Estrella to Retire After 2013 Baseball Season
Joey Estrella has been around an educational atmosphere since he was 5-years-old, transitioning from student-athlete to coach immediately after his collegiate playing days were over.
Following the 2013 baseball season, Coach Estrella will walk away from coaching, choosing to retire after his 37th year as the University of Hawai`i at Hilo’s baseball coach.
When asked about what led to this decision on Friday’s edition of “The Josh Pacheco Show” on ESPN Radio, Estrella said that “there’s a lot of reflection, what you want to do with your life, how you want to do certain things, and where you are leading yourself towards in the future. So, I sat down with my wife and we looked at certain things, and there’s a lot of things I still want to accomplish in my life and a lot of things I still want to accomplish with the baseball program. But, I still thought it was time for change. The program needs a change, a new vision. It needs a new leader.”
Director of Athletics Dexter Irwin said in a statement that “the significance of this special individual, and his influence on young people, cannot be overstated. Coach Estrella has been a wise, caring and influential leader in the lives of our student athletes. He will be missed on the baseball field and in our department. The values and ethics that Coach E lives by, and has shared with us, will continue to be felt for many years.”
Estrella was an accomplished student athlete at St. Joseph High School, graduating there in 1969. He played club sports at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo before going to the University of Hawai`i to play shortstop for legendary head coach Les Murakami for three seasons.
His precursor to landing the head coaching job at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo was a graduate assistant position under Murakami at Hawai`i. He used the extra time as in that position to continue his education, obtaining his master’s degree in education in 1976.
Immediately after that, he started as UH Hilo’s baseball coach ahead of the 1977. It took him a year to get his first coaching victory and three years to record his first winning season. Between those accomplishments, he gained four wins against NCAA Division I opponents, a rarity for any program coming out of the NAIA level.
Estrella’s teams won five NAIA championships. They stayed at the NAIA level until 1993, when the program transitioned to NCAA Division I status, a move that lasted until the end of the 2007 season. They moved down to the Division II level in 2008, joining many of their other sports in the PacWest Conference.
Last season, the Vulcans finished with a 13-33 record despite finishing the season by winning six of their last 10 games. UH Hilo has not recorded a winning season since moving down to the Division II level. Overall, Estrella enters his 37th and final season at the helm with a record of 648-897-5.
“Obviously, in our profession, you are judged by wins and losses,” Estrella explained. “There’s no question. That’s the bottom line. You gotta win. But, being that said, you’ve got to make sure, and you would like to think that, you have the same opportunities, the same resources and ammunition as the people you are competing against. In a lot of situations at UH Hilo, we are given a certain amount of resources and we may not have as much as other people but we still have the same opportunities, we still have the same challenges, and we still have the same goals.
“After 37 years, change is necessary,” Estrella said. “We’d like to see a person come in, have a new vigor for the program, have a new voice, and see if we can get better, get more wins, obviously, and still have good graduation rates that we had and still have the student-athletes become very good community members.”
Estrella, who has also served as athletic director, assistant basketball coach, and assistant athletic director for external affairs, and currently serves as assistant athletic director for community engagement, says he doesn’t want to have a say on who the next head coach should be, but says he might want to give at least a little bit of input on the subject.
Estrella’s farewell season begins on February 7 when UH Hilo hosts Augustana College in a doubleheader to begin a six game series. Before that, the squad’s Alumni game will be played on Feb. 2.