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A League of Their Own

Kai Correa leads an O‘ahu infield camp in December 2019. MAKA KWOCK PHOTO

San Francisco Giants bench coach and Waiākea High grad Kai Correa returns to the Aloha State this month to lead Hawai‘i’s first major league coaches clinic: Nā Ka‘i Pōhili. Joining him will be fellow 808-raised MLB trainers Keoni DeRenne and Brendan Sagara.

Hawai‘i’s very own major league coaches are coming home to host a first-of-its-kind clinic for baseball and softball players at 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at Farrington High School. Titled Nā Ka‘i Pōhili, the inaugural one-day workshop features the likes of Major League Baseball’s Kai Correa, Keoni DeRenne and Brendan Sagara, who will cover defense and infield play, hitting, and pitching and throwing, respectively.

“All of us have such unique backgrounds, and integral to those backgrounds is the impact the Hawai‘i baseball community had on us as kids and young coaches,” explains Correa, bench coach for the San Francisco Giants and co-organizer of the event. “We were supported and taught by those groups, and giving back to them became intuitive.”

Come next week Thursday, hundreds of baseball and softball athletes and coaches can gather closer to home at Farrington High to learn from some of the major league’s best.

“Hawai‘i was one of the only places that didn’t have something like that (featuring MLB coaches),” says Correa. “If Hawai‘i coaches or players wanted to go to one of these things, they’d have to jump on a plane and fly.

Correa with wife Brittany and daughter Avery Mae CARRIE HARRIS PHOTO

“This is our first one, but we’re hoping to build this into an annual event,” he adds.

That’s good news for up-and-coming sluggers, as mainland workshops of similar size and scope cost participants a couple hundred dollars.

“But none of us wanted to do that,” Correa recalls of his conversation with DeRenne (assistant hitting coach for Kansas City) and Sagara (co-pitching coach for the Rangers).

Instead, the trio opted to do good for local athletes and the community at large by changing things up a bit. Now, baseball and softball players and coaches who register for the Dec. 16 event have a chance to learn from notable major league coaches, and all it’ll cost them is a minimum of five canned goods donated to Hawai‘i Foodbank. To sign up, scan the QR code on this page, and do so as soon as possible because registration is capped at 400 participants.

Correa was part of the San Francisco Giants team that won the National League West this year. MICHAEL URAKAMI PHOTOS

In addition to giving players the chance to rub elbows with some of MLB’s most elite instructors, the clinic offers insight into what practicing and training looks like at the highest level.

“We’ll show them what concepts are important, and coaches can replicate what we’re doing,” Correa explains.

That notion of constantly learning and improving one’s craft is something Correa knows quite well. He credits his grandpa Jimmy, dad Tom and uncle Andy — all notable local coaches and players — for introducing him to the “family business.”

“My after-school care was my grandpa taking me to his practices, and I would sit in the dugout and watch or participate,” he recalls.

His role models on and off the field taught Correa the importance of passion, curiosity and desire to constantly learn.

“Be humble enough to realize you’re never an expert,” he says. “If you want to climb to the top, you need to continually reassess and improve your craft.”

With an attitude like that, it’s no surprise that Correa’s future within America’s national pastime would shine bright like the diamond he’s so familiar with. From his playing days at Waiākea High and then at University of Puget Sound, he kept on being a student of the game he loves so much. That tenacity and passion for the sport led to him getting hired as a coach for his collegiate alma mater and then University of Northern Colorado, both of which paved the way for him to land a minor league coaching gig with the Cleveland Indians. In 2020, he started in his current role as bench coach for the Giants, and just this year helped the Bay Area team clinch the National League West (the team’s first division title since 2012) and break the franchise’s regular-season win record.

“It’s an honor and you feel incredibly fortunate to work with the game’s greatest players,” he says. “And giving back to the community that means so much to me has been integral to me being where I am now.”