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After watching Baldwin celebrate his state title win in 2018, Trayden Tamiya left the field at Les Murakami Stadium with no idea that his next game representing a school wouldn’t be for another three years.
He also had no idea when it would happen, it would be at the iconic Skip Bertman Field at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The 2018 Waiakea alum had a year-old Hawaii Hilo removed after shoulder surgery, and sat out the following season at the Air Force during the 2020 season shortened by COVID-19 due to the rules of transfer.
When he finally hit that batter’s box again, he was wearing the blue and white colors representing the Air Force as a cadet.
“I was very anxious and excited,” Tamiya recalled in a phone interview on Monday. “It was kind of surreal. It was always a dream to play college baseball, and finally having this opportunity was pretty awesome, and just playing in that environment felt like something out of a dream.
Tamiya started at second base and scored the lone run for the Falcons in an 18-1 thrashing of Louisiana Tech in a tournament that included host LSU.
He’s only made nine starts in 2021, but returned to the No. 2 starting job this year as a 5-foot-6 junior. He’s one of four Falcons to start all 51 games this season and is hitting .263 with 10 doubles, two triples, four homers, 35 runs scored and 35 RBI, while making just two errors for fielding percentage of .991.
“It was definitely a long road (to get here), but everything happens for a reason and everything is going according to plan,” Tamiya said. “I was very lucky to be able to come to the academy and even with everything that is going on, I am lucky to play baseball.”
Tamiya said the Air Force recruited him in high school while he was on the Big Island, but he said he was not ready to move to the mainland.
He spent a year at UH Hilo, but a shoulder injury he suffered during the BIIF Championship ended up requiring surgery after prom, putting his college career on hold.
While in rehab, the Air Force remained interested and Tamiya felt it was time to venture out on his own.
“I was really looking for a college school that would challenge me and, really, trying to find purpose,” Tamiya said. “When I came to visit the academy I loved everything. I thought it would be a perfect fit for me and I was lucky to have a coach at UH Hilo who was so supportive throughout the process.
As a cadet, Tamiya’s normal weekday begins with morning training which begins at 6:45 a.m. Classes last four hours in the morning until 11:30 a.m. with a 30-minute break for lunch. Then it’s directly on the field to prepare to train for three to four hours.
After baseball is done for the day, it’s time to do his homework until between midnight and 1 a.m., when the lights go out for a few hours before he has to “wake up and start all over again.”
“It’s definitely a different way of life and it took me a while to get used to it,” Tamiya said. “But over time, with the support of the coach (Mike Kazlausky) and all the teachers here, it makes for a pretty easy transition over the years, so you get used to it.”
The Air Force failed to make the Mountain West Conference four-team tournament in Tamiya’s freshman season, but is currently tied with Fresno State for fourth at 13-14 heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Falcons play a three-game series at sixth-place New Mexico Thursday through Saturday, while the Bulldogs finish with three games at second-place Nevada.
The MWC tournament will take place May 26-29 in San Diego.
“We are all very excited to have the opportunity to play for a playoff spot,” Tamiya said. “It’s something we’ve been working towards throughout the fall and spring, and having it come to the final weekend is going to be exciting. Hopefully things work out for us.
The routine of a baseball season and the time invested in serving as a caddy doesn’t leave room for Tamiya for much else in his life.
He did, however, follow his high school team to the state tournament in Maui two weeks ago that ended with the Warriors lifting the second state title trophy in school history.
Tamiya said there were a few players on the team who were the younger brothers of his teammates when he helped the Warriors to the National Finals back-to-back as a junior and a senior.
“It was awesome to see,” Tamiya said. “I just really want to say congratulations to them. I know they all worked really hard for it and it’s something that all the alumni applauded. I was glad to see them finally do the job.