MANOA — As Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager looked out into a sea of more than 200 young baseball players at the 2016 Hawaiian Pro Camp at Mid-Pacific Institute's Damon Field Wednesday, he couldn't help but think back to his days as a little leaguer.
After all, it wasn't that long ago that Seager — the reigning National League Rookie of the Year — was an amateur himself with dreams of playing big league ball.
The 22-year old Seager, along with fellow Dodgers' teammate Joc Pederson, are taking part in the two-day instructional camp put on by Pederson's high school coach and former Mid-Pacific ball player Donny Kadokawa.
Kadokawa is the founder and head instructor of Team Kado Baseball, a California-based company that is "dedicated to the advancement of youth baseball players, helping them to attain their athletic aspirations and develop into well-rounded individuals," the company's website says.
Kadokawa teamed up with brothers, and fellow-local boys, Maake and Chris Kemoeatu, to make the camp a reality for the 225 or so participants who ranged in age from 7 to 14 years old.
The fee for the camp was $250, with monies raised going to the Kemoeatu Brothers Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged youth in Hawaii.
"We're very excited about being able to make this happen, but it all came about in supporting the kids of Hawaii and giving them an opportunity," Kemoeatu said.
The Kemoeatu brothers gained fame for their time in the NFL; Maake with the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and Chris with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Our foundation is a supporter of all sports in Hawaii," Maake Kemoeatu said. "Obviously my brother and I do football, but we wanted to connected with other sports as well and support them. Although we didn't play baseball, just to see the parents having them come to support their kids reminds me of when my brothers and I grew up and our parents were sitting in the stands always supporting us."
Seager recalled many of those same memories from his childhood, including taking part in many out-of-season camps or clinics.
"There are a bunch of college campuses around where I live, so I went to some college camps and stuff," Seager said. "You enjoy the heck out of it and you look up to the people running it. It's a little weird though (because) I'm used to being on the other side and looking up to the guys talking, so this is a different experience, but it's a lot of fun interacting with the kids. It's fun that they're enjoying it and it's fun teaching them baseball."
Seager's rookie season was one to remember. The slick-fielding 6-foot-4 shortstop batted .308 with 193 hits, 40 home runs, 72 RBIs and 105 runs scored.
His message to the campers was to always keep the game in perspective.
"It's still a game and all the fundamentals, all that other stuff is important, but if you don't enjoy it, there's no reason to be out here," Seager said. "What I've always said before is when I stop enjoying the game is when I'll stop playing. It's one of those things that you can never lose the kid side, the pure enjoyment out of it."
Pederson said he never had the opportunity to attend a camp with major leaguers.
"Nothing like this," said Pederson, a 24-year old outfielder. "I wasn't as fortunate as these kids, so it's something I could have loved, for sure."
Pederson reflected on his time playing high school ball under Kadokawa at the Bay Area's Palo Alto High School as "important."
"I still remember we lost in the championship game to Burlingame," Pederson said. "It's a special time for people and it's nice to give back to some of the kids and see them hopefully grow and live their dreams and get as lucky as we are."
Pederson's charitable efforts have been well-documented. His older brother Champ, who gained notoriety during the 2015 Home Run Derby, has Down Syndrome. Joc has been an outspoken advocate of raising awareness of Down Syndrome and an active participant in raising monies to help organizations dedicated to finding and creating opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
"Being on the pedestal that we're on, and especially playing for the Dodgers — because that's what the Dodgers are about, is giving back and getting into the community and helping to raise money for charities and the right causes — it's part of being a professional athlete," Pederson said.
One person in attendance Wednesday — former Kamehameha third baseman Codie Paiva — listened closely to every word that both Seager and Pederson had to say.
"I just asked about how they work out, different workouts they do, what's important mentally, physically and just the grind of it all — just picking their brain to see how they think," said Paiva, who was one of several former local high school players there to lend a hand at the camp. "I've never really been on the same field as a professional, so I this is really surreal to me."
Paiva is gearing up for his second season as a right-handed pitcher for Loyola Marymount University, not far from where Seager and Pederson take the field in Chavez Ravine.
"It's really inspiring," Paiva said. "Everybody's aspirations are to go professional and just to see guys who are not much older than me — maybe a couple years — get to do what they always wanted to do and just to see the hard work they do and how they give back to the community, I mean, it's pretty cool that anybody can make it and it just takes hard work."
For Kadokawa, a member of Mid-Pacific's state-championship winning teams in 1990 and 1991, Wednesday marked a special homecoming of sorts.
"There's no better feeling than coming back and seeing the kids do what we used to do," said Kadokawa, who spoke fondly of his high school coach, the venerable Dunn Muramaru.
"Coach Dunn is like my dad; He was huge in my life," Kadokawa said. "Just the dedication required is probably the biggest thing I learned from him. When he asked if I could do a camp at Mid-Pac, after that I was like full bore, I'm going there. It's been a blessing."
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