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Perkins made instant impact for Trojans in '19

It did not take long for baseball to find its way back into Tommy Perkins's life. Nor did it take long for him to make an impact at his next stop.

After more than 20 seasons that spanned three decades at his alma mater, Kamehameha, Perkins was abruptly relieved of coaching duties just weeks before the start of the Warriors' 2018 campaign. The longtime intermediate coach at the Kapalama campus, went 32-21 in his three seasons leading the varsity squad, but for the first time in a long time, Perkins was relegated to being a spectator.

It wasn't until last fall that Perkins got back into coaching, when he received a call from an old friend in Mililani coach Mark Hirayama.

"He talked to me about coming (to Mililani) after I left Kamehameha," Perkins said.

Hirayama and Perkins got to know each other during their time at Kamehameha. While the pair were never on the same coaching staff — Perkins was at the intermediate level then, while Hirayama was a varsity assistant to former coach Vern Ramie — their friendship grew over the years.

"We probably go back maybe 15 years, when I started coaching at Kamehameha," Hirayama recalled. "I was always with the varsity, but the program was pretty close so I knew all the coaches."

Perkins said he got to know Hirayama quite well over the latter's five seasons at Kapalama.

"We knew each other and we talked a lot so I enjoyed it," Perkins said. "When he called me when I got let go, I wasn't really looking, so it was a good call and something that made me think about it. He was a very good salesman. He said, ‘You still have a lot to offer.' "

Ultimately, Perkins took Hirayama up on the offer and joined the Trojans' JV staff as an assistant last fall.

"It was something for me to stay in the game so it was good," Perkins said. "It was nice working with the JV, working with the kids again and JV baseball is a fall-season sport for the OIA, so then I just rolled right into the varsity."

Hirayama said he was willing to take whatever Perkins was offering.

"It was just a matter of what he wanted to do. He's such a great guy," Hirayama said. "He's great with the kids, he's got the baseball knowledge, but just his life experiences brought so much to the program. I just try to surround myself with the best people to help the kids coming through the program and he's definitely a class act."

Perkins did a little bit of everything for the Trojans this season — most of it coming behind the scenes.

Mililani assistant Tommy Perkins works on some stats from the Mililani dugout during a 2019 Division I state tournament quarterfinal.

"He kind of just sits in the back and takes everything in and I think our staff has been together for a while, so when he first came in he didn't want to step on anybody's toes or anything, but I said, ‘Hey, if you've got something to say, throw it out there because we're all trying to go in the same direction,' so slowly he started throwing his ideas out there, but I think the main thing was the mental aspect with the kids and doing things the right way and all the things we kind of preach, but he took it upon himself to use that avenue to extend into the things we talk about each day," Hirayama said.

Perkins, true to form, simplified his job duties into the following: "I worked a lot with their hitting and just general stuff. If one of our coaches weren't available for that day or that afternoon, I'd just take over that potion — outfield or whatever was needed. I just did whatever, where they needed the help."

Mililani won eight of its first nine games to open the season before going on to win its second OIA Division title in as many seasons and just third overall.

Less than two weeks later, the Trojans drew a first-round bye in the Wally Yonamine Foundation State Championships on Maui. Their quarterfinal opponent that Thursday morning at Iron Maehara Stadium would be a familiar one for Perkins in Kamehameha.

"For me it was a nervous day, it was a day of mixed emotions (because) those are the kids I've coached," Perkins said.

The Trojans prevailed by a score of 4-0 behind Jason Shiigi's complete-game two-hitter with nine strikeouts.

Daryl Kitagawa, who was an assistant to Perkins for one season before eventually becoming head coach prior to the start of the 2019 season, recalled their time together fondly.

"First and foremost Shiigi was awesome and they deserved to win, so it wasn't like they were lucky. They deserved to win and move on," Kitagawa said. "I have so much admiration for coach Tommy because he actually allowed me to be a part of his staff in 2017, so I have the utmost respect for him giving me an opportunity to get back on the hill, but during the game it's a game still so we don't let those things get in our head and after we can reflect and appreciate everything he has given me and our program, so I'm forever grateful for that."

