Professional Baseball Returns to Hilo
The name might be a play on an old Hawaii Winter League Baseball franchise, but the Hawaii Stars hope to create a new beginning for professional baseball in Hilo.
Rumored for nearly a year, the official announcement came Wednesday that the Hawaii Stars would return professional baseball to Wong Stadium in 2012. The Stars will be operated by the same ownership group that runs Na Koa Ikaika Maui, a similar professional baseball team on the Valley Island.
Professional baseball made a brief run in Hilo during the mid-nineties, when the Hilo Stars played under the umbrella of Hawaii Winter Baseball. Duane Kurisu, who is a partial-owner of the San Francisco Giants, was the controlling owner of the team, which featured future major league players like Ichiro, Adam Kennedy, and R.A. Dickey. The team lasted for five seasons, winning a league championship and a division championship. It’s final campaign was played in 1997.
Hawaii Winter Baseball tried to make a comeback, starting with a four-team, Oahu-based league, with occasional “guest appearances” in Hilo and Maui. The hope was that the league’s popularity would allow expansion back to the neighbor islands, but after the 2008 season, the league would not return.
The Hawaii Stars will participate in the North American Baseball League, the same league that Na Koa Ikaika Maui will participate in. Tryouts for both Hawaii teams will take place at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui next Monday and Tuesday with registration beginning at 8:00 a.m.
A team statement says that the team’s philosophy of filling out its roster has changed with new ownership. According to General Manager Dan Partney, “when I first came on board, giving kama’aina first shot at making the team was one of the first changes that I made. These teams are for the people of Hawaii and should consist of as many talented players from Hawaii as possible. The state is loaded with great baseball talent!”