Maui’s minor leaguers taking it easy at home
With spring training closed, Karaviotis enjoying time as stay-at-home dad
Mark Karaviotis is enjoying his time off to hang out at home in Arizona with his daughter, Teagan.
Ryley Widell and Bubba Hoopii-Tuionetoa returned home to Maui — Widell on Tuesday, Hoopii-Tuionetoa on Wednesday.
All three of Maui’s minor league baseball players are ready to roll whenever spring training resumes for them.
All three recently left their spring training facilities — Karaviotis is an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand who expects to start the season in Class AA, Widell is likely to start at low Class A ball for the Minnesota Twins organization, and Hoopii-Tuionetoa will almost certainly begin his summer at Rookie level for the Texas Rangers.
“Right now I’m just living the life of stay-at-home dad,” Karaviotis, who is now an outfielder after being a shortstop for Maui High School and Oregon, said from his condominium in Arizona on Tuesday. “Like you said, it’s been a roller coaster the last week. They sent everybody home the day that everybody got here for minor league camp. The day that minor league was supposed to officially begin was last Friday, so this all went down Thursday night.
“So you can imagine everyone spends the entire offseason training and, you know, they’re pretty much ready to get going and in the best shape of their lives going into the season. And now they tell us to dial back and relax again.”
Karaviotis is clearly enjoying his time with 3-year-old Teagan, but is also wondering when he will get the chance to continue his climb up the ladder in the D-backs organization.
“It’s a blast. We’re tracing, we’re learning the alphabet, we’re watching Disney Plus — they released ‘Frozen 2’ six weeks early so people with kids can watch it,” Karaviotis said. “In the last three days, we’ve watched it about six times already, so we’re having fun.”
Karaviotis moved to the Double-A Jackson (Tenn.) Generals late last season after being the MVP of the California League All-Star game representing the Visalia Rawhide.
“At the end of the day we really have no idea what’s going on,” Karaviotis said. “They’ve kind of given us some indications on when they think the start time they might think — they’re talking about late May. There’s a lot of fake news going around, you can’t really believe all of the media stuff, so, from the inside what they’re kind of telling us is to kind of relax.
“We’re not in a rush to get ready. This thing could take awhile. Our entire complex is shut down, everyone was sent home back to their offseason ‘destinations,’ which is basically wherever they live.”
Karaviotis lives six miles from the Diamondbacks complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., but only 40-man roster players and those needing rehabilitation from injury are allowed in.
“Pretty much everywhere is closing: Batting cages are closing, public gyms are closing, so pretty much our last resort is doing pushups and situps in our bedroom like we did back when we were 12 years old,” Karaviotis said. “It’s a crazy time right now, but like I said this is far bigger than baseball. I’m blessed to be here with my family.”
Several of the Diamondbacks’ international players were forced to stay in town “because the organization deemed it unsafe for those guys to return home,” Karaviotis said. “So, those guys are here probably panicking, away from their families in a hotel room.”
The position Karaviotis is in is perfectly OK with him.
“I’m just blessed to not have to go anywhere and to have my home base five minutes from the complex — it’s definitely crazy,” he said.
The Karaviotis family was on Maui for three months following last season. Wife Anna recently landed a job in the real estate industry and Teagen’s preschool is about “500 feet” from their condo.
“Everything is going good — hopefully the world is back to normal in the near future,” Karaviotis said. “Being quarantined with a 3-year-old who doesn’t stop, that’s the real struggle.”
The left-handed Widell and right-handed Hoopii-Tuionetoa, both pitchers, are coming off nagging injuries and both said they are 100 percent for the first time in a while.
“My general manger said it’s kind of a tricky situation with what’s going on, so they sent us all home,” Widell said. “It’s new for everyone. … They basically sent us home and we are kind of on a maintenance program. I think kind of what their plan is, they are kind of reversing the clock for when we go back.”
Widell, a 2015 King Kekaulike graduate and seventh-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017, was a combined 2-5 with a 6.20 ERA in 2017 and 2019 with the Rookie-level Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins.
He missed the entire 2018 season with mononucleosis and had shoulder impingement issues all of last year.
“Things were going good, I was healthy and I was days away from throwing to live batters, but now unfortunately we have to keep all the safety of us and others in mind,” Widell said. “We had to make the best call and I think this is what it was, so I’m home and I’m just going day by day. It could be two weeks or it could be two months.”
Last season, Widell said, “I was pitching through an injury — I just didn’t have my best stuff, I was just pitching injured. It’s kind of all I could think about. Other than that, it’s just amazing how confident you can feel just being healthy and not having to worry about that kind of stuff. I was real excited and I feel like they were excited, too.
“I was ready to get the ball rolling, but we’ll just have to postpone it a little bit.”
Hoopii-Tuionetoa was drafted in the 17th round by the Twins off of Baldwin’s state championship team in 2018, but he decided to attend junior college in Washington state and was drafted by the Rangers in the 30th round last year.
“We had a meeting I think last Thursday and they said ‘You can stay or you can leave,’ “ Hoopii-Tuionetoa said of the Rangers. “It kind of seems like they are trying to get people home regardless, they kind of gave us the option.”
Hoopii-Tuionetoa is also feeling ready to go. He was in the rehabilitation program for the Rangers all summer last season for shoulder inflammation after signing his contract in June.
“Right now they are having us at a slow pace for now,” he said from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, waiting for his flight to Maui on Wednesday. “We were already at full stuff at spring training and all of a sudden we just get shut down. So, right now they said ‘Take it easy, don’t peak too early.’ … They are going to let us know about the throwing program and things like that.
“I feel 100 percent, feel kind of uneasy right now, but I will get back to 100 percent in no time.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.