The arrival of freshman baseball star Keston Hiura could not have been better scripted. Making his collegiate debut against Fresno State, Hiura hit two home runs to cement his presence on the team.
“It was a great feeling knowing I could compete at the collegiate level,” said Hiura. “But also making a statement saying ‘I belong here and I will do whatever I can to help the team win.’”
In just his first year on the baseball team, Hiura has already broken and set his share of records. Hiura has broken many freshman records for the program, including totals for RBIs and home runs. The freshman has been named conference player of the week twice this season and leads the Big West conference in RBIs. Through all the accolades and recognition that Hiura gets, he remains humble remembering the times when he wasn’t a household name.
“Growing up throughout high school, I wasn’t a big name player,” said Hiura. “So I think that kind of helps now.”
Despite his success early in his college career, Hiura remains the ultimate team player.
“It doesn’t really matter how I’m playing compared to how the team is playing because if we’re not winning there’s really no satisfaction,” said Hiura.
Regardless of having played basketball, football, and other sports growing up, Hiura has always focused his attention on the sport of baseball.
“When I was four I pretty much played every single sport but at that time baseball just seemed to catch my attention,” said Hiura. “Throughout my years growing up I wanted to focus more on baseball than any other sport.”
Keston’s motivation to continue with his love for baseball has been the will to move onto the next level. Whether it was the jump from middle school to Valencia High School and from there to UCI, Hiura has always made it a habit to improve his craft.
“I just want to be one of those who actually say they made it,” said Hiura. “Wanting to do what other people struggled trying to do.”
Keston had a standout high school career and was prepared by coaches to continue to play well at the next level. While in high school, Hiura received nods for player of the year in his league, collected all-state first team honors, and more impressive achievements.
“I was fortunate enough to be prepared for collegiate baseball,” said Hiura. “My high school coach was pretty strict and prepared us for what we were doing in the future.”
Coming out of high school, Hiura was offered the opportunity to play baseball for UC Irvine. For most student athletes, UCI seems to be the right destination due to its great academics and its distinct location next to Newport Beach. But for Keston, it was the opportunity to be coached by a Hall of Famer that opened his eyes to becoming an Anteater.
“You can’t really pass up that opportunity,” said Hiura. “Playing under a hall of famer legend like [Head Coach Mike Gillespie].”
Coach Gillespie is known for his preaching of the fundamentals and basics of baseball to get wins against the toughest of opponents. Under Gillespie the team last season had a deep playoff run into the College World Series.
“There’s a method to it and if we execute and do what we’re supposed to do, we should win every single game,” said Hiura on Gillespie’s coaching.
Now heading into the postseason, Hiura’s goals with the team have not changed. Battling for the top spot of the Big West conference draws bigger goals into trying to repeat last season’s feat.
“The main goal is to get back to the College World Series,” said Hiura.
As for his own personal aspirations, Keston dreams of what all kids dream of when playing a sport: becoming a pro.
“ [I] Definitely aspire to become a professional baseball player,” said Hiura about his future. “That’s always been the main goal since I was younger.”
Succeeding in every level of athletics so far in his life, the motivation remains the same.
“Baseball has pretty much been my life since I was born,” said Hiura.