Les Murakami Receives Willard Wilson Award

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: May 25, 2001

Les Murakami, head coach of the UH Manoa Baseball Program, has been selected as the 2001 recipient of the Willard Wilson Award for distinguished service to the University of Hawai'i.

What initially was a one-year stint turned into a 31-year coaching career at the university for Murakami. Since1971, Murakami has nurtured a baseball program merely known as a club sport into a top-notch collegiate baseball program. 2001 marks Murakami's final season as head coach for the UH baseball team as he retires.

During his tenure, Murakami led UHM to six Western Athletic Conference (WAC) titles ('80, '82, '84, '87, '91 and '92), 11 regional appearances and a second-place finish at the 1980 College World Series.

Murakami's years of success prompted the building of Rainbow Stadium in 1984, and it is considered among the finest baseball facilities in the nation. Since 1984, UH averages 134,808 fans a season, including 223 sellouts.

"It was all made possible through Les's vision, his love for the university, his commitment to the sons of Hawai'i and his dedication to the baseball program," says one nominee.

His creation of a nationally prominent program provided an opportunity for student athletes to realize their dreams. He has mentored 16 all-American baseball players; 74 of his players have gone to play professionally and 10 have made it to the Major Leagues. Others who have gone through Murakami's program have gained invaluable life lessons of being a part of the team and working and training toward personal and team goals.

"Les has molded so many young individuals into becoming proud members of the University of Hawai'i's society and community. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the award," writes Charles Serikawa on the nomination papers.

Murakami has received numerous awards and accolades. He has been named the Hawai'i Sportsman of the Year in both 1977 and 1980. In 1981, he was selected as the recipient of the Lefty Gomez Award for his contributions to amateur baseball. Murakami was named NCAA District Coach of the Year in 1986 and twice chosen as WAC Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1991. In 2000, Murakami was inducted the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame with five others; Bill Alhouse (Stanford University), Jack Allen (Tarleton State University), Jim Bowen (California State University-Stanislaus), John Fontana (Southington High School) and Richard Rockwell (Le Moyne College).

The Willard Wilson Award was established in 1969 to honor the longtime Board of Regents Secretary as he retired. The recipient receives a Regents' medal, a $1,000 award and recognition at an awards ceremony.