Three University of Hawaii at Hilo athletes join the Outlaws for a summer in Joplin

Kea, DeJesus, Faria acclimate to new culture, experience in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin Outlaws have attracted talent from all over the country to join their roster for a summer of baseball in Joplin. Lawson Faria, Christian DeJesus and John Kea come all the way from Hawaii, where they play for the University of Hawaii at Hilo. To them, a summer in Joplin, Missouri meant entering a big unknown.

“My first question to [my coach] was, ‘Where’s the Mink League? What is the Mink League?'” pitcher John Kea says.

Missouri is the farthest east in the United States they’ve ever traveled.

“At first I thought it was Kansas, so I looked into Kansas,” pitcher Christian DeJesus says.

“I had no clue about anything in Missouri or anything close to it. I actually went to Oklahoma one time, but I didn’t know it was close,” infielder Lawson Faria adds.

Upon arrival, some specific differences stood out to the teammates.

“On our island, every house and everything is bunched together as close as possible,” DeJesus says. “Over here everything is more spaced out and relaxed, so I kind of like that.”

“In Hawaii we eat a lot of rice,” Kea says. “Here you’ve got rice pilaf and potatoes. We’re really used to eating a lot of white rice. I think it’s called sticky rice up here.”

The community and fan support has impressed the trio.

“I love being in this atmosphere,” DeJesus says. “Everyone that comes out to Joe Becker Stadium is a life long fan, probably. They love us out here. They love to see us play every night. I got into one game and it was crazy to pitch in front out of everybody on Opening Day.”

The competition in the Mink League is strong and each of them is looking to return home with improvements to their game.

“Out here, getting in these innings, I hope that I will be able to dial in more on new things and work on my craft and go back into Hawaii next year a better pitcher,” DeJesus says.

Despite the many differences, their experience has been a positive one.

“I just had an open mind as to what the area was,” Faria says. “I was just excited to play baseball. I think it’s exceeded my expectations as far as the environment, the fans, the team we got going.”