The University of Hawaii Men’s Baseball team, the Rainbow Warriors, held its “home opener” on Friday, February 18. This comes nearly two years after the pandemic forced college hardball fans to keep away across the country and the last game UH Baseball fans could see the home team in person at Les Murakami Stadium. Baseball is back at “The Les”, and the Hawaii Vacation Blog was there to report.
We have enthusiastically encouraged visiting baseball fans to spend an evening (or Sunday matinee) at the park in the past. We still do, especially after being once again welcomed to enjoy the cool Manoa breeze and America’s pastime. But what has been changed by the pandemic?
Short answer: not much, really. Attendees are now required to register with the “LumiSight UH” vaccination/testing status verification. It’s a simple app to upload a photo of your proof of vaccination/negative test. Masking is required unless seated. People at The Les on Friday didn’t seem put off by the requirements. They were prepared for them.
In fact, there seemed to be an unspoken acknowledgement among masked strangers about the two-year-and-counting struggle we’ve faced in Hawaii, and, perhaps, the struggles others have faced. We are an island community. For good or ill, we’re in it together. I’m happy to report that the “vibe” was good, not knowing beforehand what it might be like to be around so many strangers (an estimated 2000) in such close proximity after two years.
The National Anthem was sung by a local girl wonderfully. After breaking for the dugout following the song, she was called back out to home plate to sing Hawaii Pono’i, which always follows at The Les as the rest of us sang along solemnly.
The most notable changes come with the team itself. The new Manager, Rich Hill, has focused on shaping the roster around Hawaii players. In fact, UH’s Friday starting lineup featured only one player not from Hawaii.
It’s truly a home team again, and fans are delighted. When players from Hilo (a solid prep baseball town) are announced, they are greeted with a chorus of, “Heeeeee-LOOOOOOOO!!” from the Honolulu crowd. The hometown pride is clear and present, even for visitors with no connection to the team other than the love of the game.
Thankfully, some things never change. The sugar-jacked little-leaguers in their uniforms scampering through the concourse. The thundering of foul balls off the aluminum roof. The pedestrian food fare served at the stadium concessions: plain chicken tenders, bland hotdogs. Even my cup of S&S Saimin, which is as familiar to me at the ballpark as peanuts and cracker jack is on the mainland, was lukewarm. The beer selection is still wanting and overpriced.
“They’ve had two years to fix that thing,” I muttered to no one as a familiar glitch obscured much of the jumbotron in the early innings. “And why haven’t they connected pitch velocity radar to it yet?!”
It is important to note here that these are objective observations and should not be construed as snotty complaints. The UH Baseball experience at Les Murakami Stadium is singular in Hawaii, and one we happily and genuinely endorse. There are countless professional minor league teams on the mainland that would gladly drop a couple of points from their team batting average for the chance to play home games (away games, even) in a stadium and on a field as well appointed as The Les.
As it turned out at Friday’s home opener, it took three hours to play just four innings. We left before the 7th Inning Stretch knowing we could catch the rest of the game on local TV at home. The Bows let their lead slip away. But they’ll be back, and so will we. Reach out to us here at Hawaii Aloha Travel if you’d like to take in the delightful UH Baseball experience.