After a dearth of Maui Interscholastic League graduates on the University of Hawaii baseball team for more than two decades, the tide has clearly turned.
Baldwin High School senior Levi Maddela is the latest MIL standout to verbally commit to the Rainbow Warriors — he told UH head coach Rich Hill of his decision on Sunday.
Maddela is poised to join former Bears teammate Ben Zeigler-Namoa, who transferred to UH from Yavapai (Ariz.) Junior College over the summer, and Lanai High School graduate Naighel Calderon on the ‘Bows roster in 2024.
“Very excited, I’m very honored and blessed for this opportunity that you have come for me and my family,” said Maddela, a left-handed first baseman/pitcher. “I actually was talking to them from the (high school) baseball season and throughout the summer. The offer came this past Sunday.”
The latest offer was a better one than he received about a week earlier from the Rainbow Warriors.
“I actually had a first offer and I told them that I was going to keep my options open and I would look out for other colleges and then they called me a week later and they told me they had a better offer for me,” Maddela said. “I felt that it was good for me and my family, so I took it.”
Maddela hit .343 and was stellar on the mound for the Bears in the 2022 MIL season — he allowed zero earned runs and struck out 38 in 28 innings. In the state tournament, he was 5 for 10 from the plate with a run and two RBIs for the Bears, who lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to Waiakea in the state championship game at Maehara Stadium.
Maddela started on the mound in the state semifinal against Kailua and left after allowing three earned runs in two innings of a 17-5 win.
Maddela said he will be in touch with Zeigler-Namoa soon.
“I haven’t had the chance to speak with (Zeigler-Namoa) yet, but it’ll be nice being teammates with him again,” Maddela said. “I actually hung out with him during the quarantine days, went to the beach with him a lot.”
To have a former Baldwin teammate at UH, Maddela said: “That’s amazing, it’ll be really good to see two Maui boys be members of that team.”
Zeigler-Namoa and Maddela will be the first Baldwin players at UH since current Bears assistant coach Jamie Aloy was there in the late 1990s.
“Very blessed for me and Ben to represent our home and the state of Hawaii,” Maddela said. “I’m very excited for what is to eat.”
Maddela said it is a relief to have his post-Baldwin baseball future decided.
“I was stoked making this decision,” Maddela said. “With Coach Rich and the coaching staff, I like what they have in store for us in the future.”
He gave major credit to the Baldwin program and other coaches that have helped him get this far.
“Just the whole Pono Foundation and coach (Jon) Viela helped me from when I was young and these coaches have been part of my life since I was young,” Maddela said. “(Baldwin) coach Craig (Okita) has been there for me as well.”
Okita was a standout baseball player for the Bears and UH Hilo before graduating from UH Manoa in 1996.
“It’s definitely good to see UH pursuing more of the Hawaii kids, and I think that’s Coach Hill’s plan,” Okita said. “It will get the community back behind UH baseball, I’m hoping anyway, and kind of bring back that excitement. It’s good for Levi to get it out of the way.
“Proud of him. He’s still got a long way to go, there’s some things he needs to work on, but it’s good to see he’s got that out of the way so now he can concentrate on some other things.”
Maddela also said his travel team coach Brandon Toro from Hawaii Elite has helped his progression and that his older brother Isaiah Maddela, a 2014 Baldwin grad, has been his guiding light since he was in T-ball.
“My brother has been an inspiration to me all my life,” Levi Maddela said. “He taught me lessons on and off the field.”
Levi Maddela is now firmly focused on getting another chance to capture the state baseball title. He is currently considering whether or not to join the Bears football team after a long summer of baseball-related travel.
“Oh man, I’m even more motivated than I was last year,” Maddela said of baseball. “It was a tough loss and I don’t want it to happen again.”
I can’t wait to have “Hawaii” across his chest.
“It’s a dream and to get to be one of the players that I watched as a kid at UH baseball, it’s such a blessing,” Maddela said.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.