Planet Claire has pink air. All the trees are red. — B52s “Planet Claire”
Kobe Kato’s whirlwind finish was something to behold. It’s too bad he lost steam in the summer baseball playoffs.
Kato, the former Aiea baseball standout and current University of Arizona player, was named Team MVP of the La Crosse Loggers of Wisconsin in the Northwoods League.
Kato proved without a doubt that he’s is indeed one of those “boys of summer.” His struggle to find a team during the COVID-19 crisis was the subject of a NickAbramo.com story last week.
Aside from being named team MVP, Kato went into the final weekend of the season having played eight of the10 positions, including designated hitter, this season.
The coaching staff decided to make it the full 10 positions before the season ended. Kato added a stint in center field and first base to become the first in Northwoods League history to achieve the feat.
And while he carries a steady bat, his defensive skills are what sets Kato apart. A video of some of his late-season defensive gems reveals that he is A LOT more than your average Joe.
Check out the video (below) from his mom’s Facebook page in which Kato makes a diving, shoestring catch in center field, turns two difficult double plays at second base, makes a diving catch at second base, and goes way to his left from second base into right field to dive and nab a grounder and still throw out a guy at first.
In other videos not posted here, Kato is seen making stellar plays and throws from third base.
And, for anyone wondering, Kato was indeed named after Kobe Bryant. According to his grandfather Rick Williams, Kobe was almost named Mark after Mark McGwire.
The decision to put Kobe at first base (to finish the complete sweep of positions) was made by head coach Brian Lewis. Before that game, Lewis was asked by a 21-year-old intern/game announcer if he would consider putting Kato at first. The reply by Lewis, according to Williams (who heard the story second hand), was that, “You might see Kato at first.”
Kato spent one inning at first, and he had only played there once before in his entire baseball life. According to Williams, the radio announcer’s nickname for Kato is “Swiss Army Knife” for his ability to fill a hole caused by an injury or other problem.
During a 1-0 Northwoods League semifinal win over Wisconsin Rapids on Friday, Kato went 0-for-4 and reached on an error. Then in a 14-3 loss to Fond du Lac in the championship game Saturday, he went 0-for-4 and made the second out in the ninth inning. That performance ended his 29-game streak of getting on base.
Kyson Donahue, a former Punahou standout, was also a part of the La Crosse team this summer. A shortstop, he is also a teammate of Kato at the University of Arizona. Both players flew to Tucson on Sunday.
Kato finished up with. .279 average with 33 RBIs in 45 games. Donahue batted .255 with 13 RBIs in 33 games.