Masaoka Returns to the Hill for the Hawai`i Stars
by Josh Pacheco
It has been nearly four years since he has last taken the mound, but former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and Hilo native Onan Masaoka hopes to return to his old form when he makes his return for the Hawai`i Stars.
The independent baseball club announced today that Masaoka will start the team’s opening day game Tuesday at Wong Stadium against the Shinano Grandserows, a member of the Baseball Challenge League in Japan.
Masaoka last pitched for the Gary Southshore Railcats, an independent baseball team that participates in the Northern League, for one season in 2009. His one season with the Railcats followed nearly eight years away from the game. He started all but one of the 12 games he appeared in, earning a 1-5 record with a 6.02 earned run average in 55 1/3 innings pitched.
According to Matt Friedman, Director of Broadcasting for the Railcats’ organization, Masaoka last appeared on July 10, 2009. He gave up an earned run and walked a batter in a brief appearance, failing to record an out.
Masaoka, a graduate from Waiakea High School, is best known for his two seasons with the Dodgers in 1999 and 2000. In 83 games, the left-hander compiled a record of 3-5 with a 4.23 ERA. He picked up a save in his rookie season.
He entered professional baseball as a 17-year-old right out of high school. After being drafted in the third round of the 1995 MLB Draft, Masaoka immediately entered the minor leagues in the Dodgers organization. Masaoka had a record of 19-23 in four minor league seasons before being called up to the major league club.
In 2000, Masaoka split time between the Dodgers and their Triple-A minor league affiliate, the Albuquerque Dukes. He pitched a combined 47 games between the two teams, accumulating a combined 4-2 record.
He returned to the Triple-A level in 2001, going 8-4 with a 5.55 ERA for the Las Vegas 51′s in the Pacific Coast League. On July 26, the Dodgers traded him, along with two others, to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for James Baldwin. The White Sox kept him at Triple-A with the Charlotte Knights, where he went 0-1 in 14 appearances.
The Stars are entering their second season in Hilo and their first in the newly formed Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs, a four-team league which includes sister-team Na Koa Ikaika Maui, the San Rafael Pacifics, and the Vallejo Admirals. Both Hawai`i teams will play opponents from Japan’s BC League throughout the season in “interleague play.”
The Stars also announced that Ronnie Loeffler, former pitcher at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo, will start the second game of the three-game series against the Grandserows. The starting pitcher for the final game of the series has yet to be announced.
First pitch on each night of the series is at 5:35 p.m. at Wong Stadium.