Mid-Pacific baseball is about strength in numbers.
Efficiency. Every batter, every fielder having a common goal. Statistics are nice, but making the right play? That’s not so automatic with every baseball team. The Owls preach consistency, selflessness, discipline. It is not a desire. It is the expectation.
That all-for-one mentality is why a senior like Micah Pi isn’t comfortable with the spotlight. Not for his .370 batting average and .452 on-base percentage. Not for his sterling defensive play in right field. Not for his 3.7 GPA.
He has worked in the classroom and on the field. He has been to the ski slopes of Canada, Colorado and Japan. He’s played soccer in Denmark and Germany. (He highly recommends the food there.)
Pi would be perfectly happy being just a great teammate. However, something happened along the way. Between the 2017 season, when the young Owls had their struggles, and the current squad that is 10-2 in the rugged ILH, Pi underwent his own battle of a lifetime.
He was diagnosed with lymphoma at the beginning of the school year. A tumor the size of a softball was removed from his chest. By December, his chemotherapy treatments were done. One week later, he tried to work out at Damon Field, home of the Owls.
“He tried running two laps. That’s courage,” longtime coach Dunn Muramaru said. “Now he’s our starting right fielder.”
Pi simply wanted to be part of something he and his teammates had dreamed of.
“I knew our senior year was gong to be a special one. We’re all super close, and we work really hard. We don’t really mess around with other stuff,” he said.
Muramaru knows Pi would prefer complete normalcy. This is not, however, normal at all. A young man recovering from a disease in the span of a few months, becoming one of the best outfielders in the ILH, perhaps the state — it just doesn’t happen.
“Micah just does what he has to do, which in itself is a daunting task. He never ever complains,” Muramaru said. “You would never have guessed that he had a life-threatening condition. His parents and sister are just the best people in the world, so supportive.”
Pi had one of his best games so far against Punahou, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. Muramaru noted that Pi did not play in the Owls’ only two losses (injury).
“I don’t know Micah personally, but his journey speaks volumes about his spirit and character, as well as the culture of Mid-Pacific baseball that Coach Dunn and his staff and players have cultivated,” Punahou coach Keenan Sue said. “Sports, especially baseball, teach us that progress in life is never linear. We win or we learn. Micah and his Mid-Pacific teammates and coaches display that in all they do. That Micah has overcome his health issues is obviously a huge triumph, but what I find particularly inspiring is that the tools he used to persevere are simply a part of who he is. Micah, his parents, his teammates and coaches should all be incredibly proud.”
They certainly are. Last Thursday, the team broke a 31-year tradition by resting their gray jerseys in favor of a custom-made neon-green senior-day jersey. The color of lymphoma awareness was on display in a 6-0 win over ‘Iolani, and the math symbol “pi” was on every left sleeve.
Below is a Q&A with Pi. He was featured in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read by clicking here.
Q&A / Favorites
Do you like having the name Pi?
> I like Pi because use I can use the math symbol π. I can put Micah and then the symbol.
Athlete: Mike Tyson
Have you seen his live show?
> It was pretty funny. And I’ve seen him fight on YouTube. He’s just a animal, and he has a lisp, it’s kind of funny and cool.
He was bullied as a kid.
> I guess he took out his aggression.
Team: New York Mets
> My dad’s from New York and he likes the Yankees, so I took the Mets.
Do you regret it?
> No. They’ll be good one day. There will be a bandwagon.
Food (at home): Stouffer’s mac and cheese
> I just microwave it.
Food (eating out): Like Like Drive Inn
> I usually get the breakfast plate with eggs, rice and (breakfast) links, hash brown.
Do they have a better hash brown than Zippy’s?
> I like Like Like’s. Zippy’s is good though.
Hobby outside of sports: surfing
How many surfboards do you have?
> Three. I have a 5-7 Al Merrick, that’s my favorite board. I mostly use it because sometimes the waves aren’t that big, and it’s good for (maneuvers).
Where do you do this?
> Mostly Diamond Head or Suicides or Half Point.
Movie: Scent of a Woman
> I like the old films, the John Hughes films. My dad recommended this, with Al Pacino, He says “Hoo-rah!” a lot.
Would you recommend this film to most of your friends?
> Uh, I’m not sure if they’d sit through it. It’s pretty long. It’s about character. They like funnier movies, films with Will Ferrell.
