2020 was nearly as minimal as it got for a team and a pitcher when the high school baseball season got cancelled.
Shaydan Lovediro made the most of it as junior-varsity hurler. Kamehameha played three JV baseball games and was on track to join the varsity, eventually. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures across the country, the 6-foot, 220-pound senior didn’t get to pitch for the Warriors’ varsity squad, but he remained busy.
One year later — 11 months, to be precise — Lovediro signed a letter of intent to play for Bushnell University in Eugene, Ore. He has yet to throw a pitch for the Kamehameha varsity squad. The pandemic has thrown high school sports for a loop, an eephus pitch of enormous consequences. Lovediro managed to thread the needle, as did the three underclassmen at Punahou who have not or have barely played varsity baseball, to connect with college programs.
In a way, his progress is a testament to the tremendous depth of pitching talent on the hill.
“We were going to bring him up from the JV after or during their season. When he was a freshman, I wasn’t the coach yet, and from what I understand he was cut (during JV tryouts),” Warriors Coach Daryl Kitagawa said. “We want to create an environment where they do want to come back and try again. He bided his time the following year as a sophomore, and look at what happened. Our pitching coach, Ashkon Kuhaulua, has changed a lot of pitchers. They’re with him six days a week working. They’re bound to get better.”
Kitagawa calls Lovediro the classic “crafty lefty.”
“He has faced many obstacles in our program, has been driven and has persevered through it all,” Kitagawa said. “I admire him for that.”
The key for Lovediro is travel ball and year-round training.
“I’ve been working out with my pitching coach, Ashkhon Kuhaulua. He’s been a big part of my success and helping me improve. He’s a good guy, always supportive,” Lovediro said.
One of the offseason adventures was the Perfect Game South 18U tournament in Texas as a pitcher for Hawaii Elite.
“It was 28 degrees at night. While we were playing, the coldest it got was in the 40s and it was windy,” Lovediro recalled. “It was kind of hard to throw the ball.”
He is meticulous. Studious. Not prone to exaggeration. His fastball tops out at 80 mph. His grade-point average is 4.1. By his own account, Lovediro’s best pitch is his change-up.
Lovediro is a craftsman.
“This past quarter, I actually had a 4.3. The crazy thing is at my school is a 4.1 is nowhere close to being a valedictorian,” he said. “I usually get a, ‘Good job.’ And dinner wherever I want to go.”
The mechanics of throwing a baseball, accumulating outs and winning games is not overly technical. It can be about choices. Logic. He is logical.
“I’m passionate about math. I’m going to major in Computer Science,” said Lovediro, whose favorite math classes are Algebra, Trigonometry and AP Pre-Calculus.
The school is named after James A. Bushnell, the first chairman of the board of trustees. Bushnell is playing baseball in 2022 for the first time in five decades and is a member of the Cascade Collegiate Conference of the NAIA. One year ago, the school was still known as Northwest Christian. In fact, it began as Eugene Divinity School in 1895 and merged with Spokane University in 1934. The campus is literally next to the University of Oregon.
Lovediro’s connection to Bushnell baseball actually started with Hesston College (Kan.), a program that has searched the islands for talent in recent years.
“Before the (Hawaii) Sandlot Classic, I was only talking to one JUCO, Hesston. After the Classic, I had another JUCO offer from Wenatchee Valley (Wash.). I committed to Hesston. The coach I connected with there, Jamie Womack, we have a really good relationship,” Lovediro said. “After winter break, I talked to the head coach and he said that coach (Womack) went to become an assistant coach at Bushnell.”
Lovediro is putting a lot of trust and faith in this new chapter.
“It’s like having a brand new team. We’re the underdogs and we have nothing to lose, basically,” he said.
Lovediro began attending Kamehameha in middle school. Otherwise, he would have enrolled at Pearl City or, perhaps, Mililani.
“I probably would’ve never met Coach Ashkhon,” he surmised.
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu and HHSAA have baseball lined up to begin as part of the spring season on March 1. If the season gets cancelled, that would be two consecutive spring seasons ended by COVID-19. The future, however, remains bright for players who will compete at the next level.
Kitagawa is stoked for Lovediro.
“What a great opportunity. How fun is that for him? Even in the Sandlot, he threw in every game for them,” Kitagawa said. “I’m super happy for him and his family. What a perfect opportunity.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Cobra Kai” (Netflix)
2. “Friends” (HBO Max)
“Chandler. He’s the funniest person, to me.”
3. “Avenger, End Game”
“This is the one with Iron Man. It was cool.”
Bonus: “WandaVision” (Disney Plus)
“When the episodes started coming, then I was, woh, like I didn’t see that. As long as you watch past the first episode, you’ll be all right. I’m thinking it might be Wanda’s World, her alternate reality to keep Vision alive. If they use time travel to bring him back, it could mess up the timeline.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Fried rice by mom (Shawn Lovediro)
“I’ve been eating it almost every day since little kid time. There’s rice, Portuguese sausage, fishcake (the pink one), bacon, scramble eggs. No green onion. We’re not really fans of (green onion). I can’t make her fried rice.”
2. Chicken katsu, Zippy’s (Waipio)
“The breading makes it better. The sauce, too. I like the katsu better (than Korean fried chicken).”
3. Pancakes, Denny’s (Kunia)
“Just regular pancakes. I don’t know what they use in their batter, but it tastes different and better. I like it with regular syrup. My parents like the macadamia nut pancakes with the haupia sauce at Big City Diner (Waipio).”
Bonus: Food trucks at Waikele.
“I get shave ice or boba, or malasadas there.”
Top 3 music artists (favorite song)
1. Ka‘au Crater Boys – “Surf” and “Rhythm of the Rain”
2. Pop Smoke – “Welcome to the Party”
3. Kapena – “Reggae Train” and “Tropical Lady”
New life skill
“I started to learn how to surf. That’s fun. I just go to learn with my friends. They help me, teach me. I have a board. I bought it at Town & Country (T&C Surf).”
“Shout out to my mom and dad (Dan Lovediro). Academy of Missing Barrels (AMB). Hawaii Elite (baseball club).”