From the knoll at the left-field fence to the welcoming pavement of North School Street, Joey DeSa Field became the adopted home of the inaugural Chace Numata Senior All-Star game on Saturday.
Numata, who died in 2019 from injuries suffered in a skateboarding accident, would have relished the sight. Team Hawaiian outscored Team Aloha, 11-5, as Kapolei senior Jahshua Yacapin was named the game’s MVP. The right-hander pitched two innings and hit two doubles for Team Hawaiian, coached by Brandon Toro.
“It’s probably going above my bed,” Yacapin said of the silver trophy. “I’ll probably bring it with me. Good memories today.”
Yacapin, along with several players who suited up for Team Aloha, will head to Bushnell College (Wash.) this fall. For one day, nearly 50 players from Oahu enjoyed a final prep baseball experience.
“I liked playing against the best, I guess. The best and all of the teams. The competition and having fun with everybody,” said Yacapin, who also plays first base.
His teammate at Kapolei, Jeremiah Lono, played third base for Team Hawaiian. He went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“It was a good experience. I got a lot of at-bats. I really liked it,” said Lono, who will play at Tacoma Community College.”
Technically, the two Hurricanes are done with prep-level baseball, but American Legion 19-under play begins soon. Then it’s off to the Northwest.
“I’m going to miss how I knew them all my life. Those are my boys a long time,” Lono said.
Kody Pilor was the leadoff man for Team Aloha and socked a solo home run to right in the fourth inning. It was a fitting final plate appearance for the Farrington senior. As an eighth grader, he was at now-defunct St. Francis and homered over the same right-field fence in a scrimmage against Farrington.
He became a Governor after St. Francis closed shop.
“It felt really good. feels really good to beast the ball and make really good contact. Fastball low and inside,” the left-handed hitter said. “I’ll just keep training. I leave in late July.”
Pilor will head to Hesston Community College (Kan.).
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) June 6, 2021
Cher Numata had a busy day with media interviews, sharing memories of her son.
“It’s very special. We really appreciate coach Eric Tokunaga and his staff to put this on in memory of Chace,” she said.
During the pre-game introductions, Cher Numata met with each player and gave them wristbands with #LiveLikeNumi.
“After he passed, his teammates had this hashtag. Because the way he played the game and lived life. He had such a big heart and wherever he went, he touched so many lives. Who started the hashtag was his teammate, Rico Garcia. He’s from Hawaii, and Chace’s Erie teammates put it out there, too. They really honor him and his legacy,” she said.
Numata was a catcher with the Erie Seadogs at the time of his death. Cher Numata added that the Erie Seadogs, with help from the Detroit Tigers, minor league baseball and MLB, started an annual scholarship fund for baseball and softball players in Pennsylvania.
Nathan Numata was also on hand at Saturday’s inaugural game. He was also at the first Sugar Mill Classic, also organized by Tokunaga. Cher Numata said she was emotional during her TV interview earlier in the afternoon. Baseball remains a big part of their lives.
“It’s emotional without him. My husband is still involved. He helps coach at Damien. He’s very involved. Everybody calls him ‘Homey,’” she said. “I just think, just play hard, just enjoy it, too. That’s part of the ‘Live Like Numi.’ You know, he was a really special kid. He lived life to its fullest. He stuck with it, followed his dream. He was in the minor leagues for 10 years, and he had actually had signed his contract with the Tigers to play another year before his accident happened. We appreciate everyone’s support through the past year, going on two years now.”
Numata was an organ donor. Five lives were saved by him.
“His corneas, too. He saved two people’s vision,” Cher Numata said. “And they take the tissues and stuff, too, so a couple people who weren’t able to walk were helped. I didn’t know he was an organ donor. That’s typical of him. I’m not surprised.”
Tokunaga oversaw the event. He worked out Numata, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. He remains close with the Numata family.
“It went OK. We had to make a lot of adjustments because we live in a different world. There are a lot of drive-by graduations, really spontaneous. Everything was last-minute, so we just put on something. I wish we could’ve invited everybody (across the state), but logistically, it was just impossible,” Tokunaga said, referring to current travel restrictions. “There’s a lot of help with everyone chipping in and getting the players out.”
The game was nine innings long and pitchers had pre-arranged schedule slots.
“It’s a different type of atmosphere. For the family, it’s been tough, but the bottom line is if we can do something small, keep a little legacy going, I think it’ll be good in the long run,” Tokunaga said. “Chace would be happy.”
Team Aloha coach Benny Agbayani has fond memories of his high school years.
“My last baseball experience was against Punahou in states,” he said. “We didn’t have a game like this. It’s a great way to end a career for these kids thanks to Eric Tokunaga and his guys. What a great day for baseball.”
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) June 6, 2021