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Senior Spotlight: For Zeigler-Namoa, the sky is the roof

Baldwin senior headed to Yavapai, is getting attention from scouts

Baldwin High School’s Ben Zeigler-Namoa pitches while playing for the Braves in an All Pono Spring Baseball League game last Saturday. The Baldwin senior is headed to Yavapai College in Arizona. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Senior Spotlight is a special series highlighting standout MIL student-athletes as they reflect upon their high school careers and look toward the future. Stories will run periodically in The Maui News.

Ben Zeigler-Namoa is about five weeks away from his Baldwin High School graduation.

He will leave the Wailuku campus to attend Yavapai College in Arizona, where he plans to continue a standout baseball career.

As a sophomore starter for the Bears in 2019, he showed flashes of just how good he could be when he was a first-team Maui Interscholastic League Division I All-Star at first base for a team that advanced to the state semifinals.

With his junior and senior seasons wiped out by COVID-19, only what-ifs are left to ponder for Zeigler-Namoa and his teammates on the prep level.

Ben Zeigler-Namoa takes first base after drawing a walk last Saturday. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The 2020 Bears roster had 15 youth baseball world champions on it, including Zeigler-Namoa, who was a key member of the 2019 Senior League (15-16) World Series winners.

“As a high school team, I’m really bummed that we couldn’t play, but the sky was the roof for that team, especially my junior year, the sky was the roof,” Zeigler-Namoa said. “It was a bummer, but I think at the end of the day everyone got to go (to college) where they wanted to go and that’s what makes me the most happy.”

Four of six seniors from the Bears’ baseball class of 2020 are playing in college, while all five seniors this season are set to play at the next level.

“I love playing with them, it’s a brotherhood at Baldwin,” said Zeigler-Namoa, who transferred to Baldwin after spending his freshman year at Lahainaluna. “It’s crazy. The feeling is uncharacteristic.”

The six-team All Pono Spring Baseball League is underway for MIL players to compete in a club format as COVID-19 numbers remain too high to allow for MIL teams to practice or scrimmage.

The team made up of Baldwin student-athletes is called the Braves.

“I’m really stoked, I mean personally, not being on the field competitively-wise, not scrimmage-wise,” Zeigler-Namoa said. “And to actually be part of my high school team, it means a lot to me. I think it means a lot to all of our players.”

Not surprisingly, Zeigler-Namoa is the outright leader of this group according to Craig Okita, who is the Bears head coach, the Braves head coach and the commissioner of the APSBL.

“I can say, for sure, Ben would have done some great things for us at Baldwin,” Okita said. “He didn’t get that opportunity, but I’m very confident he will do well in college and wherever he goes. I know he wants to take it as far as he can and not just be satisfied with going to a JC. I know he wants to go D-I and maybe even professionally if he has that opportunity.”

The Bears were ranked No. 2 in the state by scoringlive.com when the 2020 season was halted by COVID-19 in March — in the last four state tournaments played, Baldwin owns two state titles and the final four appearance from Zeigler-Namoa’s sophomore campaign.

Joining Zeigler-Namoa on the Bears to college baseball list are Danelle Daniels (Butte College), Dylan Waite (Clark College), Isaiah Souza (Cal Lutheran) and Lee Souza (Yakima Valley College).

Zeigler-Namoa is grateful to have his college destination made. Yavapai plays in a wood-bat league and is a national junior college power.

“Especially from my junior year to my senior year, I was stressing about it a lot,” he said. “Coming to my senior and finally getting somewhere to go and getting that over with was a big step in life.

“I’m happy that is over, but finding the right place was the hardest part for me for sure because I was looking for a good program, but I was also looking for a good development program. And Yavapai just has it all, man.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound left-hander is a pitcher and first baseman, but with an established first baseman currently in the Yavapai program, Zeigler-Namoa could see relief duty on the mound, part-time play at first base and in the outfield as a freshman.

Zeigler-Namoa has professional baseball on his mind. He was invited to an Atlanta Braves scout game in October by West Coast scout Dan Cox and attended the event in San Bernardino, Calif., where he did well over the three days of the event.

“Ever since then I’ve had a couple major league (organizations) on my mind, but honestly whatever happens, happens. If it’s my time, it’s my time. If it’s not, it’s not. That’s just how it is,” he said. “I think I showed out really well. In the scouting portion I did very well, in the game I went 0-for-2, but I almost hit a ball over (the wall).”

The event opened his eyes in a big way. He has been in contact with a few professional scouts — the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves have all shown interest since that showing.

“I was playing with some kids that are going to get drafted in the first five rounds. Like, crazy studs,” he said. “To see that finally made me realize I need to grind more. If I want that to become a reality, I just had to change my lifestyle a little bit.

“In the offseason I’ve been hitting the weights a lot more, I gained 10 pounds and my velo(city) has gone up a lot, I’ve been throwing harder. I feel faster and stronger than ever. I’ve been busting my butt.”

He relishes the idea of playing baseball as long as he can and then perhaps getting into coaching.

“It went from fun to a job just like that, but I love that,” he said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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