Baseball was in Donald Kimura’s blood.
The longtime Radford coach taught and coached at Radford for 32 years. Later, he helped with the intermediate program at Punahou while Eric Kadooka guided the varsity during a seven-year reign of state championships in the 2000s.
Kimura died on Wednesday morning.
Forty seasons ago, in 1979, Radford went unbeaten through the regular season and state tournament, only the second program to do so in state history. The Rams defeated ‘Iolani 7-4 in the final. Radford Athletic Director Kelly Sur was a JV assistant coach to Kimura for three years, then a varsity assistant for seven seasons.
“He was even-keeled, never too high or too low,” said Sur, who replaced Kimura as Radford baseball coach in 1993. “His philosophy was to teach, then ‘Let them play.’ Seems his teaching style was far ahead in terms of teaching mastery and letting kids learn when they failed through self-assessment. He will be missed by the Radford family.”
In addition to the Radford state-championship season, one of the most memorable moments came in 1976 when Radford and Pearl City engaged in a 19-inning, 5-hour, 19-minute battle at a new facility in Halawa. Radford won the game 1-0, and the photo above features Coach Kimura and catcher Chris Tatum, who had the game-winning hit.
Kadooka shared his memories of Coach Kimura.
“Coach Don started at Punahou with Coach Eric Kusunoki in 2001 as the intermediate pitching coach. Don was extremely knowledgeable and played a mentoring role, teaching us younger coaches how to coach and deal with situations. He provided instant credibility,” Kadooka said.
The Punahou baseball program’s Twitter account posted this:
” ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ Hawaii Baseball lost a legend today. Mahalo Coach Don Kimura for a life of service. Countless Radford and @sonsofoahu ballplayers owe you a huge debt of gratitude. #family.”
Former Radford wrestling standout Yoshi Honda shared the news on social media, and many alums commented about Kimura’s humility and impact on the field and in the classroom. Honda went on to become a state-championship coach himself in wrestling. He wrote this:
RIP mr kimura”
One former player, Jeff Obrero, added this: “I had the honor to be coached by this great man. RIP Mr. Kimura.”
Obrero posted a photo of the ’79 championship team and allowed HPW to post it with permission.