Hawaii’s Humble Hall Of Famer

Mike Fetters' plaque on Miller Park's Wall of Honor PHOTO COURTESY MIKE FETTERS

Mike Fetters’ plaque on Miller Park’s Wall of Honor

Hawaii’s Mike Fetters recently turned 50, and he’ll be back on the field as Major League Baseball’s annual spring training starts this month.

No, he’s not coming out of retirement, but he’ll be in Arizona to give pointers, throw a little batting practice and much more.

“It’s great having a job in baseball,” he tells me. “They call me the ‘quality control administrative coach’ — I work for the (Arizona Diamondbacks) general manager. I get to do so many things, from being on the field to scouting to working in the front office.”

Fetters, a former all-state baseball and basketball star from Iolani in the early 1980s, where he led his school to state titles in both sports, pitched for eight MLB teams during his 16-year career from 1989 to 2004. One of those teams, the Milwaukee Brewers, inducted him into their team’s Hall of Fame this past summer. The honor caught Fetters totally off-guard.

“I thought it was a joke when I first heard about it. I honestly didn’t believe I belonged on a list that had names like Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and Rollie Fingers,” he recalls. “I actually didn’t respond initially — the Brewers had to reach out to the Diamondbacks to get me to respond. When I found out it was real, it gave me goose-bumps. I was amazed to be a part of it.”

Fetters and 57 other Milwaukee greats were honored in the 2014 inaugural class with a plaque on Miller Park’s Wall of Honor. (Former Hawaii Rainbow pitcher Chuck Crim also was named.) Fetters’ plaque notes that he was the team’s Pitcher of the Year in 1995 and 1996, and was in the top eight in the American League in saves from 1994 through 1996. He spent six of his 16 years with the club.

This is the second Hall of Fame honor that Fetters has earned. Three years earlier, in 2011, he was named to the Pepperdine University Athletics Hall of Fame. In his four seasons as the ace of the Waves pitching staff, he set several school records and led Pepperdine to two NCAA regional appearances.

“I think I was an afterthought when I first got there — they had offered me a scholarship sight unseen out of high school, and I’m not sure they had any plans to pitch me that first year,” he remembers. “But I got my shot and made the team as a freshman and ended up pitching the team’s first game of the season against USC. That SC team included Mark McGwire, and I struck him out twice.”

Fetters said the key to his success was his competitive intensity. “I was a Samoan kid (he’s half-Irish) with a chip on my shoulder,” he says. “Everything came together for me when I went to Iolani — learning poise, composure, keeping anger inside and knowing that team always comes first.”

By the time he became a closer for the Brewers and other teams, the 6-foot-4 right-hander had developed a reputation for fierceness. “I pitched like my head was on fire,” he says.

He also says he’s humbled by the two Hall of Fame honors. “You don’t play a sport to become a member of a Hall of Fame — you play because you love the sport, and I do.”

Ironically, when a story came out a few years ago listing the so-called top 100 sports persons from Hawaii, Fetters’ name was not included.

“A few friends called me about that and weren’t very happy about it,” he says. “I’m proud and humbled by what I’ve been able to achieve, I don’t need to broadcast it. It’s one thing I learned living in Hawaii, and I think Marcus Mariota spoke to the heart of it, too: Polynesian people are very humble. Our actions speak for themselves.”

That’s another Hall of Fame moment from another great son of Hawaii, Mike Fetters.