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Maui High’s Dando commits to Yavapai, awaits draft | News, Sports, Jobs

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Zach Dando took the next step in his baseball life on Thursday when he committed to play next season at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.

“The coach reached out to me and I’m looking for a school to play at and I think (junior college) is a good way to go to start,” Dando said via phone Wednesday night from Atlanta. “So, I’ve heard good things about Yavapai and I think that it’s a good place that I can go and show off some of my skills.

“They also gave me a pretty good offer, so I just thought that it’s just the way to go.”

The recent Maui High School graduate joins a Yavapai team that already includes 2021 Baldwin graduate Ben Zeigler-Namoa and has a commitment from Makane Honokaupu, a 2022 Baldwin graduate who was on the Maui Interscholastic League All-Star first team with Dando when it was announced in June.

“There’s a little relief off my shoulders — I finally don’t have to worry about what I’m doing, I can focus on my next steps to becoming better,” Giving said. “I think that’s really all I’m looking forward to right now.”

Honokaupu

Dando may soon have more decisions to make, with the Major League Baseball draft taking place July 17-19.

“I mean, I’m just hoping that someone believes in me and we’re just going to see what happens,” he said. “I think I have a good chance, but if not I’m excited to play at Yavapai and we’ll see what happens a year from now.”

Giving said if his name is called next week, he will sign.

“I don’t care which round, how much (money), I mean if I get drafted, I’m taking it and I’m going after my dream,” he said.

Dando has been playing this summer for the Hawaii Elite 2G travel team — he turned 18 years old on June 9 and left June 19 for Arizona to play in a USA Baseball tournament, then went to Dallas to play in the Five Tool Showcase tournament. He is currently in Atlanta to play in a Perfect Game tournament that began Thursday.

Maui High rising seniors Christopher Mata and Jonah Richardson, and Baldwin rising senior Levi Maddela are on the same team.

“Tons of fun, I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun in my life,” Giving said. “I’m just on the road with my friends and we’re just playing baseball, so that’s all I can ask for.”

Zeigler-Namoa is also a strong draft candidate and is a close friend of Dando. Zeigler-Namoa was recently named the player of the week in the West Coast League, a summer college circuit, after he hit .583 with 14 hits, six RBIs and eight runs while playing for the Cowlitz Black Bears in Longview, Wash.

“He actually messaged me about a week ago when the (Yavapai) coach first called me and asked me about Yavapai — I told him I thought it was a good option,” Giving said.

Honokaupu will make it a Yavapai MIL trio in the fall.

“It’s just great, I mean I’m fine with making friends with anybody, but of course having friends there that I’ve known for how many years will obviously help,” Giving said.

Honokaupu is the youngest of Linda and James Honokaupu’s seven children and will be the first in his family to attend college.

“Oh, they’re very excited, they always wanted me to go to college since I started playing baseball because they saw the talent in me and the opportunity that I can go far,” Makane Honokaupu said.

Honokaupu feels his draft chance is at least a year away — he committed to Yavapai about a month ago.

“I didn’t really have that many offers,” Honokaupu said. “I had two, from Yavapai and one in Washington. So, because I’ve been traveling a lot, always to Arizona, I know all the spots in Arizona. I played for the US championship there (in youth baseball), so I feel like it’s a second home there because I’ve been there a lot.

“When they came and they offered me, I took it right away. That was the one college I wanted to go to because Bennett Zeigler went there and he told me about everything, that it would improve you to get to the next level. And I want to play at the next level.”

Honokaupu is excited about the possibility of three MIL standouts playing the game at a high level in Prescott, Ariz., for a school that has four JC national titles and has been to the JC World Series nine times.

“Oh, it would be amazing because at least now we have three Maui boys that’s going there,” said Honokaupu, who started playing baseball at the age of 4.

Honokaupu and Zeigler-Namoa were key members of the 2019 Senior League World Series championship team that was coached by Baldwin head coach Craig Okita.

The Bears lost a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to Waiakea at Maehara Stadium in the state high school championship game in May — after two missed seasons due to the pandemic — but Honokaupu will leave Maui with a bevy of memories and gratitude for the Bears’ coaches .

“It all started because of COVID, we all had like nothing to do,” Honokaupu said. “Coach Craig was one of the greatest coaches during the COVID time because we still had games, kind of like high school games. Different teams from all over the island come together.

“It meant so much because the Oahu kids, they got to play, but we couldn’t. So what the coaches did was good because we needed that because we were just sitting, doing nothing.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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