Arcadia High and the University of Hawaii owe a note of thanks to the Dobson High School baseball coach who told Jake MacWilliam that he “wasn’t good enough” to play high school baseball.
That caused Don and Paula MacWilliam to move their son to Arcadia after Jake’s sophomore year, allowing him to work with his long-time trainer and former Diamondbacks training coach Matt Ingram.
Now, just a summer after finishing a banner senior year at shortstop for the Titans, Jake will be stepping onto Les Murakami field in Honolulu on a big scholarship to play for the University of Hawaii.
What could be better than this?
Late this summer, Hawaii offered Jake’s brother and a former Dobson left-handed pitcher, Jim MacWilliam, a scholarship to also play for the Warriors after two years at Chandler Gilbert Community College. What a decision Jim had to make: a New Mexico State scholarship or play his last two years of college baseball with his brother at Hawaii.
Jake and Jim are both ecstatic about being at Hawaii together.
“I can't wait for the season to start and be on the mound and look back and see my younger brother at shortstop,” said Jim. “We are best friends besides being brothers, and getting to share this experience with him is a huge blessing.”
About 10 years ago, the pair was together when the Diamondbacks were unveiling their youth-baseball training programs. Photos of Jim and Jake were in all the promotional materials. Jeff Rodin, Diamondbacks director of baseball outreach and development, had been working with the boys weekly and suggested they be the first faces of the “Learn to Play the D-Backs Way” training. In fact, the D-Backs also used Jim as the lefty and Jake as the right-hander in their youth training video.
The UofH had been watching Jake for two years, said Jake’s mom Paula.
“They were like a shark who kept bumping into him,” she said.
Hawaii’s coach Mike Trapasso flew in to see Jake play in April on a day when Jake went 4-for-5 with two doubles. Shortly thereafter, the Hawaiian team was in town and won the Western Athletic Conference title, earning them a spot in the regional playoffs at ASU’s Packard Stadium. Trapasso and assistant Chad Konishi, the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, called Jake in for a meeting at the and liked what they heard and saw in him.
“We lost eight guys to the draft,” Trapasso said. “One of the holes our club had to fill was shortstop.”
The Rainbows, like most teams, needed pitching, too. That meant an open roster spot for Jim.
Trapasso said he liked the work ethic and team attitude that both MacWilliam boys demonstrated.
“Any success you have at this level has a lot to do with the character of the student athlete,” Trapasso said.
Seven years of working with Matt Ingram had a huge impact on Jake.
“He taught me baseball and helped me mature,” Jake said.
Jake’s advice to young players hoping to go to school on a baseball scholarship: “playing as hard as you can every day, just like it’s your last day.”
Jim echoed his little brother.
“It took a lot of work to get to where I am at today,” he said. “It was not smooth sailing.
“When I got to CGCC, I still had to work very hard to earn my spot as a pitcher.”
Jim attributes a lot of his success to the coaching staff at CGCC .
“The CGCC coaches took my talent and helped me excel to the highest level that I could as a player,” he said.
The brothers will be playing with some talented guys in Hawaii. The Rainbows’ Kolten Wong was MVP of the Cape Cod League. Trapasso is now entering his 11th season as Hawaii’s coach and has had a winning record in eight of the last nine seasons, including two NCAA Regional finals in the last five years.
So will it be all work and no play at Hawaii? Not really. Konishi told Jake to bring along his surfboard.