It was January 2, 2012 – game day. The Rose Bowl attracted about 65,000 attendees at a stadium in Pasadena, Calif., while millions more watched from home. Watching from a booth high above the field, with a strategic vantage point was Craig Heyamoto and his team. Heyamoto, 59, is a lawyer, football fan, native of Seattle, and a major numbers cruncher.
Heyamoto, along with his team, served as the official statisticians for the 2012 Rose Bowl — his fourth to date. For nearly 35 years, Heyamoto has led the University of Washington Huskies football statistics team during home games, earning himself a reputation for accuracy. That credibility has stretched far – he also leads the crews that keep stats for UW men’s basketball, Seahawks football, the Seattle Storm, and Seattle Sounders FC soccer. Yep, Heyamoto is your man.
His legal background – and daytime job — as a senior counsel for Boeing’s commercial airplane division is indispensable for his statistics work as he’s often called upon to interpret NCAA guidelines.
Heyamoto said his side gig keeping stats is “like being a reporter,” where his main goal is to observe what is happening on the field and to be accurate, out of respect for his job and the fans who depend on the figures.
He has a long history with the University of Washington. Heyamoto earned both his undergraduate degree in Math and law degree from the public university. The Heyamotos also share a passion for athletics — his father, Hiromu Heyamoto, lettered in UW baseball while Craig’s brothers, Gary and Brian, played basketball, track and baseball in high school. Today, Gary works with Craig as part of both the Seahawks and Huskies statistics crew, while Brian works on the Seahawks crew.
Heyamoto said his father, Hiromu, grew up in Portland and Gresham, Ore. Following President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 to round up Japanese Americans after the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the elder Heyamoto was sent to an internment camp in Idaho, where he met his future wife, Masue.
“It always amazed me how they persevered after what happened at Pearl Harbor,” said Heyamoto.
Hiromu later signed up to fight in the 442nd regiment, the all-Japanese American battalion, where he fought in Italy with distinction, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Following the war, he was recruited by the University of Washington when he was observed playing baseball at the camps.
Craig Heyamoto began his role working in statistics in junior high school. He kept tabs on the Little League games his father coached and continued keeping statistics throughout high school and beyond. His consistent and accurate work didn’t go unnoticed. He eventually earned an esteemed position at one of the West Coast’s biggest sporting events – the Rose Bowl.
“I don’t seek to be a role model,” he said, sharing that his parents raised him in an Asian way that emphasized humility and service towards the community.
And he takes his service seriously. After 35 years in the field, this writer couldn’t get Heyamoto to divulge who he thinks would win the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. (We had to ask.) Heyamoto only replied he’d record it accurately. His system to ensure accuracy is simple.
According to a UW News and Information newsletter, on game days, Heyamoto would show up at Husky Stadium about four hours ahead of kickoff. “With a backpack that includes a row of 16 pens – among them a different color for each quarter of the game – he hikes briskly to a booth at the west end of the press box that has just enough room for 10 chairs, two narrow work tables and a red phone to Jeff Bechthold, UW director of athletic communications,” reads the newsletter.
Heyamoto is described as a conductor, ensuring each of his crew members are supplied with information in the correct order. But his priority is to remember and apply NCAA guidelines. This knowledge could mean a win or loss for the team. And sometimes, it can fall on Heyamoto’s shoulders and quick figuring to determine that.
Heyamoto keeps his calm through it all, not allowing emotions to interfere with crucial information. It’s all about accuracy, and he needs to perform his job free from bias or emotion.
So what happens when their home team scores a major goal? Nothing. Cheering or rooting isn’t allowed in the statistics booth. Heyamoto keeps focused.
“The biggest game I’m going to be working is the game I’m going to be doing next.”