TV show: Friends
> I like the different situations and different dynamics. I like Ross because he’s kind of nerdy.
You can relate to him?
> Not too much, but he’s kind of goofy and gets teased a lot. I think that’s kind of funny.
He’s a nerd who achieves his dreams.
Video game: Fortnite and Skate 3
> I can pretty much be in any mood to play. I play Fortnite with a lot of friends. Skate 3, not too many of my friends play that.
Are you addicted to Fortnite?
> Uhh, not really. I don’t play as much as some of my friends on the team. I play twice a week. It depends on if I have homework or not.
What’s the longest you’ve played it?
> Probably three hours.
Why is it so popular? Or addicting?
> It’s a new kind of game play, different from Call of Duty.
Not as much bloodshed and is it fun for both men and women?
> I think more girls play, too, than other games. Definitely more than C.O.D.
Music artist: Vance Joy
> He’s a singer, I guess. Alternative music. I just kind of play it on shuffle.
Is this pre-game music?
> It’s more relaxing kind of music. Before away games, we play “Living on a Prayer” by John Bon Jovi. The whole team gets up hyped up.
Teacher (elementary through high school): Mrs. (Monica) Flores (math)
> She’s really friendly, you can just talk to her. She’s like, I don’t know, everybody looks at her like a motherly figure. She’s really open. She teaches math studies, pre-Calculus.
> Did sports help you academically, or is it a sacrifice?
It’s a bit of a sacrifice. Work still gets done, but you have less time to do other things.
Class: 2D art
> It’s an art class, we just draw on paper. I’m not good, but I try. It’s fun. I draw cartoon characters. I kind of draw my own.
Place to relax: Home.
Motto/scripture: “Enjoy every moment.”
What your mom (Stacy) says that you can’t forget: Have good manners and to be grateful. Say please, thank you, just be polite overall.
What your dad (Mike) says that you can’t forget: Have fun, work hard. Enjoy what you’re doing. Work hard at it, give it 100 percent.
What your coaches say that you can’t forget: No excuses.
How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason? Baseball has no offseason.
What middle and elementary schools did you attend?
> Aina Haina Elementary, Mid-Pacific Middle School, when I met Wyatt Young on my first day of sixth grade. He’s one of my best friends.
Coach Dunn (Muramaru) says Wyatt would be at the field Sunday morning, 6:30, waiting to swing in the cage.
> He loves baseball. I think of baseball, I think of Wyatt. I’m not even kidding. At Mid-Pacific, we have five, six (pitching) machines that can shoot balls at us.
That would cost people $20 for 10 minutes or something like that.
> We’re lucky because it’s all free for the players.
What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?
> I played for the Manoa Mariners and Honolulu Bulls soccer club. I started playing baseball pretty young, Pinto age is I think 7. I initially off playing soccer, and AYSO. I was invited to play baseball with the same group of kids. I never really thought I was that good at baseball. I never really played 90 feet until I came to Mid-Pacific. I was 12 when I tried out and everyone’s playing 90 feet. I was still play 70 feet still and my dad said try out and I got lucky, I guess, and made the team.
Do you miss soccer?
> Uh, a little bit. I stopped playing in eighth grader. I went to Europe to play that summer and after that I stopped. I didn’t have to pick one, but Mid-Pac baseball is pretty serious. I only miss it when I’m watching my sister’s games or my girlfriend’s sister’s games. I can still play and kick a ball around, but competing is different.
Where have you travelled for sports?
> I went to Germany and Denmark. There’s a lot of tall people. It’s really fun. The food was really good. Local food is a lot different from anywhere else. Their food was essentially a lot of potatoes, bread and meat.
What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
> Skiing. I learned to ski in elementary school. My parents took me on trips to Colorado, Utah, Canada. This past winter, I went to Japan with a couple of friends. I skied close to Nagano. The snow was really powdery.
What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? Where would you like to travel, what life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports?
> I really want to go to Egypt. I think their culture is pretty cool. It’s just different and they’re pretty advanced for their time. The pyramids and hieroglyphs and all that stuff.
> Maybe Tahiti.
What is the history and background of your name?
> Pi is Chinese. My mom is Japanese. Her maiden name is Nakasone.
> Micah was close to my dad’s name. A simple, nice name, I guess.
> My middle name is Tatsuo. It’s my grandfather’s name. He comes to all my games. He’s a healthy guy.
