If you don’t know Les Murakami, the legendary retired University of Hawaii baseball coach, he could seem stand-offish or even gruff at times; at the very least intimidating. But nothing is farther from the truth. The man’s heart is as impressive as his body of work as a coach, and that’s saying a lot. Alex Santiago was prompted by today’s column about good deeds to share this story about Coach Les.
I read your article in today’s paper and just had to tell you a story about Coach Les Murakami.
Over twenty years ago I was a social worker at Kahuku hospital. I worked with the long-term care patients. One of our residents was a very frail elderly man who had no family, and was at times so depressed he would not eat, not speak, not respond to the staff, and his physical condition would deteriorate rapidly.
As the social worker there it was sometimes very difficult to find things for some of our residents like Mr. I. that would be of interest to them. Our staff would go to great lengths to try to provide the very best care and quality of life for the fragile patients.
For Mr. I. it was even more challenging as he had no visitors, no family, and showed little interest in other things. However, during the rainbow baseball season he watched every game. Mr I. was a fan, of only the UH baseball team. One year, during the off season, Mr. I. took a turn for the worse. His condition deteriorated and the physicians feared he was nearing his end. I wracked my brain on how to make his final days as comfortable as possible for him, and on a whim I picked up the phone and called Coach Les. Now it wasn’t like I knew Coach Les or anything like that. I just thought I would let him know of this fan, and ask him if he could send out something, like an autographed baseball card or something to help cheer up Mr. I.
Within a day, Coach Les called me and asked if he could come out an meet this fan. He not only came all the way out to Kahuku, but he brought with him one of his star players, autographed baseball cards, a hat, posters, and other stuff that Mr. I. cherished for the rest of his life. It was quite a day.
Needless to say Mr. I’s. conditioned improved. He hung up the posters in his room, wore the hat, began eating again, and even talked to the staff about his meeting with Coach Les. Understand, during the meeting, Mr. I. said not a word. Coach Les, was incredible, as well as his player. They came out in full baseball gear, no cameras, no publicity, not wanting anything but to cheer up someone. He didn’t have to do this, he could have just sent us something like I asked.
I became a bigger fan of Coach Les as did all of the staff at the hospital. I know much has been written about Coach Les and how much he did for the baseball program and the school etc. But for me, no matter how much is said, I will remember a man, who just took it upon himself to take time off from his busy schedule, a whole day now, to do something good for another person, with no expectation or desire for recognition. I remember thanking him as he left, and he just waved and shook my hand and said, “it was my pleasure”. I am not sure if he knew just how much his visit meant to Mr. I that day, but I am sure this is not the only act of random kindness he did. He seemed to me to just be that kind of person.
I just needed to share this story with you as you recognized the actions of those sports figures in your article today who did something for others. Random acts of kindness, wouldn’t it be great if we all practiced them.