Three of the current Warriors played under Perkins in 2017: pitchers Javyn Pimental and Christian DeJesus and infielder Jonny Shimabukuro. All three reconnected with Perkins after the final out was recorded.

Mililani assistant Tommy Perkins shares a moment with Kamehameha's Javyn Pimental after the Trojans defeated the Warriors in a Division I state quarterfinal.

"I wasn't out there looking for anything but to play baseball and I think seeing the kids and getting an opportunity to talk with them after the game was great," Perkins said. "It was good and we exchanged a lot of things and a lot of emotions that we didn't have an opportunity to take care of, but otherwise it was just another day of baseball."

Hirayama, for one, took notice of the special relationship Perkins enjoys with his former players.

"You can tell by the way that after we played that Kamehameha game how many kids came up to him and gave him a hug and said hello that that's just the type of man he is and the type of an impact he had on those kids."

Perkins called the Trojans' win over the Warriors a bittersweet victory.

"Just because you worked with these guys and try to get them to be where they need to be," he said. "It didn't work out for them — it was only gonna work out for one of us — so it was bittersweet. Our talk afterward was mostly them just telling me that they miss me, they wish I had stayed around and I told them that they did a great job. Daryl did a great job. He's a great guy and he got them going in the right direction."

Perkins said he was happy to see Kitagawa, another Kamehameha alum, get his chance to head the varsity program.

"When I brought him out on my staff prior to me leaving, I could see that he was gonna be good and I had kind of pushed the idea on him that I don't plan to be here long, so things worked out in that way. I just didn't expect to get released the way it happened, but it worked out and Daryl and I, we got along well and we talked several times since then," Perkins said.

Prior to putting his name in for the Kamehameha job, Kitagawa sought out Perkins's blessing to do so.

"The way it ended wasn't good and I just wanted to make sure he was okay with it so I actually wanted to ask his permission that I could apply and of course he's such a solid person that he said, ‘I support you 100 percent,' " Kitagawa said.

"I told him, ‘Daryl, you definitely got my blessing. You've got a lot to offer the kids,' and he's a Kamehameha alum, ‘so go back and go take care of business; I'm behind you. You're the right guy, right place, right time " Perkins said. "He did a great job this season. They started slow, but they finished really, really nicely. I think he did a great job."

The Warriors finished with a record of 16-9 and claimed fifth place in the state tournament.

"Our first year was really fun, exciting and challenging all at the same time," Kitagawa said. "I really believe we exceeded some expectations, but it's a credit to the kids for believing and playing the way they did at the end because we weren't that good at the beginning, so it takes a little luck, it takes some belief, but hats off to my team. We're looking forward to what the future holds. It's not about championships. We just try to be good people and the baseball part will take care of itself."

Kitagawa also tipped his hat to Hirayama, Perkins and the Mililani team for the season they put together.

"They remind me of Mid-Pac: they're super fundamentally sound, they play solid defense, their pitchers throw strikes, they get timely hitting and that's what they do and they do it very well, so hats off to them, their players and their fan base," Kitagawa said.

Hirayama said the Trojans have benefitted greatly from having Perkins involved with the team.

"We appreciate him coming out and extending his time to the program and to our kids. We definitely are a better program having him around," he said.

Mililani went on to stun defending champion Baldwin in extra innings in the semifinals and finished one win shy of the first state title in program history.

"Going to Mililani turned out to be something that just worked for me," Perkins said. "The staff up there was great in accepting me, we work well together and the pieces just fell into place for us. The kids were good, so it was a great season for us. I think coach Mark does a great job of prepping the kids and the support that the coaching staff gives to him is tremendous. The kids work hard, they've got a great attitude and I think we all won in the end."

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].



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