Few baseball players are born for the major or minor leagues.
Most, like Jonathan Hee who make it to the professional level endure hardships, continually improve abilities beyond what is natural and become so mentally focused day in and day out it can hurt more then a 95 mph fastball to the thigh.
Since he was drafted in 2008, Hee has bounced around the East Coast playing for Boston Red Sox minor league teams. He has played single-A baseball in Lowell, Mass., Greenville, S.C., and Salem, Va., before heading to Portland, Maine, for double-A baseball. This summer Hee is in Pawtucket, R.I., currently playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox’s triple-A organization.
In between daily improvements and focus, Hee, a former Mid-Pacific Owl and UH Rainbow, can smile as he walks into his office, which just so happens to be a baseball diamond.
Sure, Hee has talent. He’s been covering the infield of a baseball diamond like a hawk since he was 6 years old, playing then for the Kalanianaole Athletic Club. As a UH senior in 2008, Hee even won a gold glove as the best fielding shortstop in NCAA Division I.
Scooping up ground balls and catching line drives is now second nature. When asked what goes through his mind when a hard ground ball is slapped his way, Hee says, “At that point it is just reaction. Your mind doesn’t really have time to think about what’s going on. We take so many ground balls every day, it is strictly reaction now.”
As fielding was always his strong suit, Hee, since high school, has been working hard to improve his overall strength and hitting. That work travels with him even in the off season, when the grind of a 144-game minor league season comes to its conclusion. During his off-season, in Hawaii, Hee utilizes the training education of Honolulu-based Tactical Strength & Conditioning, operated by performance coaches Barry Toyama and Darin Yap.
“They train a lot of guys like Kealoha Pilares and Derrick Lowe. We focus on explosive lifts, core exercises – it’s a pretty incredible workout, actually,” says Hee, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Feb. 15, 2008, with the headline “Hitman.”
Before each new season begins, Hee likes to spend time with former coaches, those role models such as Mid-Pac head coach Dunn Muramaru, who taught him the fundamentals and built a framework that helped Hee get to the level of play he is at today.
As close as Hee is to reaching the major leagues, his fondest baseball memory brings him right back to his teenage years, when his MPI Owls won the state championship in 2002.
“I still talk about it with some of my high school friends, like Troy Hanzawa, Matt Inouye, Ryan Basco and Isaac Omura. That was probably one of our more amazing times. All the games we’ve played, and we still look back at that as an awesome experience.”