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Apr. 8—University of Hawaii outfielder /designated hitter Jacob Igawa is the actor who studies everybody's lines.
"He's a cerebral guy, " UH coach Mike Trapasso said. "He's always top step (of the dugout ) and locked in. He's an intelligent player as well as a good player."
In his first season as a Rainbow Warrior, 5-foot-11, 200-pound Igawa is embracing a leading role. He is batting.310 with two homers, including a massive drive at longball-unfriendly Les Murakami Stadium. Right-swinging Igawa is hitting.391 with runners on base, and is 3-for-3 with a runner on third. On a team that has struck out 8.6 times a game, Igawa has fanned five times in 42 at bats, none looking.
"It's not just the offensive part about this kid, " Trapasso said. "He's such a good kid. He's such a tremendous teammate. If you asked most of our guys, the first thing they'd say about him is he's a good teammate. And then they'd say he's a good hitter."
Kaha Wong, a highly regarded Hawaii island coach and director, unabashedly praised Igawa's baseball talent and character as a Waiakea High senior. Igawa was a two-time BIIF All-Star, Waiakea High's valedictorian, and a Math League competitor. "Kaha is never wrong on a player, " Trapasso said. "He really isn't."
Igawa went to Pacific University, a Division III school in Forest Grove, Ore. "It didn't really work out financially for me and my family going into my sophomore year, " Igawa said. "I decided to come back home to Hilo."
In his Hawaii Hilo debut in February 2020, Igawa went 3-for-4, including a home run against UH at Murakami Stadium.
"I hit it, and when I saw it going over the fence, I was kind of in goosebumps, like, 'wow, ' especially with the crowd going wild, " Igawa recalled. "It was pretty surreal to do that."
During the pandemic, Igawa analyzed his post-baseball goals. He applied to UH-Manoa to pursue a degree in civil engineering. "I think cities fascinate me, " Igawa said. "My ultimate goal is to help cities run more smoothly."
After gaining admission, Igawa asked the UH coaches if he could join the'Bows. "He contacted us, " Trapasso said. "He already transferred. His engineering discipline wasn't offered there."
Trapasso found a way to get Igawa at bats as a designated hitter and left fielder. "We knew he could hit, " Trapasso said.
But Igawa also proved to have power. His three-run homer ended UH's 14-inning scoring drought against UC Santa Barbara last weekend.
"I think it's a combination of my training regimen and swing mechanics, " Igawa said. "I made some changes to my swing a couple years ago. I've been practicing ever since. I've been seeing a bit more results in terms of consistency and power."
Igawa also has made the adjustment during the idle time as designated hitter. He said he tries to keep warm between plate appearances.
"I try to stay engaged in the game and cheer my teammates on, and that's been helping me so far to stay loose and be ready for the next at bat, " Igawa said.