Did he play baseball?
> I don’t think so. I don’t think my dad played sports. My mom went to a small school, St. Andrew’s Priory. She played volleyball, basketball, softball.
In the ILH, it’s tough because there’s so much competition in academics and sports.
> My parents sent me to Mid-Pac for the education. I don’t think they cared if I played a sport or not.
> I’m going to UC Santa Cruz, major in biology.
Your favorite athlete is Mike Tyson. Do you have a favorite baseball player? Is there one that you are similar to?
> I don’t really compare myself to professional athletes. At Mid-Pacific, Alex (Oley), I’ve always really looked up to him. He’d help me around the field, always talk and hang out a lot. I had a good time with him.
Coach Dunn compares Wyatt to Alex as far as work ethic.
> I remember Wyatt used to show up at 4, 3 o’clock, hit and lift, go home, shower, and come to school. I think he sleeps early.
Is Coach having more fun this season?
> I think it’s definitely different because we’re winning a lot of one-run games. He sees our team as a lot more mature, a lot more leaders. Last year we had only five seniors, and none of the starters started the year before.
You’re hitting .370. That’s outstanding for any player in the ILH, let alone someone who overcame lymphoma and had chemotherapy as recently as December.
> I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to play. The whole coming back thing, it was difficult, but with the people I met at the hospital, I had it a lot better than the kids. Between my cycles, I’d feel a little awful. I just go with it, and try to live a normal life, go surf once or twice, hang out with the team once or twice. The first month or two back was really difficult. I was really uncoordinated. I couldn’t run or throw. The chemo kills cells, so my coordination and my reaction time weren’t that great. The first time hitting a baseball, it was like the pitches were like 100 mph and the bats were so heavy.
When the team wore the neon-green jerseys and Coach Dunn broke a tradition that went back to 1987, it was the first time I’d heard anything about your illness.
> I didn’t really want to say anything. I didn’t want people looking at me differently. I honestly don’t care. I just want to be seen the same way as anybody else. I just feel like right now, it’s not a big deal, things are pretty much back to normal. It’s kind of difficult — I don’t want people to look at me as someone else. Not someone who’s struggling and coming back from all that stuff.
Coach seems very comfortable and enjoying the season more than usual.
> I knew our senior year was gong to be a special one. We’re all super close, and we work really hard. We don’t really mess around with other stuff.
He mentioned that you turned down a prom nomination. Voted to the prom court?
> I just didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t do it with my girlfriend (Olivia Collis), so I thought it was lame.
Discipline has always been a key to the program’s success.
> I’ve never really known the whole MPI legacy thing because I wasn’t that good, but I remember my first day, I heard don’t mess around in this program. Overall, I think it’s been one of the best years I’ve had.
DIAGNOSIS AND RECOVERY
What was it like for your mom (Stacy) and dad (Mike)?
> I pretty much saw what I saw my whole life. My mom (pharmacist) and dad (anesthesiologist) have medical backgrounds. They were calm and they pretty much have been there for me. I haven’t seen anything different. I think that consistency gave me reassurance. Everything’s going to be OK and normal.
What was it like hearing the diagnosis?
> I didn’t really pay attention to that stuff. There’s something in my chest, what do I have to do to get me better. I didn’t listen to anything else.
Coach mentioned that it was at the team’s party not long after returning from the American Legion tournament on the mainland that you became sick.
> The team party, I started feeling it the day before. My back was really sore, couldn’t sleep, thought I tore a muscle surfing. School starts, the day after we came back from senior camp.
Then you were in the hospital the next day.
> I wasn’t really freaking out or anything. I was pretty chill about it. My girlfriend and friends tried to visit me every day, the best part of my day, Locked in my room, being lonely. Not much to do. Having them come after school or after practice, that’s the greatest thing to look forward to.
Kessi is your twin sister?
> She kind of treated me the same, but I think she was worried about me at the beginning. She plays soccer. She goes to Punahou.
If you could say something to other young people, kids who are going through what you did, what would it be?
> For me, I think you’ve just got to be patient and the only way to get through it is to get through it. There’s no shortcuts, when it’s done it’s all worth it. You definitely see life in a different way. Being outside and doing what you want, you appreciate the little things.
Any shout-outs or additional thoughts are welcome. Mahalo!
> Shoutout to my mom, dad, sister, grandpa, grandma, Liv and her family, friends, teammates.