At ESPN Honolulu, we are more than sports fans. Many of us, in fact, were successful athletes back in the day. Our General Manager, Matt Apana, was a star pitcher at the University of Hawaii and even played professional ball. Other members of our ESPN Honolulu have won championships, earned individual accolades and achieved other forms of sports success. We asked them to share their greatest or most memorable moment in their athletic careers. Here’s what they said:
MATT APANA, General Manager: “Gosh, I have had so many blessed opportunities. One thing that really stands out for me is getting drafted and playing for the Seattle Mariners’ minor league system. In 1995, I played for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. They are in the Pacific Coast League. I was “Pitcher of the Month” that April after pitching 23 and a third scoreless innings to start the season. I was 3-0 at the time.”
CHRIS HART, Station Manager and Show Host: “Winning the ILH Championship in wrestling!”
BOBBY CURRAN, Show Host and Play-by-Play Announcer: “In my freshman year of college, I was on the JV team at William & Mary. I’d been sidelined for two weeks with strep throat but was back at practice for a few days doing light work on the side. We had a game on Saturday, and I suited up, not expecting to play. Well, we were down 12 with six minutes left, and our coach called me over and asked, “Can you go?” When I said yes, he leaned in and said, “I want you to shoot the ball every time you get your hands on it.” Greatest thing I’d ever heard a coach say! I scored 12 points on 6for 7 shooting from the field, and we came within 2 points of catching up. Despite the loss, I remember that like it was yesterday!”
TIFF WELLS, Play-by-Play Announcer: “2003, my senior year at Iolani School. We had a very good boys volleyball team. Sean Carney went on to play at Lewis before transferring to HawaiI. Brent Asuka later went on to have an All-American career at UC Irvine. Kyle Pape played collegiate basketball at Colorado School of Mines. And then there was a guy named Shoji: Kawika Shoji. He was just a sophomore at the time, but we knew he was going very far in the sport. We knew we had something special.
“We looked into the rafters on the first day of practice and the seniors pointed out there was a lack of banners represented by boys volleyball. Red banners represent ILH championships; our last one had been in 1979. Black banners, meanwhile, represent state championships, something Iolani had never won before. We began the season 13-0, then lost back-to-back matches and had to come from behind twice to win at Kamehameha in 5 sets to win the overall ILH title. Red banner won.
“Going into the state tournament as the top seed, we had a bye into the quarterfinals. We swept Maui to get to the semifinal. Then we swept Kealakehe to make the state final. Playing the state championship match at the Stan Sheriff Center is something I’ll never forget. Playing our rival, Kamehameha, for the fourth or fifth time that season, we came from behind to win the match in three sets. When the ball was hit out of bounds and we won the title, running onto the floor to celebrate with teammates, and hoisting the school’s first ever boys volleyball state championship koa Wood trophy is something I’ll never forget. We became the first team other than Punahou or Kamehameha to win the state title since Roosevelt in 1979. Black banner won.”
CHANEL TSUTSUSE, Associate Art Director and Sales Coordinator: “It was my freshman year at Iolani. I was 0-3 from the field against Maryknoll in one of the most important playoff games of my basketball career. Whoever won this game would get the second birth into the State Tournament alongside our rival, Punahou. It
was 40-41 with Maryknoll on top and, for some reason, I was still in the game with just a few seconds left. The last play was set up for Hennasea Tokumura, but as she dribbled down the Saint Louis court, the defense flew out at her, forcing her to pass the ball off to me on the left wing. I shot the ball and prayed. It went in, the buzzer went off and we were going to states! My teammates ran over to me as we celebrated our clinching victory!”
CHRIS MOLS, Account Manager: “My most memorable moment in sports goes back to the good old days of playing in high school here in Hawaii. It was my last game suiting up for the red and gold for Roosevelt HS, playing in the state tournament at Les Murakami stadium. I was lucky to have thrown a no-hitter against our rival Kailua HS in the third-place game. The feeling was bittersweet as it was my last game before going off to college, and my last game being able to play in front of my family.
“It was also a great feeling because it was a team accomplishment. I couldn’t have done it on my own. My teammates were making plays, and it felt like just everything fell in place. Baseball can test your character as you fail more times than you succeed in this game, and you just have to trust the process and stay positive. My nerves in the last inning were indescribable as I couldn’t really feel much. I’m not sure if it was because my arm was feeling the fatigue or because I was in the zone. When the last out was made, it was a feeling of excitement as well as relief that I came through for my teammates. Even though we didnt get to that championship ship game, I guess it was a consolation prize I will never forget.”
ROB HIENAMAN, Senior Account Manager: “We were playing a semifinal game in a softball state tournament. It was an unusually low scoring game and we were up by just 1 run. Our opponenthad a runner on first with two outs. Their left-handed clean-up hitter was up, and I was playing right field. He had a full count on him, the pitch came and he connected. The ball was flying right towards me. I sprinted to the fence as I thought it would be a home fun or very close to one. I saw the ball arching down. I climbed the eight-foot fence, stretched out my glove and snared the ball a foot past the fence. You could hear a pin drop. Then, when everyone saw that I had the ball in my glove as I was running back towards the infield, the crowd roared. It truly was the best catch of my life. We ended up winning the game when I threw out a runner at home the very next inning for the final out. It was probably two of the best defensive innings in my life.”
KEEGAN OHTA, Production and Promotions Director: “This was back when I was selected to the Mililani All-Star B-team in Mustang Baseball. We were competing in the all-star tournament,and I was pitching in an elimination game. We were up by 1 going into the top of the fifth of six innings, but I was in a pinch. I had bases loaded with no outs. My dad/head coach came out and talked to me, and then he returned to the dugout. Then, the best thing ever happened to me. I struck out the first batter. Then I struck out the second batter. The next batter slapped a grounder into the infield and got thrown out at first. Bases loaded, no outs turned into three straight outs and no runs scored! We won that game to avoid elimination from the tournament. That will always be a memory I cherish!”
LANCE TOMINAGA, Web Editor: “I never had one.”
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