After playing the role of hero in a walk-off win over Indiana Saturday, UH sophomore catcher Kekai Rios kept the “cape” on Sunday morning by providing plenty of aloha for island keiki in Aiea.
The Kamehameha Schools graduate, along with senior third baseman Josh Rojas, served as guest speakers at the Aiea Little League’s spring-season family fun day.
It came one day after a series-saving victory over the Hoosiers where the Rainbow Warriors provided the next generation with a message of inspiration that reminded Rios and Rojas of how far the game has taken them, from pop flies and potlucks to the pinnacle of baseball in paradise.
“I love giving back, because this is where I started, growing up in Hawaii (Kahaluu) playing little league,” said Rios. “It’s big out here for the kids and it’s just good for me to give back and know where I came from. I’m just glad to be in the position I am in right now.
“These kids keep me going, especially with the games when they’re yelling,” he said. “It just gets me fired up, so I love being out here.”
Rojas, who’s from Litchfield Park, Arizona, says “I grew up a fan of Arizona State University baseball, the hometown college, so I know when I was in little league, that’s the first level you look up to, you look up to the college players. I know now that I’m in this position, it’s really humbling.
“It’s an awesome experience to know that every time you set out on the field, you have kids watching you, and it’s a lot of fun to come out here and enjoy the games that we’re playing and enjoy it with the fans that come out to watch us,” he said.
Rios added that “we love playing in front of a crowd, and there’s no crowd like playing at home over here, and we love it. It just gets us fired up and I think that’s why we have that never-give-up spirit right now.”
The must-see UH baseball team is currently at 11-8 on the season, with three extra-inning losses and three by just one run. Up next is a four-game series against former WAC rival San Jose St. that runs this Thursday through Sunday at Les Murakami Stadium.