Having spent his childhood living in California and Utah, University of Hawaii redshirt junior Alex Baeza was brand new to the 50th state when he moved to Manoa for college.
But the islands made a quick and lasting impression on him, so much so that before every game, he’ll flash a shaka behind his back during the national anthem and Hawaii Ponoi.
“Just bringing a little Aloha out here,” Baeza explained to KHON2’s Rob DeMello who noticed the gesture last season and has since been adopted by other teammates. “Just playing for this wonderful state and just showing some love back to them.”
Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso was unaware of Baeza’s pregame shaka but certainly approves.
“That’s cool, I didn’t know that. That’s really cool,” Trapasso said. “That just tells you right there how he has immersed himself in the Hawaii culture. That tells me he realizes how lucky he is to be playing here, and that’s really neat. That’s really cool.”
Baeza has manned the starting first base spot in the starting lineup since he took over as a freshman, starting 13 games as a freshman. During his sophomore season in 2019, he played in 49 games with 48 starts at first base. He earned Big West Conference Honorable Mention honors after displaying his stellar fielding and hitting power, slugging four home runs and showing a penchant to deliver in the clutch.
This season, Baeza has started 15 games at first base so far. As he enters his second year of MLB Draft eligibility after receiving interest from scouts, the 2020 season could very well be his last in a Hawaii uniform. Regardless of where his baseball journey takes him in the future, he feels as though he’s already made a lifetime connection with the islands.
“It means the world to me, honestly. Being originally from Los Angeles and moving to Utah and now moving to Hawaii, I’ve gotten a little bit of everything,” he said. “Just coming out here and seeing how relaxed and welcoming everyone is. The fans are great, everyone on the team, just seeing all the different cultures out here, it’s great and this has been the best four years for me.
“I just love every second of it. Everything about the beaches, the people, the food, everything. I love it all here.”