Kala'i Rosario represents Hawaiian heritage through stellar Fall League campaign

October 29th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- grew up in Hawaii hoping to one day represent his native state in the MLB.

After the Twins selected him in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft, that dream was one step closer to reality. And with what he is accomplishing in the Arizona Fall League, Rosario is on pace to be one of the few players to hail from the Aloha State.

"[Representing Hawaii] means everything," Rosario said. "I grew up watching Kolten Wong, Shane Victorino and all those big names. It's kind of a reality now that I'm following in their footsteps and stuff. It's pretty exciting. I got a lot of people back home watching me. All the love and support I get from them is unreal."

Rosario slugged his sixth home run of the season in the Desert Dogs' 5-4 seven-inning loss to the Rafters on Saturday night at Hohokam Stadium. After three weeks of AFL play, Minnesota's fifth-ranked prospect sits as the home run king.

"I came here to get more at-bats against higher competition," Rosario said. "This is the best place to be. I came in excited to be here and compete against everybody. It feels good to find success."

Holding a three-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, Rosario stepped up against Rafters righty Dylan Smith (DET No. 24). After flying out in his first at-bat, Rosario was waiting for a breaking pitch to come his way.

In the second pitch of the at-bat, Rosario got what he wanted. He smashed the ball 413 feet into the deepest part of the ballpark. Rosario threw up the "shaka sign," a popular hand gesture in Hawaii, as he trotted around the bases.

Twins prospect Kala'i Rosario throws a "shaka sign" while rounding the bases after homering for Glendale on Saturday.Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images

"It feels good to have the most [home runs]," Rosario said. "I wouldn't say I just focus on that. I'm really just out here to get at-bats and compete. The main thing is having fun out here and meeting a lot of new teammates."

Rosario has increased his home run count each year in the Minor Leagues. In 2022, he finished with 21 home runs and 94 RBIs for High-A Cedar Rapids.

But his plate discipline continues to be an area of improvement. Rosario combined for 293 strikeouts in back-to-back seasons. He has struck out 25 times in the AFL and has only walked eight times.

"It's kind of going into every at-bat," Rosario said. "Making sure I have a plan and trusting the process. If I have a bad at-bat, I kind of just don't take that into the next one. This is probably the best place for that. I'm facing the best pitching.

"If something goes wrong in one at-bat, just use that to work on something and get better after every at-bat."

Tyler Tolve went 2-for-3 and ignited a four-run come-from-behind rally for the Rafters in the sixth inning. Glendale's Nathan Hickey (BOS No. 15) recorded two hits, and Zach Penrod tossed three scoreless innings in his fourth start of the season. The game was part of a doubleheader played a Hohokam Stadium, the AFL's second Jewel Event of the season.