Ka’ai Tom came a long way to play baseball in Akron. Seriously! The 23-year-old center fielder grew up in Honolulu on the island of O’ahu. That’s almost 5,000 miles from here! Coming from a tropical paradise in the western Pacific to a temperate rust belt city in the Midwest on a quest to make it to the big show must be quite the story. One that is ever evolving. I had to know more.
However, I didn’t want to opt for the standard Q&A in the locker room where interviews tend to revolve around play on the field and the four or five standard answers you here from athletes during post game interviews. In an effort to break from the monotony and have a, dare I say it, fun interview, I met Mr. Tom at Diamond Deli for a chat over some lunch. I figured if my questions didn’t open Tom’s mouth, a sandwich surely would!
Baseball Now: Thanks for doing this. Now to perhaps the most important question I have: What kind of sandwich did you order?
Ka’ai Tom: No problem. I ordered the “Where’s Jason” on Sourdough.
BN: Good choice. Anything avocado touches turns to gold and sourdough is always amazing. Growing up in Honolulu, did you ever envision playing baseball would take you as far from home as you are now?
KT: Playing as a kid, I never really thought about where I’d play, just that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Towards the end of high school I hadn’t been recruited for college ball and wasn’t sure where I was going. Luckily, a summer league coach hooked me up with Fort Scott Community College in Kansas and I gladly accepted the chance to play there. After spending some time in Kansas and Kentucky, I was drafted by Cleveland in 2015 and spent the last few years in their farm system, moving between NE Ohio and Lynchburg, VA where we won the Carolina League championship last year.
BN: Awesome! How was life in Lynchburg?
KT: Lynchburg is a small town, but very nice. Everything seemed to close early. The weather was great though!
BN: Sounds like Akron is a mighty metropolis in comparison. I don’t even want to talk about weather. Do you think growing up in Honolulu has influenced how you interact in the world of baseball?
KT: Honolulu is an incredibly diverse city. People and cultures from all around the world end up in Hawaii. Growing up in that environment has made it easy for me to interact and play with teammates that speak different languages and come from countries far and wide. Much of our communication becomes non-verbal and the game allows for a deeper connection.
BN: When and if the opportunity presents itself, do you have any off-field hobbies and interests?
KT: Baseball consumes a lot of my time, but when I can I love to play Ping-Pong. I’m the best Ping-Pong player in the clubhouse, perhaps the minor league. I also enjoy reading and taking trips to the bookstore. I’m really into self-reflection and use time off the field to increase my focus and drive.
BN: I imagine reflection can help with the stress of trying to make it all the way to the top.
KT: Absolutely. It also helps that the Cleveland baseball system has a great structure and inviting environment.
BN: I heard you were into Sci-fi movies. Is this true and what’s your favorite?
KT: Yes! Very much so. Star Wars is my favorite for sure.
BN: Nice. Dare I ask did you like The Last Jedi?!
KT: Yeah it was ok. It didn’t leave me with that awesome feeling I get from watching other Star Wars films, but I enjoyed it overall.
BN: Well it was a true pleasure speaking with you and I look forward to seeing you down at Canal Park! Maybe we can get Ping-Pong table setup at Lock 4 this summer for a little competition.
KT: We’ll see about that.
After talking with Ka’ai over delicious grub all I can say is that Mr. Tom is truly a gentleman and a baseball player. Anyone that loves Star Wars and America’s past time is incredible in my book. The season’s on so get your tail feathers down to Canal Park and watch Ka’ai and the rest of the boys of summer play ball!
Yours in Baseball,
Akron Rubber Ducks Next Homestands at Canal Park:
Thursday, May 10 through Sunday, May 13 & Tuesday, May 22 through Monday, May 28
300 S. Main Street, Akron, OH 44308
For more information on dates, times and tickets visit akronrubberducks.com