WAILEA - Branden Kaupe is fast and working on becoming faster.
The 2012 Baldwin High School graduate was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Mets in June and spent his first season in professional baseball with the rookie-level Kingsport Mets.
He hit.173 with 44 strikeouts, one double and one triple in 133 at-bats, but walked 38 times to boost his on-base percentage to .358. He stole three bases in six attempts.
"I learned a lot," Kaupe said of his first professional season. "From growing up, going to pro ball, I have been playing baseball for about 16 years already - I'm only 18 - and I thought that I learned everything that I could. That's how I got there, but when I got there everything I learned just sharpened my skills. Mentally, I learned a lot of stuff to keep me more focused during the games and off the field to stay healthy, to keep lasting for a long time."
Kaupe said the Mets have asked him to concentrate on his speed during his first offseason on Maui before he reports to spring training in March.
"More of just footwork and my speed and acceleration, just mostly getting off the bases quickly so I can steal more bags next coming season," Kaupe said.
Jan. 9-10-Owners meeting, Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Jan. 15-Salary arbitration filing.
Jan. 18-Salary arbitration figures exchanged.
Feb. 1-21-Salary arbitration hearings, Phoenix.
Feb. 12-Mandatory reporting date for players participating in the World Baseball Classic in Asia. Mandatory reporting date for all other pitchers and catchers participating in the WBC. Voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers not participating in the WBC.
Feb. 15-Mandatory reporting date for WBC players not participating in Asia. Voluntary reporting date for position players not participating in the WBC.
Feb. 20-Mandatory reporting date for players not participating in the WBC.
March 2-11-Teams may renew contracts of unsigned players.
March 2-19-World Baseball Classic.
March 13-Last day to place a player on unconditional release waivers and pay 30 days termination pay instead of 45 days.
March 27-Last day to request unconditional release waivers on a player without having to pay full 2013 salary.
March 31-Opening day. Active rosters reduced to 25 players.
Kaupe was among the guests at the Shane Victorino Foundation Charity Golf Tournament at the Wailea Emerald Course on Thursday, invited personally by Victorino, the 1999 St. Anthony graduate who agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox two days before the golf event.
"Coming out of high school I never thought I would be able to be riding a golf cart around next to Adam Jones, Dayton (Alexander) himself, Shane Victorino, so it's a great honor to be next to this crowd," Kaupe said.
Kaupe smiled when asked if he was as fast as Victorino, who has 201 stolen bases in a nine-year major league career. Kaupe is listed as 5-foot-7, Victorino as 5-8.
"I don't know," Kaupe said. "The last time I raced Shane I was in the 7th grade, so I might ask him today if he is down to race. I watch Shane and I study what he does. He is so successful. We have the same stature, we are both fast, so I try to add that to my game to be successful just like Shane."
The 21-year-old Alexander, a Kamehameha Maui graduate, was drafted in the sixth round by the Oakland Athletics out of Feather River (Calif.) Junior College in 2011. He has hit a combined .185 in two minor league seasons.
Alexander spent 25 games with Vermont of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League and hit .145 last summer before going to the rookie-level Arizona League, where he boosted his average to .256 in 14 games.
"Hopefully next season I can go into spring training with better adjustments to look for and hopefully I will get to a higher level," said Alexander, who is a second cousin of Victorino. "A lot of teammates I play with are 24, 23 years old, so I feel like I still have a lot of time, which I do. I still have a lot of time to make my adjustments, so I'm working hard this offseason. I feel like I'm right where I need to be."
Alexander said the islands are getting a closer look due to Victorino's success.
"Shane just opened the door up to a lot of Hawaii kids just by the way he plays and his dedication, heart that he puts into the game," Alexander said. "Scouts look at that and they want more players like Shane."
Kanekoa Texeira, a right-handed reliever who grew up in Kula and spent 2010 and 2011 with the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, has noticed a similar impact.
"Ever since he got drafted, you can see more guys not only from Maui, but from the state of Hawaii getting drafted," said Texeira, a free agent this offseason. "The numbers have increased from before and he is the guy who brought more scouts to the islands."
Alexander is working out daily with Na Koa Ikaika Maui pitcher-infielder Kalaika Kahoohalahala at the Maui High gym. Alexander's brother, A.J. Alexander, is also a member of the independent league team but for now is back at New Mexico Highlands University finishing his degree.
Texeira had a 2.72 ERA in 56 1/3 innings over 34 appearances last season with the Cincinnati Reds' Triple-A team, the Louisville Bats, holding opponents to a .232 average.
The 26-year-old is a distant cousin of Victorino, and was his water boy as a youth.
"He's Shane, everyone knows Shane," Texeira said. "Everyone is proud of him, his family is and I know I am. He has always been a brother to me."
Texeira said he expects to sign with an organization soon, and that the Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are at the top of his list.
"I'm just trying to fight for a job for next year," he said. "I'm just happy to keep playing. I've got plenty of time, but I feel old."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org