Aloha Means Goodbye

By Jesse Durin, Daily Cal Contributing Writer

This story was originally published in the Daily Californian on Monday, April 22, 2008.
Click here for original version.

Reprinted by permission.

From day one, Sanoe Kekahuna of the No. 23 Cal softball team has relied on her family to help point her in the right direction.

Kekahuna first started playing baseball in Maui, Hawaii, when she was four years old, but when her father sat her down six years later, he told her it was time to make a change.

'I didn't want to play with the girls,' says Kekahuna. 'I wanted to play hardball.'

But her father explained that there were no girls on the high school baseball team and that if she wanted to compete, she had to start playing softball.

'After my first day of softball practice I thought it was too girly for me,' says Kekahuna. 'Some of the girls would say their hands would hurt when receiving a ball from me or they would be too scared to field a ball when I was up to bat.'

Kekahuna stuck it out and, after her first game, she realized she had found her niche. Now playing Division I softball, she still strikes fear in her opponents.

As a freshman, Kekahuna leads the Bears in most offensive categories including batting average (.340), home runs (7) and RBI (43). She did most of her damage at the beginning of the season, when she was on pace to break multiple school records.

'I didn't know I would do this good,' says Kekahuna. 'I just came out playing hard like I try to do every game.'

The blistering start didn't come out of the blue, however. Kekahuna demonstrated her potential in high school with a batting average above .600 and first-team all-state honors in both her junior and senior seasons.

But those expectations are tough to maintain and Kekahuna has struggled to keep up her numbers, especially in Pac-10 play where she has batted just .156.

'It's been a rough first season for me, at times,' says Kekahuna. 'I tried not to let my expectations get mixed up with going up there to have fun.'

Kekahuna says that her teammates have helped her get through tough times and pick her up when she isn't playing her best.

'Giving me the strength to move on after a bad game ... making me feel like I am wanted here on the team, are all the ways my teammates have been supportive towards me,' says Kekahuna.

One person in particular who has helped her get through an up-and-down first season has been her cousin, Kaleo Eldredge. Eldredge played for Cal from 2002-2005, paving the way for Kekahuna to take the family torch.

'My cousin Kaleo and I are like sisters,' says Kekahuna. 'I talk to her, mostly, after every game to tell her how we did and what went on. She's the type of person I look up to everyday.'

Kekahuna looks to her family for a sense of comfort and says she misses spending time with them in Hawaii. Back home, she would go camping with her family for days at a time and engage in what she calls 'talking story.'

'Talking story' was a time when her family shared stories about the 'good ol' days' or elderly family members would give advice about school or life to a younger member. It was a way for the extended 'Ohana' family to stay connected and share experiences.

'Sometimes it would involve someone bringing an instrument of any kind-preferably a ukulele or guitar-and making music until the sun came up,' says Kekahuna. 'We would laugh like no other, smile so hard that our cheeks would hurt, sometimes cry our hearts out, and other times sing as if we will have no voice tomorrow.'

Even on family camping trips and gatherings, softball has played an integral role in Kekahuna's life. On one trip, her entire high school softball team and their families joined Kekahuna's family and shared stories together.

Kekahuna honors her Hawaiian roots and although she enjoys time in California, she doesn't put it in the same category as her native homeland. When she graduates from Cal, she plans to return to Hawaii and start her own fastpitch softball team.

But while Kekahuna may appear laid back, she takes on a whole different persona on the softball field. Among her coaches and teammates, she is known for her discipline and her focus, even when she is struggling.

'She's a real hard worker and she's got a routine,' says coach Diane Ninemire. 'She's a team player and she's focused. I know she wants to do her best for the team so she fits in really well.'

While geographically she may not be close to her immediate family, her teammates have provided a family for her at Cal. The Bears struggled last season with team chemistry, but there appears to be no such problems so far this year.

'My teammates here at Cal have been like sisters to me, lending a shoulder to lean on at times I would miss my family,' says Kekahuna. 'I feel like I'm here to help out my team and my teammates to reach our final goal, which is to make it to the world series, then bring home the 'big one,'' says Kekahuna.

If Cal is going to make a run at the title, it will certainly need Kekahuna to get back to the pace she was on earlier in the season. The freshman may still be young, but she has shown time and time again that she has talent well beyond her age.

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