By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Kaeo Aliviado’s first at-bat in his awaited West Virginia Miners debut was one he might like to forget. The left-handed-hitting left fielder saw three pitches and struck out looking.
That was about the only time anything has gone wrong for him since he arrived last week.
Thousands of miles from his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Aliviado may be challenged by the culture shock, but he seems quite comfortable in the batter’s box. The 5-foot-6 sophomore at the University of Hawaii is hitting .500 in his first two games with the Miners, who have won four of their last five games and sit in a logjam at second place in the Prospect League’s East Division standings.
Aliviado has hits in four of his last six at-bats and is 4-for-8 overall. His first hit came in his third at-bat — a two-run single that broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning of West Virginia’s 3-0 win over Butler last Saturday.
He went 3-for-4 and walked once in West Virginia’s 7-2 win Sunday.
Contributing significantly on the field is a good way to get acclimated to his new and very unfamiliar surroundings.
“Just coming over here, a small-town kid from the islands, coming to West Virginia, it’s a culture shock for me,” Aliviado said. “I’m just having fun, taking one step at a time. And taking it one at-bat at a time, day by day.”
Nothing Aliviado has done in two days surprises West Virginia manager Tim Epling, who talked extensively to Hawaii’s coaches about the Ewa Beach native.
“I didn’t expect anything less,” Epling said. “I talked to their coach and told him I really wanted a guy who competed really good at the plate. I said I don’t care about size, I just want a guy who will compete.
“He’s a little guy, but he’s a fire plug. He has a great attitude, he understands how to play and he’s excited about being a part of West Virginia. We’re excited about him being part of the team.”
Aliviado arrived in Beckley last Wednesday after a 12-hour flight. A long, long nap was definitely required.
“When I got in, I just slept the whole next day,” said Aliviado, who was a player for the West Oahu team that won the 2005 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. “I got rejuvenated and came back and waited for the team (which returned early Saturday from a four-game road trip). I’m happy to be here.”
It already seems like a lifetime ago since that three-pitch strikeout.
“It was a little bit nerves, but I told myself to just relax,” Aliviado said with his ever-present smile. “It’s summer ball, you know? It’s something to just have fun, and just play hard.”
“He’s got nerves just like anybody, but he takes it well,” Epling said. “And he understands. He really does. He’s got a smile on his face. He’s relaxed and I think he’s having a good time.”
There’s still that bout with culture shock to contend with.
Aliviado lists his favorite dinner as Kalua pig and lau lau and white rice with Aloha Shoyu. Kalua is a Hawaiian cooking method using an underground oven, called an imu. Lau lau is a traditional Hawaiian dish made of steamed taro leaves, fish and either beef, pork or chicken. Aloha Shoyu is a brand of soy sauce.
Rice, of course, is a staple of many dishes of Far Eastern descent, but Aliviado has found its absence to be common in his early days as a West Virginian.
“No rice. All potatoes,” he said, still smiling.
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The Miners (6-6) are in a four-way tie for second in the East. Butler, Lorain County, Richmond and West Virginia all trail Chillicothe by one game.
Slippery Rock, West Virginia’s opponent the next two nights, is 5-7.
Kevin Johnstone (1-1) will start tonight for the Miners. Johnstone was the winning pitcher in the Miners’ 8-1 season-opening victory over the Sliders on May 28. The right-hander struck out four and walked one, gave up four hits and one earned run in the victory.
Daniel Garza (0-0) will pitch for Slippery Rock. Primarily an outfielder, Garza has made three appearances, including one start for the Sliders.
It will be Little League Night at Linda K. Epling Stadium. All Little Leaguers wearing their jerseys will be admitted free. Also, baseball bingo will be played for $1 a card.
In other promotions this week, Thursday will be Miners Appreciation and Friends of Coal Night when West Virginia hosts Chillicothe. All miners who present their certification will be admitted free.
Friday will be Faith and Family Night. Admission will be free for anyone presenting a church bulletin.
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San Diego State shortstop Evan Potter arrived in Beckley Monday night. His playing status for tonight is uncertain.
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For the second year in a row, a former West Virginia Miner will be playing in the College World Series.
Mississippi State eliminated Virginia from the super regionals on Monday and will be one of eight teams to play in Omaha, Neb. One of the Bulldogs’ players is infielder Sam Frost, who played for the Miners in 2011.
Frost has played in 47 games, starting 23 of them, and is batting .295.
Last year, Joe Koch was an outfielder for Kent State as the Mid-American Conference champion made an improbable run to the CWS. Koch was Frost’s teammate in West Virginia in 2011 and also was a second-team all-league selection in the Miners’ inaugural season of 2010.
— E-mail: gfauber@