Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • September 23, 2021
Living The Baseball Dream: Catching Up With Joey Cantillo, Kobe Kato And Everett Lau

Through the years, a ton of highly talented Hawaii baseball players have made the progression from youth leagues to high school, college and the pros.

The dreams of getting to the pinnacle of the majors is very real. And, guys in recent history like Shane Victorino and Kolten Wong, prove that it can be done.

Today, we concentrate on three (among the many) who played their high school ball here not long ago and who are playing at a high level right now.

Kailua’s Joey Cantillo, P, Cleveland Indians organization

Hard work is paying off so far for 2017 Kailua graduate and San Diego Padres draft pick, according to

“Cantillo was invited to San Diego’s expanded roster in 2020 before being traded to Cleveland,” Brian Hemminger of the website writes. “What really impresses scouts is his changeup. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is the fact that he didn’t even throw it in high school. It’s his highest-graded pitch on all scouting sites and actually is one of the top-graded changeups in the entire Cleveland system.”

Joey Cantillo’s baseball card, from when he was playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Class-A team in the San Diego Padres’ organization. (Image credit: eBay).

But there was one more bit of top-notch insight by the site: “Look for him to begin 2021 in Double-A in his age 21 season. He’s not far away.”

Those three words are there as incentive to Cantillo and all of his boosters: “Not far away.”

Having watched Cantillo play for the Surfriders, I can say he’s one of the most impressive high school lefties I’ve seen. I wrote about how he struck out 18 Kalani batters WITH FOUR MAJOR LEAGUE SCOUTS watching in this story from just a little more than four years ago:

>> Kailua’s Cantillo racks up 18 strikeouts

That same year, Cantillo helped Kailua get to the quarterfinals of the Division I state championship. That team was really solid and had a chance to win it all, but ran into some tough luck in a 3-1 loss to Waiakea in the quarters.

Now 21, the 6-foot-4 Cantillo is with the Akron RubberDucks, the Indians’ Double-A squad. The RubberDucks start their season May 4.

In all levels (from rookie to Class A-plus) in his three seasons in the Padres’ organization, Cantillo is 13-7 with a 2.51 earned-run average in 32 starts. He has also struck out 221 batters with only 55 walks in 168 2/3  innings.

WOW, that is worth repeating: 221 strikeouts and only 55 walks in 168 2/3 innings!!!!

Cantillo did not play in 2020 because of the decision to cancel all minor league games due to COVID-19.

Bedrock Sports Hawaii will keep an eye on Joey Cantillo for sure. And soon, we hope to update readers on more former Hawaii high school players in the minors.

Author’s note: I miss chit-chatting with Mr. Johnny Cantillo, Joey’s dad, at the Kailua baseball games.

Aiea’s Kobe Kato, 2B, University of Arizona

Former Aiea two-sport standout Kobe Kato has worked his way up to a starting spot in the University of Arizona’s lineup.

He’s playing second base for the Wildcats, who are off to a 16-7 start.

Kato, a 22-year-old sophomore, can play anywhere on the field — and did just that by playing all 10 positions, including DH, throughout the season in the Northwoods League last summer:

>> Aiea’s Kobe Kato Finishes Summer Baseball Season With a Whirlwind And A Whimper

Over the weekend, Kato went 4-for-12 with for runs scored and an RBI in a three-game series against No. 16 Oregon.

Overall in 2021, he has started all of the team’s 23 games and is batting .312 with 11 RBIs, five doubles and a homer. In addition, he has walked 21 times, which is a team high and tied for fifth in the nation.

Kobe Kato is a University of Arizona starter. (Image credit: Twitter).

Kato, a 2017 Aiea graduate, is an MLB draft prospect and plans to go pro. His dad Ryan Kato was his high school head coach.

In his career at Arizona, Kobe is hitting .305 with 15 RBIs and 30 walks in 53 games played. That includes his nine games as a nonstarter in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, when he batted .333.

During his high school days as a shortstop/pitcher and as a quarterback on the football team, I remember writing about Kato:

>> Kato Puts Aiea Over Mililani
>> QB Is Not A Worry For Aiea

Author’s note: I miss chit-chatting with Kobe Kato’s grandfather Rick Williams, who is an Aiea wrestling coach and scorekeeping volunteer, at wrestling meets.

‘Iolani’s Everett Lau, 3B, UC San Diego

There’s been a lot of moving for Hawaii Kai’s Everett Lau in his collegiate career.

He played high school ball at ‘Iolani (Class of 2016) and then suited up for the College of San Mateo for two seasons before playing in the Southeastern Conference at Auburn.

This year, Lau is a senior at UC San Diego, where he was batting .235 in four games before suffering a leg injury. According to his brother Emerson Lau, Everett is working to get back into the lineup.

Everett Lau, who turns 23 on Thursday, hopes to recover from an injury and get back UC San Diego’s lineup. (Image credit: UC San Diego athletics).

Down the line, one huge thing that Everett would love to do, according to Emerson, is to be back in action to play in the four-game series at the University of Hawaii, May 21-23.

In his second game of the season, while batting leadoff, Lau hit a home run and a double and drove in four run in a 9-3 victory over San Diego State.

At Auburn, he played with the Tigers in the College World Series. Overall, in 19 games during that 2019 season, he hit .250 with a homer, two doubles and eight RBIs.

Last year, the COVID-19 shortened season, Lau started all of the 20 games he played in with a .303 average, four doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs for UC San Diego.

Overall in his Division I career with the two schools, Lau has batted .278 with seven doubles, three homers and 23 RBIs in 43 games (including 32 as a starter).

Here are some previous stories from covering Lau during his high school days and catching up with him at Auburn:

>> ‘Iolani’s Lau Is A Multi-Faceted Athlete
>> ‘Iolani Alum Everett Lau Is Part Of Auburn’s Ride To Omaha

Author’s note: I miss playing inline hockey pickup games with Everett Lau and his brother Emerson at Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas.

ALSO AT Hawaii Hockey’s First Lady: Punahou Alum Linda Desruisseaux

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