Roughly one year ago, Mack Higuchi was in surgery to repair his throwing arm.
Higuchi recovered, rehabbed and turned his opportunity into a reward. Hawaii Pacific offered Higuchi a baseball scholarship, and he committed to the Sharks. In the fall of 2021, he will join former Mid-Pacific teammates Kyle Layugan and Shane Adams.
“I feel very excited. I’m ready to play in front of our home crowd and show out,” Higuchi said. “(HPU’s coaches are) very welcoming. Very driven. Always looking for improvement from their players and themselves, which is something I can connect with. It feels like a family there. They want the best for you.”
The catcher/first baseman also plays a little hot corner, but what coaches at all levels like his is connectivity at home plate.
“His best (skill) is the way he hits the ball,” Mid-Pacific coach Dunn Muramaru said. “He has pretty good power. He’s just a good kid. He works hard. He’s easy to work with. I make suggestions and he does it.”
Higuchi is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 190 pounds. The senior lost his junior season when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the high school season. At that point, in seven nonconference games and two ILH regular-season games, Higuchi was batting .517.
Even then, he wasn’t quite back to full strength.
“By the start of preseason, I had about 80 percent of my arm strength back. In the regular season, I was at about 85 percent,” he said.
The summer, Higuchi added, was about making the best of unique circumstances. He was supposed to play with Trosky Baseball in San Diego. In between, Higuchi and a handful of classmates were extremely dedicated to their craft. MPI had new lights in its baseball cage facility, but for the past six months, they have been dark.
“Coach thought of it as a time to grow rather than a time to stop. He encouraged us to keep working from our homes and keep improving,” Higuchi said. “Coach Dunn really preaches a culture and keeping that culture. Hard work, dedication and constant improvement. That’s something we live by. If we didn’t have the virus, we’d be in the cage.”
Otherwise, in a pre-COVID world, it was Higuchi, Wyatt Young, Kodey Shojinaga and Kennedy Hara practically living at the baseball diamond and cages, training in the weight room near the MPI pool.
“They have a bond,” Muramaru said. “The younger kids see that and they want to be at the cage, too. It was getting to the way it used to be. There was a time when we had kids who weren’t as good leaders and the cage was empty. We were just getting back to the old days, and this whole thing came down on us.”
It was after the 2019 ILH season when Higuchi got his arm repaired.
“The surgery on my arm last year was on the bone attached to my tendon and UCL. It was separated. It went very smooth. It’s not common. It’s on the rarer side. I noticed it was starting to hurt. The doctor said we can reattach it,” he said.
Higuchi went to Stay Fit Hawaii for rehab.
“They helped me get back into baseball. It took about three months until I started to throw. Very boring. It was slow.”
He misses the camaraderie and competition. Higuchi is mature and focused, but his people skills are elite. His favorite player, Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, is his on-field role model.
“He has a great arm. He does his job well and he can rake. I like how he creates bonds with his pitchers,” Higuchi said.
He enjoys working with his teammates on the mound.
“I go into it thinking what’s his best qualities and work out of that. Make him looser and more confident on the mound,” he said.
Pressed for his input, Higuchi obliges.
“Our most improved pitcher? From my class, Cayden Okada. He has more control over his pitches. Mostly, it’s just confidence. He’s had a good build for a while, but with confidence he’s been dominating,” he said.
“The younger guys, like Kodey Shojinaga and Kennedy Hara, they’ve been working really hard and getting a lot better. Kodey’s improved most at pitching. First game, he did very well against Pac-Five and his hitting’s come a long way. Above .500, at least. Kennedy’s become a solid shortstop for us and contributes in many ways,” Higuchi said.
He began playing at a young age and never stopped.
“My mom (Cheryl) was one of my biggest supporters in baseball. She didn’t play sports, but I said I wanted to play, so she backed me 100 percent. At first, my dad (Todd-Lee) let my mom help me and as I got older, he got more into it,” Higuchi said.
There is a glimmer of hope that the tourism industry may re-open in October if the current, second lockdown is successful. With that would come the possibility of reopening campuses and prep sports statewide. It’s a long shot. Even longer, baseball and softball in the fall or winter.
“I believe that, yes, we could play, but to be safe, I think it’s smart to have this quarantine and lockdown,” Higuchi said. “I would love to play, but I understand where the government is coming from.”
The work doesn’t end, but getting a degree and playing baseball at the next level sounds like a world he can thrive in.
“I’d like to thank my coaches, my family, my teammates and everyone who helped me get to where I am today,” he said.
Top 3 movies/shows
1. The Good Doctor. “I like the main character. I’m not the best with names.”
2. The Office. “Dwight. I’ve met some people similar, but not exactly like him.”
3. Parks & Recreation. “My favorite character is (played by) Chris Pratt.”
Top 3 foods
1. Fried arare. “It’s interesting. It’s very salty and kind of white or pale-ish. I get it from Wholesale Unlimited.”
2. Fruit roll-ups, berry.
3. Classic Lays potato chips. “If I had all three of these for my birthday, I would be living the life.”
Top 3 drinks
1. Water, Arrowhead.
2. Minute Maid lemonade.
3. Fruit punch.
Top 3 artists
1. Post Malone.
3. Chance the Rapper.