West Oahu CaneFires

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The West Oahu CaneFires were a team in the Hawaii Winter League in Waipahu, HI.

West Oahu debuted in 1995 with a 28-24 record, second in the outrigger division, just a game behind the Honolulu Sharks. The CaneFires had players who finished 4th through 6th in the league in average - Marty Neff (.304, .500 SLG), Hitoshi Taneda (.300, .463 SLG) and Chris Truby (.297, .424 SLG). Jacob Cruz (.286, .526 SLG) tied for the league lead in triples (5) while native son Benny Agbayani (.281, .399 SLG) tied for the lead in RBI (30). Other future big leaguers included Steve Cox (.264, .416 SLG) and Eli Marrero (.272, .424 SLG). Geoff Edsel (6-4, 5.79) led the league in wins despite a high ERA while Ryan Hancock (5-1, 2.42) was the ace.

In 1996, West Oahu was 20-30, third of the four teams. Justin Speier (1-2, 3.72) led the HWL with 10 saves while Russ Ortiz (2-6, 3.50) had the staff's best ERA. Gabe Kapler hit just .247 but slugged .462 and led the loop with 7 homers. Dong-hee Park was another notable name. The team was managed by Jeff Datz with coaches Dave Schuler and Steve Livesey.

West Oahu improved to 26-27 and were half a game behind Honolulu in the Outrigger. Keith Evans (4-3, 1.69), Phil Grundy (4-3, 4.37) and Shinji Kurano (4-3, 4.58) tied for the league lead in wins while Kazumi Saitoh would have the best career of any of their pitchers. Jim Chamblee hit .249 but slugged .492 and hit a league-best 10 homers. Terrence Long (.302, .516 SLG) led in triples (7) and runs (35). Michael Barrett hit a solid .314 while slugging .389. The big star, though, was Nobuhiko Matsunaka. Matsunaka set a new league record for average (.372), slugged .623 and led the league in hits (71), doubles (18) and RBI (37). Matsunaka's teammate in Japan, Tadahito Iguchi, would go on to more fame in the US, but was no match this year.

When baseball returned to Hawaii in 2006, West Oahu boasted three of the top four prospects according to Baseball America, with #1 Joba Chamberlain, #2 John Mayberry Jr. and #4 Jeff Marquez. West Oahu finished only 18-18-1, though, half a game back of the division leaders, the North Shore Honu, their third just miss in four seasons. Making the league All-Star team were C John Otness (.313/.400/.446, the leader in OBP and second in average), OF Mayberry (.318/.388/.545, second with 23 RBI, tied for second with 9 doubles), SS Yasushi Iihara (.274/.379/.534, a leading five homers), Chamberlain (2-2, 2.63, second with 46 strikeouts) and RP Tyoji Matsumara (3-1, 4.66, tied for third in wins). OF Will Venable (.330/.390/.473) led the loop in average and doubles (10) and was second in OBP and third in slugging. Takashi Maruyama (2-2, 1.15) is listed on the HWB website as finishing third with a 1.32 ERA which ignores one game. Ian Kennedy was 0-2 with a 4.45 ERA but did rank third in strikeouts (45).

Sources: 1997-1999 and 2007 Baseball Almanacs, Hawaii Winter Baseball website