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After watching Baldwin celebrate its state-title win in 2018, Trayden Tamiya walked off the field at Les Murakami Stadium with no idea his next game representing a school wouldn’t be for another three years.
He also had no clue when it did come, it’d be at the iconic Skip Bertman Field in Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
The 2018 Waiakea alumnus had one year at Hawaii Hilo taken away following shoulder surgery, and sat out the next season at Air Force during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season due to transfer rules.
When he finally toed that batter’s box once again, he was wearing the blue and white colors representing the Air Force as a cadet.
“I was very antsy and excited,” Tamiya recalled in a phone interview Monday. “It was kind of surreal. It was always a dream to play collegiate baseball, and to finally get that 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 only run for the Falcons in an 18-1 drubbing against Louisiana Tech in a tournament that included host LSU.
He only made nine starts in 2021, but has taken over the starting job at second 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 RBIs, all while making just two errors for a .991 fielding percentage.
“It was definitely a long road (to get here), but everything happens for a reason and everything is panning out the way it was supposed to,” Tamiya said. “I was very fortunate to get to come to the academy and even with everything going, I am fortunate to play the game of baseball.”
Tamiya said Air Force had recruited him in high school while on the Big Island, but he said he wasn’t ready to make the move to the mainland.
He spent one year at UH Hilo, but a shoulder injury he suffered in the BIIF championship ended up requiring surgery after summer ball, putting his college career on hold.
During the time he was rehabbing, Air Force remained interested, and Tamiya felt it was time to venture out on his own.
“I was really looking for an academic school that would challenge me and, really, I was trying to find a purpose,” Tamiya said. “When I came on a visit to the academy, I loved everything about it. I thought it would be a great fit for me and I was fortunate to have a coach at UH Hilo who was very supportive about the whole process.”
As a cadet, Tamiya’s normal weekday begins with morning formation that starts at 6:45 a.m. Classes are for four hours in the morning until 11:30 with a 30-minute break for lunch. Then it’s straight to the field to get ready to practice for between three and four hours.
Once baseball is done for the day, it’s time for homework until between midnight and 1 a.m., when the lights go out for a few hours before he has to “wake up and do it all over again.”
“It’s definitely a different lifestyle and it took some time for me to get used to it,” Tamiya said. “But over time, with the support of Coach (Mike Kazlausky) and all of the teachers here, it makes it a pretty easy transition throughout the years, so you get used to it.”
Air Force failed to make the four-team Mountain West Conference tournament in Tamiya’s first season, but is currently tied with Fresno State for the fourth spot at 13-14 heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Falcons play a three-game series at sixth-place New Mexico from Thursday to Saturday, while the Bulldogs close with three games at second-place Nevada.
The MWC tournament will be held May 26-29 in San Diego.
“We’re all really excited just to have the opportunity to play for a spot in the postseason,” Tamiya said. “It’s something we work for throughout the entire fall and the spring, and for it to come down to the final weekend is going to be exciting. Hopefully things play out for us.”
The grind of a baseball season and the time invested in serving as a cadet don’t leave Tamiya room for much else in his life.
He did, however, follow his high school team during the state tournament on Maui two weeks ago that ended with the Warriors hoisting the second state title trophy in school history.
Tamiya said there were a few players on the team who were the younger brothers of teammates he had when he helped the Warriors to back-to-back appearances in the state final as a junior and 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 all of the alumni were cheering for. I was glad I got to see them finally get the job done.”
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