By Billy Hull, Star Advertiser, March 27th, 2013
Zac Fujimoto has started 104 games in three years at Loyola Marymount. Not once has he ever taken one of those games for granted.
"A day doesn't go by where I don't think how blessed I am to have the opportunity I have," said Fujimoto, who has started 19 of LMU's 23 games in center field. "I do look back on things and think it's crazy, but I would not change anything I've done. I don't have any regrets."
In 2008, Fujimoto graduated from Maryknoll and drew no interest from any Division I schools to play baseball.
His father, Gregg, wanted his son to attend a four-year university, but Fujimoto wasn't ready to give up his baseball dreams. So the two came to a compromise.
"We agreed that I had two years to try and get a scholarship to a D-I school," Fujimoto said. "After that I'd attend a four-year university."
He enrolled at Central Arizona Junior College out of high school as a freshman and was immediately struck at the difference in skill level.
He decided to redshirt that season, leaving him only one year to play baseball before moving on in order to keep his word with his father. As his second year in Arizona got under way, it became clear he wasn't going to get much playing time, but he still wasn't going to give up on his dream.
"It was a big gamble, but I figured I had a better chance playing at Hartnell than where I was," Fujimoto said. "I transferred just for the spring and spent that one semester at Hartnell."
The coach at Hartnell didn't guarantee Fujimoto playing time either, so he earned it the hard way.
When the season was over, Fujimoto was named the team's offensive player of the year and made second-team all-conference after leading the team with a .346 average. Yet it still wasn't enough to garner any serious consideration from D-I schools.
"I could have played another year, but I wanted to honor my dad and the deal we made, so I decided to walk on at LMU and try out for the team," Fujimoto said. "I figured I'd roll the dice one more time and if they liked me, they'd keep me and if not, I would hang up my cleats."
The LMU coaching staff didn't just like Fujimoto; they were enamored with him enough to start him in 50 of the team's 51 games in 2011. Fujimoto hit .262 with five doubles and 26 runs scored that year and has gone from attending a junior college that wouldn't play him to a Division I school that has started him in more than 100 games in three years. Fujimoto is three hits away from 100 as the Lions continue West Coast Conference play hosting a three-game set against Gonzaga starting Thursday.
LMU finished 30-25 overall and 11-10 in conference play two years ago and was 14-10 in the WCC last season, but didn't qualify for the NCAA tournament either year.
For the first time, the conference will host a four-team tournament at the end of this season with the winner receiving an automatic berth in an NCAA regional.
"We kind of like that because both years I've been here, we finished in the top four and this year we have a chance to make (a regional) if we get hot at the right time," Fujimoto said. "We've been walked-off on in four games this year and played a lot of games close, so with this format this year, we know we still have our chances ahead of us to move on and play in the postseason, which is really exciting."
LMU has played 18 of its 23 games (the Lions are 10-13) this year away from home, including four at the UNLV Rebel Classic in the third week of the season. The Lions played UH twice and Fujimoto came up big in a 9-0 win over the Rainbows in the tournament opener, going 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs.
"It was definitely a little special," Fujimoto said. "Being from Hawaii, you always want to beat the home team."