Another month and another pitcher from the islands has committed to Loyola Marymount.
‘Iolani pitcher Aisea Ahokovi is the second pitcher in as many months say yes to the Lions. On Aug. 1, it was Kamehameha hurler Casey Kitagawa who did the same.
“I feel amazing, like all the hard work is paying off,” said Ahokovi, who has a 3.2 grade-point average.
The right-hander works out regularly with Kitagawa under the watchful eyes of coach Ashkon Kuhaulua.
“He’s really helped me out throughout the process, getting me better. He’s my guy. He’s a great guy. I love that guy,” Ahokovi said.
Hawaii and and a number of junior colleges were interested in the 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior. His arsenal: fastball, slider, change-up.
“My slider breaks super late. I love throwing it to lefties at the knees. Fastball, I actually hit 88 (mph) today on Rapsodo (portable pitching monitor), so I’m pumped. Consistently, I can hit 84-87,” he said.
The opportunity is welcome for baseball players after the high school season was cancelled in early spring due to COVID-19. Ahokovi did not pitch in ‘Iolani’s two games, then saw his summer travel plans dashed by the pandemic.
“Once the season got cancelled, a lot of people were upset, but I thought it was a blessing in disguise. I worked out really hard and met with Coach Ashkon in the middle of quarantine and I made some big jumps,” Ahokovi said. “We met in the beginning of June. He gets down and dirty for us when we shoot video, catching for us. He’ll take shots. Codie Paiva throws with us, Dylan Spain.”
With on-campus classes back in gear this week, getting workouts in requires more planning.
“It varies from day to day. Long toss. Working on pitches, moving them a lot. We have command days and days we just go after it on the mound,” Ahokovi said. “The academy of missing barrels. (Between lockdowns), they were doing live ABs (at-bats) until we started having real scrimmages. So hopefully, we’ll have live ABs again next week.”
After months without official competition, he’s looking forward to next week.
“I go play next Friday in the Fall Classic in Arizona with Team Hawaii. The coaches are Duane Eldredge and Coach Bu (Brandon Toro). It’s three or four days, and my little brother (Isaac) will be playing the Freshman Fall Classic,” Ahokovi said. “I’m going to try and stay there until the 15th. They’re saying you might be able to take the test (on the mainland) and wouldn’t have to quarantine (in Hawaii) when you come home.”
The Raiders are optimistic. Hungry.
“It’s really great to see everyone succeeding on our team,” he said. “No one gets to see what happens behind the scenes, but I’m really proud of them for all their accomplishments and thank them for supporting me. Kody Watanabe, Jaden Arakaki, Colby Ching, Brayden Hiraki. All the seniors.”
As for on-campus attendance, it was quite a change from the first month and online learning. Classes are outside with all protocols, and more.
“We can start practicing on campus as soon as our baseball program has a plan and submits it to the school. Groups of less than five. We went back to campus this week. We actually don’t have a pitching mound. They sawed it off. They have a bunch of circus tents all over baseball field,” Ahokovi said. “It’s one-way pedestrian traffic, no crossing at all. Six feet apart, sanitize everything. I think they’re doing a great job. Each grade has its own area. They can track everyone. Every single seat, you have to have scan your a code from your phone, that informs the school. We have to wear face shields and masks.”
When there’s no class, no homework and no workout with his coach, Ahokovi spends some time with his parents. Sort of.
“I run every chance I get at home. I run around Kailua, down the side roads. I usually go while my parents walk in the morning. I run a couple of miles, some days it’s one mile. I have it (tracked) on my phone,” he said.
Weight training is key for Ahokovi.
“I lift at Sports Medicine Hawaii. Those guys are amazing. Justin Ariki and Jason Ito. Three times a week. They do different things for different sports and positions,” he said. “For me, a lot of lower body, single leg RDLs (Roman Deadlift), hip thrusters, hip mobility. Stretching with bands. I do squats and deadlifts and power cleans.”
His max on the squat rack is 365 pounds. His max dead lift is 400.
“The power clean we do in kilograms,” he added. “We had to shut down for awhile, so at home I would make do with what I have. I filled up coolers with water and I did dumbbell rolls with it. And squats. It was kind of unconventional, but it worked.”
Ahokovi is enthusiastic about younger brother Isaac, a freshman catcher.
“My brother does everything with me. I’m really excited for him. He’s an absolute stud, but don’t tell him that. During quarantine, we would put up a net and I’d throw to him. I got at him. He’s a freshman, so he can handle,” he said. “That’s his goal, to catch for me this year. I think he can do it.”
Tools of the trade
Glove: Mizuno. “I wanted a Mizuno glove for my birthday and we couldn’t go to Japan. My auntie (mom’s friend Lynn Hirano) went there on a vacation and surprised me with it at home.”
Cleats: New Balance.
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “That ‘70s Show.” “That’s my all-time favorite show. There are eight seasons and I’ve watched the whole thing. I rewatched it during the lockdown.”
2. “The Office.” “My favorite character is Michael. No, scratch that. It’s Dwight.”
3. “Rick and Morty.” “My favorite episode is ‘Pickle Rick.’ ”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. My mom (Chanda)’s spaghetti. “She adds a bunch of different spices in it. Seasoning. I definitely cannot make it. She adds hamburger and Portuguese sausage.”
2. Cow tongue at Yakiniku Seoul. “I tell my friends it’s my favorite thing on the menu.”
3. Rai Rai Ramen, Kailua. “I’m actually eating the spicy beef ramen right now. It’s so good.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Post Malone. “No Option.”
2. Juice WRLD. “Righteous.”
3. Jason Mraz. “I’m Yours.”
New life skill
“My grandpa (Aisea)’s car broke down. My dad (Hessy) used to be a mechanic so I’m learning to fix cars with him. That’s super cool.”
“To my parents, Hawaii Elite 2G, Coach Ash and Sports Medicine Hawaii. And Coach Jay (Arakaki) of Hawaii Hardball.”
Extra innings: Paiva, 23, was drafted by the Miami Marlins out of LMU in the 2019 MLB draft. He was 1-1 with a 2.21 ERA, and had 19 strikeouts and six walks in 20.1 innings. At LMU, he was West Coast Conference pitcher of the year with a 1.91 ERA in ’19.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Kamehameha graduate was released by the Marlins on June 20 as minor-league play was cancelled for the season due to the pandemic. Miami released 30 minor leaguers.
Spain, a 6-6, 205-pound senior at UH-Hilo, was a third-team All-PacWest selection last year. The Saint Louis graduate was 5-1 with a 3.80 ERA in ’19.