Skyler Tengan has a vision for Damien baseball.
The former Mid-Pacific infielder was hired to guide the Monarchs on Tuesday. Damien Athletic Director Eddie Klaneski made the announcement on Wednesday, promoting Tengan, who was an assistant coach under former Damien head coach Timo Donahue for two years.
“I’m excited. I just spoke to Eddie on Tuesday and found out. I’m excited to start out. I can’t wait to chat with the kids and, hopefully, we can start working out. I’m hopeful, especially for the seniors,” Tengan said on Thursday. “Right now, I’m planning to talk to the team. I hope I can stay a while, build the program and take it all in stride.”
Donahue stepped down as head coach in late summer after five seasons at the helm.
“Timo and I talk often and I can always call him. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. What Timo’s done at Damien is amazing,” Tengan said.
Donahue was an all-state selection while playing at Damien before leading the Pac-10 North in hitting as a Washington Husky. He guided Damien to the Division II state championship in 2018, coaching son Jordan Donahue at shortstop.
“We were sad to hear he was resigning and moving on, but we are grateful for what he has done for the Damien baseball program,” Klaneski said. “Winning a state championship and bringing our program to a higher level, and making it competitive each and every year.”
Nine years ago, Tengan was a third baseman playing for Dunn Muramaru, voted to the all-Interscholastic League of Honolulu team after hitting .426. It was the same class that produced MPI all-state shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who earned a Golden Glove this week as a Texas Ranger.
“I saw it first hand playing with him. There’s not much people that work harder than that guy. What he had to go through with catching, being an (infielder), working hard. Even in high school, he was so much better than everyone. It’s well deserved,” Tengan said.
MPI captured the state title in 2013, a year after he graduated.
“I was fortunate enough in high school to play with Justin Protacio, Dane Fujinaka (now coaching with the Toronto Blue Jays), Isiah. That 2013 class was amazing, the year they won states,” Tengan said. “As far as Coach Dunn, in my opinion, he’s the GOAT, the best to do it as far as high school baseball in Hawaii, how long he’s done it. The work he puts in and the work he makes us do, fielding ground balls over and over, there’s a reason why he’s so good every year.”
After graduating from Mid-Pacific in ’12, Tengan turned down opportunities to play college baseball.
“I definitely had that talk with my parents and UH offered me a good academic scholarship. It was hard to turn that down financially. Also, I got to stay home and fortunately I got to coach,” Tengan said.
He still hasn’t taken a spring season off.
“At Mid-Pac, baseball season is year-round. I coached there for five years, coached the JV. I was going to take a little break and Timo asked my dad (Derek) to help in 2018. I couldn’t stay away. My dad knew Coach Timo from my younger time. He coached Christian (Timo Donahue’s older son). I stayed on the last two years with him.”
More than two months ago, Donahue gave Tengan a call about his decision. After the process, Tengan is now a varsity head coach for the first time.
“I’m a little surprised, but I figured I’d apply. I got to interview and took it in stride from there,” said Tengan, 26. “Before I got (hired), I talked to (Maryknoll coach) Alaka‘i Aglipay, and he said if you love coaching, it’s something you can’t pass up. I love baseball and I love giving back to the kids.”
Organizing a program during the COVID-19 pandemic is new ground.
“Football and baseball might run at the same time in the proposed timeline. Damien is such a small school, we’re going to have to sit down and figure it out as we go. If the kids get to play, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Tengan said.
As for a coaching staff, there’s always the possibility of a reunion in the dugout.
“My dad is enjoying retirement right now. It’s a discussion we’ll have eventually,” he said. “He likes to golf.”