On a smaller scale, it’s comparable to the NFL’s Manning family.
The athletic line of mostly quarterbacks went from Archie down to Cooper (wide receiver), Peyton and Eli.
On Kauai, you’ve got two who made the show as Major League Baseball pitchers —Tyler and Kirby Yates — but there is another baseball player in the family.
Spencer Yates, born between the other two, is the new Kauai High baseball coach, and Tyler is his pitching coach.
Unfortunately, baseball is on hold, and just like everyone else in the sports world, the hope is that the games can continue in the near future.
“Everything they (the Red Raiders players) worked for is being taken away,” Spencer said via cellphone last week. “I’m hoping there’s a chance we can get back and there’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. Even if the KIF gets canceled, I plan to be involved in setting up summer leagues for all these kids at all the schools.”
Spencer Yates does not have an extensive background as a coach. He coached some youth baseball and he has given private lessons. He played for the Red Raiders as a catcher in the 1990s and was on the same team as older brother Tyler. The two also went on to play briefly together at Hawaii Hilo.
Spencer has great memories of his days playing for Kauai High.
“Freshman year, I almost didn’t make the team and played very little with eight seniors on the team, but it was cool,” he said. “It was something to be on the team as a freshman. Sophomore year, the coaching staff changed, with (Ken) Mizuo and Tommy Cox coming in. That’s when I started catching and they put their trust in me and I learned a lot at that young age. As a sophomore, Tyler’s senior year, we took third at states and lost to ‘Iolani. We went to states in my junior and senior years, too.
“There was a group we had that played together since we were 9 years old. A group that was special and we had good coaching and knew how to play as a team, all the way until we were 17.”
Two of Spencer Yates’ sons are playing for Kauai High — Nainoa Yates, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior shortstop and pitcher, and Wailele Yates, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore infielder and pitcher.
Kainakoa Yates, another son, played at Hilo High before graduating a few years ago.
“It’s pretty cool, coaching at my alma mater,” Spencer said. “Just trying to go out there and help the kids and give back to them. Being at the school brings back a lot of memories of a special time for me, especially on the field.”
Being a catcher, Spencer (who is 6 feet) has gotten a close-up look of major league pitching in the form of his brothers.
“Tyler (6-4) is basically a big, strong guy,” he said. “He throws the ball hard at you and he’s got a great slider. Kirby (5-10) — we call him the runt — not being as big, works a little harder to throw the ball hard. It made him a little more crafty. He’s real smart with his pitch selection.
“Tyler’s actually a really good pitching coach. He’s a hard guy to work with at first because he’s a perfectionist. When he was pitching, he trained himself how to coach himself on what to do right and what is wrong. He can watch somebody throw the ball and make corrections. Players are usually resistant to changes, but once they get comfortable with him (Tyler), they notice that he’s really helping them.”
The Yates brothers also have an older half-brother Eli.
Father Gary Yates, who previously owned and operated several restaurants on Kauai, and mother Janna were always there to guide their boys through the youth baseball years in Koloa.
On March 14, the KIF played a tripleheader round-robin to start the season before suspension of play March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Red Raiders lost to defending KIF champion Waimea 9-8 in eight innings and defeated Kapaa 9-4. In the other game, Kapaa topped Waimea 2-1.
Spencer Yates and his boys are out to dethrone the Menehunes.
“Waimea is a tough team,” he said. “A good group of kids who have been playing together for a long time. They jumped out on us 5-0.”