Makai DeSoto recently signed a scholarship to play baseball at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. Makai is the son of Steve DeSoto, who is originally from Yigo and represents the golden age of Guam baseball in the late 1990s.
The senior DeSoto was a member of the 1999 Guam National Team that won the gold at the South Pacific Games on Guam and also traveled to South Africa for a shot at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia.
The Cochise College Apaches play in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, which competes nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“Ever since I was little, it was my dream to play baseball,” Makai DeSoto, a senior at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, told The Guam Daily Post.
While he has never been to Guam, he said he has heard the stories of Paseo Stadium and stays connected with family who come to visit.
Makai’s grandfather, Roy DeSoto, was a fixture in Guam baseball running the Yigo Typhoons in the Amateur League in the 1990s. The DeSoto family also comes from a rich bloodline of Guam athletes off the diamond, including his cousins, track and field icons Derek and Desmond Mandell.
The younger DeSoto understands the struggle of prep players on island trying to make their mark. Another cousin from Yigo, Tre Concepcion moved to San Diego several years ago so he could get more exposure playing high school baseball.
“Exposure is the biggest thing. If you can get out and play in the summer, I would do it,” DeSoto said, offering his advice to the island’s high school players.
Makai, a catcher and infielder, plays on his high school team in the spring and a scout team during the summer. In total, he will play close to 60 games, many against top-level competition and in front of scouts or college coaches.
Even with that level of exposure, there is stiff competition for scholarships from Division I to junior college, points out Steve DeSoto, who coaches Makai’s summer team.
Many other prep athletes, especially in the blue collar world of baseball, are turning to smaller universities and community colleges for a jump to a D1 program or even the pro ranks. It offers a cheaper option, more flexibility and a place where players can develop.
For example, the Cochise College baseball program, over the last seven years, has produced 75 players who moved on to four-year colleges, half going to NCAA Division I programs. In addition, the junior college program has produced 13 MLB draft picks/free agent signees, according to their website.
“Even in the mainland, it takes commitment. Just getting exposure is the biggest thing,” Steve DeSoto said.
Steve DeSoto recommends Guam baseball players start contacting colleges before their senior year and take advantage of summer opportunities to attend showcase tournaments.
Put the effort in, he said, adding that today’s technology makes it so no one has any excuse.
“Through social media, that has helped a lot to contact coaches and reach out,” Steve DeSoto said.
No matter where you want to go to college, playing at the next level comes down to one thing, he stressed: work ethic.
“There are a lot of talented kids that don’t want to go the extra mile to succeed,” he acknowledged. “Everybody is good in college ... everyone is a stud and you have to put in that extra work to stand out. In college, it’s on you, ultimately.”