Staples’ Yokoi headed to San Jacinto to chase dream
While teammates Ben Casparius and Nathan Panzer are locked into Division I commitments, Staples senior Noah Yokoi — ever as talented and the backbone of a Wreckers program since starting as a freshman — will take a different route with the same end goal in mind.
The journey will begin at San Jacinto Community College for Yokoi, who has developed into one of the top players in the state during his time in Westport. San Jacinto is one of the most successful junior college programs in the country, and has produced several Major League Baseball players including former stars Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Had it not been for a shoulder injury suffered after lighting the FCIAC on fire with a .326 batting average and stellar defense as a freshman, Yokoi might be headed to an elite program already. Unable to show his full potential to top suitors during the club season, San Jacinto offered him an opportunity to prove himself and prepare him for what may lies ahead.
“I think it’s a good place for Noah,” said Wreckers coach Jack McFarland. “There’s a lot of big time Division I kids on the roster there; they play some real high level baseball. Once his shoulder gets healthy, the sky is the limit on what he can do as far as baseball goes.”
Yokoi was forced into a designated hitter role as a sophomore and junior, which didn’t affect his performance at the plate. He batted .431 in 2014 and .305 in 2015 as rehab efforts were in place. He hopes to return behind the plate this spring to lead a potentially dangerous Wreckers unit.
“It was pretty frustrating because I like catching so much,” Yokoi said. “There was nothing I could do about it except work on my hitting. I’ve enjoyed playing for (Staples) a lot.”
While being recruited, Yokoi was looking to join Vanderbilt but didn’t receive an offer. A hot start at San Jacinto - a pipeline to many Division I schools - might earn him a spot at a prestigious program.
“He had some lofty goals for where he wanted to go and the injury was obviously a factor,” McFarland said. “He’s a catcher who can’t really throw the ball. It kind of cut down his choices but he’s working real hard. He’s excited about this year.”
Yokoi has enjoyed a remarkable career that has included playing in the biggest stages at every level. Among them include the FCIAC and Class LL title games, and as part of a memorable Cal Ripken club that reached the World Series in 2010.
“I’ve been lucky to be on a lot of great teams,” said Yokoi, who recalled taking batting practice from Cal Ripken during the World Series trip. “Playing in those types of games has been a great experience.”
He’ll bring a winning mentality to a place that’s already used to success. Last year San Jacinto went 41-22 and reached the Junior College World Series.
“I’m going there looking to play my best and hopefully helping them as much as I can,” Yokoi said. “The competition is very high there; there are kids that de-committed from big schools to go there.”
And after that? A possible NCAA career and a spot in the Major League Baseball draft down the road.
“That would be the dream,” Yokoi said.