Shane Sasaki came home for graduation on Saturday.
He will return to the mainland as a professional baseball player.
The Tampa Bay Rays selected the ‘Iolani center fielder in the third round, the 99th selection, of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft today. The speedy senior came into the high school season rated as the No. 1 prospect in the islands. Then he measured up in every possible way on the field, and at the plate.
“I’m speechless, hearing my name on TV. I don’t even know what to think,” said Sasaki, who already had more than 30 texts with calls blowing up his smartphone.
The right-handed hitting and throwing Sasaki said he is likely to sign with the Rays.
He batted .565 with five home runs, 26 RBIs and 26 runs scored. His OPS of 1.459, plus eight stolen bases, made him virtually unpitchable this spring. He also possessed tremendous range in center field and displayed a great arm.
Pre-draft workouts had the hard-working Sasaki hopping across America. Last week, Sasaki’s itinerary read something like this: Arizona, return home, back to Arizona, then Los Angeles, Missouri, Cincinnati, and oh, a swing back to the islands for ‘Iolani graduation.
Three days later, he is a Tampa Bay Ray.
“I’m a little bit jet-lagged,” Sasaki noted.
He had an inkling that the Rays were serious about him.
“Casey Onaga, he’s been watching me play since freshman year,” Sasaki said of the Tampa Bay scout. “I knew there was a good chance I’d get drafted. There were eight or 10 teams that were interested.”
As of early morning, the Rays had contacted his advisor, Jason Conte, indicating that they would select him in the third round. Now, he’s a Ray who doesn’t yet have Rays gear. Rookie League ball is likely the next destination.
“I’m happy for Shane. I’m proud of him,” ‘Iolani coach Kurt Miyahira said. “I think he’s been preparing for this for awhile. I think he’ll be ready. He’s not afraid to compete. Not afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s not afraid to put in the work.“
Sasaki is looking forward to celebrating with his family, maybe at his favorite spot, Chili’s Restaurant.
“My family, I thank you for all your support,” he said. “And having my back.”