A trio of MLB prospects from Hawaii took part in the Arizona Fall League in 2023, considered to be the next step for minor leaguers destined for a stint in the majors.
Baldwin alumnus Anthony Hoopi’i-Tuionetoa, Waiakea alumnus Kala’i Rosario and ‘Iolani alum Shane Sasaki all represented their respective MLB organizations over the five weeks.
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Hoopi’i-Tuionetoa, a pitcher in the Texas Rangers organization, was named an American League Fall Star and touched the high 90’s in the All-Star Game, tossing a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
The 2018 Baldwin alumnus attended Pierce Community College in Washington for a year before getting selected by the Rangers in the 2019 MLB Draft. He has yet to pitch above High-A in the minors, but 2024 appears set to be his breakout year.
Rosario, long known for his power as a prospect, slugged 21 home runs at the High-A level while hitting .252 in 2023. The 2020 Minnesota Twins fifth-round pick also won the AFL’s Home Run Derby, hitting a home run as long as 465 feet.
“It’s hard to kind of put words into it. I mean, the experience is unbelievable. I had a blast,” Rosario told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I mean, competing against all the other players and that high of a talent, kind of just being out there with the guys, the adrenaline was flowing when I was out there doing the rounds and stuff, so I pretty much just tried to soak it all in as much as I could. It was kind of the time of my life out there.
“It was a huge honor and I was I was super excited to get out here and stuff because it was one of my goals to play in the Fall League this year. And then when I got here, I mean, seeing all the other talents and stuff, I really kind of went out there and told myself that, I belong here.
“And just to go out there and compete to the best of my ability and just really take it all in. I’m grateful. I’m blessed to just be in that position alone. And now to kind of just showcase my talent on that stage, it’s pretty much all I could ask for.”
Meanwhile, Sasaki also had a breakout year in 2023 after being a member of the Tampa Bay Ryas organization since being selected in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft, hitting .301 at High-A, the highest step in the minor league ladder he’s gotten to so far.
Hoopi’i-Tuionetoa, Rosario and Sasaki were all first-time participants in the Arizona Fall League.