunglasses?
After No. 6 Kailua’s 11-0 victory over Castle, the Knights gathered at third base for a meeting. Despite the loss, the players appeared upbeat and they all went up to shake all of the coaches’ hands when the meeting was done.
Who would the coach be that emerged from that group to answer postgame questions?
Lo and behold, it was John Hao, the football coach, who peeled off his sunglasses and cap like it was a mask revealing the identity of Batman.
It’s the ultimate pinch hit. Fraticelli resigned March 2 and athletic director Laynie Sueyasu needed somebody quick. The Knights were about to start the season the next day. She asked around and Hao took the bait. He played baseball for Saint Louis in high school and he is an assistant for his son’s youth team. A natural fit.
“Pitcher, first baseman, outfield,” said Hao, when asked where he played in high school.
Is he enjoying the sunshine out on the ballfield instead of being in the weight room with his football players?
“I love baseball,” he said before dropping a joke: “And I’m enjoying it so much, I was thinking that maybe I could see if I could resign football and coach baseball.”
So far, he is 0-2. The Knights also have one victory, which occurred one day after Fraticelli officially resigned but agreed to stay on for that one game — 4-2 over Roosevelt on March 3.
“We’re getting a feel for this team,” Hao said. “We’re seeing who is who and what everyone can do. Kailua hit the ball really well today.”
The Knights did not play poorly (zero errors, but only one hit) and only made one mental mistake — Cade Rapozo got thrown out at home trying to score after a triple and overthrow.
Castle pitchers Jabe Kahawaii and Fabian Silva-Pokipala threw strikes. It just so happened the strikes were too good for Kailua’s veteran lineup. Kalua Neves homered into the parking lot in right field and he also tripled. Jalen Ah Yat cranked a two-run double and finished with three RBIs and Matthew Kaleiohi drove in three runs.
And while Hao can smile about his recent fortune that brings him to the diamond, Fraticelli is looking for answers and is far from happy about what transpired.
Fraticelli’s brother, volunteer assistant Duane Fraticelli, was relieved of his duties Feb. 27 by the Castle administration, according to Rocky Fraticelli, who said no reason was given that day or at a meeting three days later.
Due to the fact that he has been an assistant athletic director at Castle for 25 years, Fraticelli feels he deserves to know the reason why.
Hawaii Prep World was unable to contact Castle AD Layne Sueyasu after Friday’s game.
Rocky Fraticelli said that the administration told him that several parents of players called to complain about Duane Fraticelli. The administration, according to Rocky Fraticelli, generally brought up comments that Duane Fraticelli made about a certain mainland baseball showcase.
“They said something about inappropriate communication to players,” Rocky Fraticelli said. “He may have told a player that a certain baseball showcase might not be worth the player’s money.”
Rocky Fraticelli said that it is common knowledge that some baseball showcases are much better (with high level scouts) than others.
“I was told he shouldn’t be making those remarks to players,” Rocky Fraticelli said. “I believe he (Duane) was telling the player to do research on that showcase before making a decision. It (the reason for letting Duane Fraticelli go) may have been because of the showcase comment. There has been calls made to the principal (Bernadette Tyrell) and to the district office from parents. I don’t know what those calls were about. I heard the district office kicked it back to the principal to handle it. The principal and the athletic director talked about and decided to release him. That was on a Tuesday. We had a bye the next day and I was able to set up a meeting with the principal and athletic director on Thursday. It was about a 10-minute meeting. Their decision did not change. I’m trying to do research and find out what the DOE policy is. I went to the Board of Education. They referred me to the DOE and the DOE referred me to OIA exeuctive director Ray Fujino. I left a message with him.
“I don’t know what to say,” he added. “I’ve been a coach for 33 years, 31 as a head coach and 25 years as an assistant athletic director. I gave my resignation letter Friday (March 2) morning. I’m a Castle person. But this, I couldn’t stomach it.”
Fraticelli was a Kailua assistant baseball coach under Alex Kane in 1981, and then he was the Kalaheo girls basketball coach in 1982. He coached Castle girls basketball in 1988-89 and took over the Knights boys basketball team in 1989-90 and stayed in that post until 2009. In 2012, he took over the baseball team.
Fraticelli was asked if there had been any problems in the past with his brother Duane as an assistant.
“About four years ago, there were some issues about both me and my brother and it went to the district office and it was handled,” Rocky Fraticelli said. “They found no evidence of what we were accused of. Nothing was found.”
Rocky Fraticelli did not specify the reasons for that district office investigation, but he said it stemmed from complaints by parents of players and it had more or less to do with coaching style.
“After that, they asked for my brother to stay away for a few years and he did,” Fraticelli said. “Then this June, I was asked (by the administration) what I needed. I said that I was missing my brother. He is a certified national pitching coach. The principal interviewed Duane and noticed that he is straightforward and the principal liked that. He was allowed to come back to coach.
“We went through the JV season without issues and we were going into the varsity season. I actually think it’s that parents were trying to get me out and were doing it by targeting my brother.”