By Wade McWhorter
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Tim Arakawa has been playing baseball since the time he could walk, with a love of the game passed on from his grandfather and father.
One of his favorite memories on the diamond came nearly a decade ago when his Cal Ripken League team from Hawaii went to the World Series in Aberdeen, Maryland. The team from the island won its pool, captured the U.S. championship and advanced to the world championship game, where it faced Mexico in front of a sellout crowd.
“In the bottom of the sixth inning, we were up 1-0 with two outs, and everybody started chanting, ‘USA! USA! USA!’ For kids from Hawaii, it’s kind of crazy — I mean we’re in the middle of the ocean,” Arakawa said. “All the fans in Maryland jumped on the bandwagon. We won the game, and it was crazy and surreal to see the American flags flying. Fifteen kids from Oahu, Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, traveled all the way to Maryland and beat a team from Mexico to win a world championship. That’s an unforgettable memory.”
Fast forward to 2014, when Arakawa found himself in another improbable place – Stillwater, Oklahoma.
This time, Arakawa was wearing an Oklahoma State uniform and playing for a championship in front of a raucous crowd of orange-clad Cowboy fans in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, something that once again created an unforgettable baseball moment.
“You come to a university like Oklahoma State and you think, ‘Oh, we’re going to the College World Series,’ but a lot of that is talk,” Arakawa said. “But when we actually won the Big 12 championship, that was amazing. And to win a Regional and to host a Super Regional was kind of surreal. I would have never imagined me being in Stillwater, Oklahoma, playing in front of a packed house at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, alongside all my brothers. The camaraderie that we shared was unreal — without that camaraderie the Big 12 championship wouldn’t have come, the Regional win wouldn’t have come. It was awesome to be a part of something so special.”
Unlike the experience in Maryland, this baseball dream of Arakawa’s fell short of the ultimate goal as he and the Cowboys lost in an NCAA Super Regional to end their storybook season, one that included 48 wins and the program’s first-ever Big 12 regular season title.
“Nobody likes to lose — if you like to lose, you’re a loser,” Arakawa said. “The hardest part about (losing the Super Regional) was the seniors. In baseball, you win some games, you lose some games and teams get hot at certain times. You have to learn how to deal with failure if you want to make it anywhere in this game. But it was painful, the fact that I wouldn’t be able to play with guys like Tanner Krietemeier and Craig McConaughy again, my brothers. That was the hardest part.”
For Arakawa, the opportunity for another run at Omaha and the College World Series is something that drives him in his final collegiate season.
And much like a year ago, Arakawa is producing at an impressive clip.
Just over a month into the 2015 season, Arakawa is hitting .329 and leads OSU with 21 RBIs, a total that ranks second in the Big 12.
Driving in runs, especially in the clutch, is something Arakawa showed a knack for from the minute he stepped onto the OSU campus.
After two standout seasons at Yavapai College, the 5-foot-8, 180 pounder earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors in 2014, starting all 66 games at second base for the conference champs and hitting .265 with 15 stolen bases and 44 RBIs.
“Tim had a really strong season for us, numerous clutch hits and a really strong presence on the team with his teammates,” said OSU head coach Josh Holliday. “He is a great teammate, a calming presence on our team. He’s got a very good demeanor, very consistent. He’s just one of those kids that is a big part of who we are and a rock we can build around.”
Holliday added that Arakawa, who had a pair of walk-off hits a year ago and also ranked 11th nationally with 47 walks, epitomizes the type of player the Cowboy coaches want in their dugout.
“His patience and the types of at bats he puts together can be really tough on another team because they drain other teams’ starting pitchers of some of their best bullets,” Holliday said. “He’s a guy that would not only beat you with a base hit, he could beat you with a bunt, with a walk, with a stolen base.
“Just having that tough, disciplined, grinder mentality and offensive presence was the identity of our lineup, and Tim was a big part of that.”
Arakawa has continued that mentality as a senior and as one of the veterans in the OSU clubhouse has cemented himself as one of the Cowboys’ leaders.
“Guys love hearing him talk, they listen to him and they respect him,” Holliday said. “He doesn’t have to say much to do a lot for us. And when he does speak, guys really listen because he’s one of those guys that is really dialed in to what’s going on.”
With another season of high production for the Cowboys, Arakawa is hoping for a chance to play at the next level, but the sports media major is also intrigued by writing and telling stories from the sports world or possibly even coaching.
“As a kid, everybody’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I’d love to play professional baseball,” Arakawa said. “But I just want to play baseball as long as it lets me and just know that I left it all on the field.
“Once it’s said and done, it’s said and done — I’ll hand in my cleats. I’ll definitely miss it, but everybody misses the game once they hang it up.”
Until that time comes, Arakawa will continue to take the field looking to continue the type of play that has made him a dependable star in Stillwater.“When you think about your players, you can count on him — we count on Tim, for sure,” Holliday said.