There is no rush, but Kaikea Harrison is fine with being early.
In Harrison’s universe, timing is everything. The time was right for the Punahou junior to make a commitment to Texas A&M baseball. On Monday, the smooth-fielding shortstop gave the Aggies his word.
“I wanted to get it over with. It’s just been a long journey and especially how the times are now, it’s been harder for us as kids because of COVID,” Harrison said on Tuesday.
Harrison, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, turned down offers from USC, Oregon, Hawaii, Grand Canyon, Wichita State and UC Santa Barbara.
“I don’t think anything will change my mind. Texas A&M is in the best conference (SEC) in the country and I’ll be playing against the best players in the country,” he said, noting that older brother Kalae, a shortstop at Texas A&M, was an influential factor.
“They treated Kalae very well and they’re very special people. I think they could definitely develop me to become a better player,” Harrison said. “When Kalae came back (for Christmas break), he was so much bigger. The drills he taught me, it’s so crazy.”
Harrison built a bond with Aggie coaches, including head coach Rob Childress. The rest of his pursuers didn’t have much of a chance, apparently.
“My second choice? I don’t know. Probably Wichita State or Oregon,” he said.
Oregon was an official visit destination for Kalae Harrison in 2019.
“I got to see the facilities and campus,” Kaikea Harrison said. “Kalae played at Area Codes in Los Angeles, so we saw USC. I played in a tournament about a month ago in Texas, and Kalae visited me from his school. He picked me up, drove me around a little on campus. That was pretty cool.”
Their father, Kenny, was a first-team All-American at Hawaii as a first baseman, left fielder and designated hitter. He ranks ninth in best single-season batting average (.389) in 1993, and ninth in career BA (.342). He also has the seventh-best single-season slugging average (.625) in ’93.
Oldest brother KJ is a catcher and first baseman with the Washington Nationals. Second-oldest brother Kaleo is studying at Washington to become a nurse. Then there is Kalae.
“Physically, Kaikea is a hybrid of KJ and Kalae, which is a scary thought because both of his older brothers and, of course, dad, are formidable players,” Punahou Coach Keenan Sue said. “He’s got power and speed with major upside for both tools. Going to a top-tier program like Texas A&M that is hyper-competitive will require sustained discipline and will help him get closer to his ceiling as a player and a person. He’s hungry and we’re all very excited for him. They’re a close-knit family and the best of people. Texas A&M will be lucky to have him.”
It has gone relatively well considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season. Harrison made up ground with a busy offseason.
“Where I got all my looks and offers is through Trosky National. We played six tournaments in Arizona and Florida. This summer, there will be eight tournaments in Arizona, Georgia and Texas. We show up and we play,” Harrison said.
Harrison is part of a unique group of underclassmen who will provide quite the Punahou baseball trivia question some day. Two underclassmen with Division I commits have yet to play any varsity baseball, and a third Buffanblu with a D-I commit has played just two games. That’s what the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season created.
UC Santa Barbara commit Cody Kashimoto, a junior, played in two games last spring before the season was cut short. The shortstop committed in the summer of 2019. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Souza committed to Arkansas in September of 2020.
Harrison’s versatility in the infield could be utilized.
“He’s one of those rare birds who can probably play all nine positions with success,” Coach Sue said. “I’m sure they will deploy him as they see fit. His versatility will provide opportunities for both him and their program. It would be really special for their family if there was a Harrison/Harrison combination up the middle. I’m sure Kaikea will be gunning for his brother’s spot when he gets there.”
If there is a spring season, Sue has a throng of mindful leaders in his dugout.
“Kaikea sets a great example. He has had the fortune of seeing his dad and two older brothers achieve great success, all with slightly different approaches to the game,” Sue said. “As a result, he’s taken the best of all of them and has crafted his own unique brand. He is a clubhouse favorite. Gregarious, energetic, vocal and fiercely competitive. He is an inspiration for all the young people in our program. We look forward to seeing him thrive for years to come.”
The 2021 high school spring season is still on schedule, tentatively. Harrison has his fingers crossed.
“That would be super nice to have a season. What’s crazy is this past summer when the pandemic got big, they were getting 4,000 cases a day in Arizona while we played there and I still tested negative. Same with Texas and Florida. I’ve travelled across the country playing with this team, with different players from California, Texas, Florida,” he said. “As long as we’re wearing masks, we should be OK.”
Harrison noted that protocols away from dugouts and fields varied.
“The first trip, there were no spectators. This last one, everyone wore masks and there was social distance,” he said.
Through all of it, Harrison keeps getting his reps and cuts.
“I’m thankful my dad is hard on me, old school, and makes me and my brothers tougher. I wouldn’t say he’s getting softer with time, but he’s not as hard on us now because we’re maturing,” he said. “When we need it, he’ll put us in our place.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Money Heist”. “It’s Spanish.”
3. “Cobra Kai”. “It’s pretty good. It’s kind of cringe, but it’s good.”
4. “The Mandalorian”. “It’s good we had to wait every week. I watched the minute it would come out, maybe like 8 or 9 at night. Sometimes it was earlier. I think it dropped at 7 on the mainland.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. BBQ Pringles. “Now it’s $1.99. If it gets to $4, I’ll eat Jolly Ranchers candy.”
2. Jolly Ranchers (sour apple).
3. Spicy bomb, Genki Sushi (Kaneohe).
4. Crab sushi or chicken curry, homemade. “My mom (Kaleka) makes chicken curry maybe once a month or two months. The crab sushi, same thing. I can make the crab sushi, but not the curry. I like to help cook with my mom. Cooking is fun.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Juice WRLD – “Lucid Dreams”.
2. Rebel Souljahz – “Take a Look in My Eyes”.
3. Luke Combs – “Beautiful Crazy”.
New life skill
“I’ve learned how to surf. I taught myself. I go out with my brothers or my friends. First, I started at Kailua because I didn’t want to get hurt. I’m not that good at surfing. But I love to go.”
“I’d like to shout out my little brother, Kahaku Harrison. He is 12 years old. He’s an animal. My parents, they’ve done so much to help me get to where I am now. Especially my dad. I’m the most like him, so I can relate to him the most.”