Hawaii Winter Baseball

Hawaii Winter Baseball

With this Arctic air mass hovering over my city, I can’t help but think how nice it would be to take in a Cienfuegos Elefantes, Cancun Lagosteros or even an Aguilas Cibaeñas game. Then I remembered a little known winter league based out of beautiful Hawaii. If I can’t be there I might as well write about it, so here it is.

Much like the Arizona Fall League, Hawaii winter baseball is a professional league sanctioned by Major League Baseball. Not only does it have U.S born and Latin-American players, but many young Asian prospects come to Hawaii to play top-notch international talent. Where the Arizona Fall League is generally regarded as being equivalent to a AAA league, Hawaii Winter Baseball is closer to a AA level of play.

The league is divided into 2 divisisions consisting of 2 teams each. The East division has the Waikiki Beach Boys and the Honolulu Sharks. The West division has North Shore Honu and the West Oahu Cane Fires. Each team is allowed a roster of 28 players.

The seeds of Hawaii Winter Baseball were planted in 1866, when the first game between the “natives” and the “haoles” (white boys) was played on Hawaii soil. The Natives won 2-1. The popularity of the game widely spread throughout the islands and the all-wood stadium, Honolulu Stadium, was built in 1926. It was affectionately known as the “Termite Palace”.

Honolulu Stadium

With the advent of jet travel, the Hawaii Islanders were formed in 1961 and moved into the new Aloha Stadium. They won the Pacific Coast League title in 1970 and led all minor league teams with fan attendance of 470,000.

Although no longer fielding a team in the Pacific Coast League, Hawaii Winter Baseball’s 54 game schedule attracts 100,000 + fans annually. Season tickets range from $120 – $200 and average game day tickets cost between $4-5 dollars.

Notable Hawaii Winter Baseball alumni include:

A.J. Pierzynski

Adam Kennedy

Derrek Lee

Ichiro Suzuki

Jason Giambi

Mark Kotsay

Michael Barrett

Preston Wilson

Randy Winn

So Taguchi

Tadahito Iguchi

Todd Helton

Currently, hot Yankees prospect Joba Chamberlain is pitching well for West Oahu.

Todd Helton playing for the now defucnt Maui Stingrays

Todd Helton playing for the now defucnt Maui Stingrays

Ichiro

Ichiro

Michael Barrett

The Waikiki Beach Boys’ hat

Written By

has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • “good pull” I’ve read about this league a few times in old Baseball America Almanacs. With only four teams, do they have a playoff system or does the best regular season record win?
    Is that a pre-MLB ichiro?

  • Good question. I believe it is the best team from each division plays in the final. Kind of lame with 4 teams but they are hoping to expand it to 8 teams in the future. Yes, that very thin Ichiro is pre-MLB.

  • If Ichiro is pre-mlb than I would assume that other Japanese League Stars have been sent over. With that out of the way, it would be interesting to see how they perform vs the MLB prospects.

    I’m automatically turning you into my Hawaii league expert. Is the MLB prospect talent about AA, or A level? The Japanese league is usually refered to as AAAA. I personaly would say AAA, but that’s besides the point. Japanese players should perform at least on a even curve as the MLB prospects. Is this the case?

  • Yes, many Japanese stars have been sent over. I can’t say for sure if they perform on an even curve as MLB prospects, but looking at the League Leaders in various stat categories as well as All-Star Team selections, Japanese players are well represented. The best pitcher and home run champ in the league are both Japanese: Kanehisa Arime and Yasushi Iihara. That being said, I can’t say what the makeup of the league is of Japanese/Korean players vs. MLB prospects. Indians prospect Rodney Choy Foo leads the league in SLG% and is second in hits.

  • Rodney Choy Foy is the best name of all-time!

    “Hi, my name’s Rodney, Rodney Choy Foo”

    Automatic Hall of Famer, makes me proud to be an Indians fan.

    By looking at the stats, it’s damn near impossible to hit a home run in that league. The league leaders are hitting at a rate of 1 per 25 AB’s. MLB leaders are usually around 11 – 12 AB’s. Must be some big parks, weird winds, or something going on.

    We’ll have to find some way to track down some stats. I see that the league opened in 1993, so it doesn’t have too long of a history.

  • Early

    Interesting about the Hawaii Islanders in AAA, I think Bonds played for them. They played at Aloha Stadium where the U of H play. This multi-purpose park is one of the most original ever. The field was a rounded square, deep CF. The double-decked grandstands would fold like a paper fan, with the sidelines splitting in half, half going to the baselines, half going to the outfield. It had the same amount of seats in the outfield as infield, seating about 50,000 altogether. Hawaii is too far west to be considered a realistic relocation/expanision for major sports. Travel costs crushed the Islanders. It is two hours west of Pac Time. Making a 7:30pm Hawaii start a 12:30am start in NYC, killer for television ratings.

  • Sid Thrift talked about the Hawaii AAA team in his book. When he took the helm, he felt that it was simply too far away for himself, scouts and Pirate personal to travel to for player evaluation. The minors was Syd’s #1 focus. That coupled with poor business helped get the team moved away from the island to mainland USA.

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  • These are not surprising my anymore, but thanks..

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