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Kailua, HPU Baseball Standout Hopeful For Major League Draft

Baseball always has been akin to a lifestyle for Kailua’s Kale Sumner. The Hawaii Pacific University standout’s next challenge is to keep living his dream at the next level.

With next month’s Major League Baseball draft much on his radar, it will be business as usual for Sumner in the coming days.

“I’ll be training for the draft – lifting, running and hitting so that I can keep in shape. I’m hopeful I’ll get drafted. If not, maybe I’ll try to play in an independent league. I still enjoy practicing and working hard. I still love it.”

Sumner recently wrapped up a stellar college career in style, delivering a tworun homer on the last day of the season.

“Overall I had a pretty good day, but it was a little bittersweet because we ended up losing,” he said.

Watching his last game in Fresno was his grandfather, Howard Okita, who recently closed out his coaching career with the conclusion of HPU’s softball season.

“It’s always nice to have my grandfather and my family there to watch me play,” Sumner said. It was through Okita, after all, that a young Sumner was first thrust into the baseball environment. “I liked just growing up on the field, playing day in and day out. By high school, I’d become better.”

At Kailua High, Sumner was the OIA Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008. He credits Surfriders head coach Corey Ishigo with helping him progress. “He’s one of the coaches who helped me the most.”

As a freshman at HPU, Sumner first set his sights on cracking the lineup. “Right before I got there, Coach Yukes (Garrett Yukimoto) told me that if I worked hard and kept hitting the way I’d hit in high school, there would be a position for me. It just so happened that the first baseman was struggling, and I stepped in.”

Sumner went on to earn PacWest Freshman of the Year honors (as well as First Team All-League honors) that season, and the Sea Warriors went 39-12 en route to appearing in the NCAA Regionals. “We all had a lot of fun that year,” he said. “We had pretty good players, and that led to victories.”

Over his four years at HPU, Sumner played five positions: first base, third base, catcher, third base and left field. He will be a catcher at the professional level, he said. “If anything, my chance will be as a catcher. The people (scouts) I’ve talked to said that with my body type, catcher is the best fit for me.”

Sumner was a Second Team All-Conference selection as a sophomore and earned First Team honors as a junior. The league hasn’t released its All-Conference lists for 2013 yet, but Sumner is a safe bet, after batting .386 this spring. He is finishing up work on a sociology degree.

“My four years went by pretty quick,” Sumner said. “As of right now, it hasn’t really kicked in yet that I won’t be going to practice there (at HPU).”