There is nearly no limit to the potential of Nolan Souza of Punahou, who committed to Arkansas over the weekend.
“I feel great about it,” the Punahou sophomore shortstop said on Monday. “My parents (Brian and Kellie) are excited, too.”
Souza has a 3.5 grade-point average. Punahou baseball coach Keenan Sue is supremely optimistic about his players, and that includes the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Souza.
“There aren’t a many 6-3, left-handed swinging middle infielders,” Sue said on Sunday. “We’re all very happy for Nolan and his family. He has earned every bit of his success through dedication and commitment to his craft.”
The Buffanblu coach is thinking ahead. Brian Souza, who pitched for Hawaii, is 6-3.
“Nolan was easily 6-1 (last spring) and he was still growing then. He’s going to be a monster. His dad was 6-3, 195 or so during his playing days,” Sue added.
Nolan Souza committed to Arkansas on Wednesday and announced it on Friday. He plays club ball with the Hawaii Tigers, who have former Punahou and Arkansas player Rick Nomura on their coaching staff.
“They put together a little recruiting video of me, my throwing, fielding and hitting. They put it on IG and 5Tool Baseball,” Souza said.
Soon, he was in touch with Razorbacks head coach Dave Van Horn and hitting coach Nate Thompson.
“I was a little bit surprised that such a big program would have an interest in me, but at the same time, I was definitely excited about it. We didn’t really know that much about Arkansas at first. Then we were all excited about having a big-time program have an interest in me,” Souza said.
Coach Nomura’s connection was invaluable.
“He let me know what it’s like up there. He explained to me how great a coaching staff they have. How great their fans are and how much they support their team. It’s a college town and everyone supports Arkansas and athletics,” Souza said.
Sophomore year has just begun, and Souza has also has offers from Arizona, Hawaii, HPU and San Diego.
“I did think about waiting longer at first, but Arkansas is the No. 1 name on my list,” he said.
Souza is not expecting any more offers, and he is not planning to change his mind.
“Baseball’s not really like football where other schools come in at the end. In baseball, other schools kind of lay off. Arkansas is one of the biggest programs in the nation. Even if I was fortunate enough to get drafted high, that might not do it. I think I can get developed at Arkansas and that would help,” he said.
Souza may be the first Punahou baseball player to receive a Division I college offer without playing varsity. The high school season was cut short by the pandemic, and Souza was on the Punahou JV as a freshman. Defending state champion Punahou had a stacked lineup.
Just one year ago, in the summer of 2019, Souza belted a home run in the Babe Ruth 13U State Championships. Sue isn’t surprised that an offer came Souza’s way this early.
“Colleges are offering players much earlier these days and Nolan has all the physical and mental tools that a college or professional scout would covet. He’s a hard worker, humble and hungry. He has been an infielder thus far, but he is capable of playing any position,” Sue said.
“He projects well and is likely to reach or exceed his ceiling as a player because he is incredibly committed to his daily process. If he continues to solidify these habits, I don’t think college will be the limit of his career.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the route to the next level different.
“I have a weight rack our garage. I’m not going max just because for baseball, that’s not the muscles you want to build. Just stay lean, gain some muscle mass,” Souza said. “If the parks are closed, it’s hard to get ground balls. I’ve been doing short-hop drills in the yard.”
There’s enough space, he added, for a batting cage. Brian Souza can still bring it some, and he throws when Nolan gets his reps.
“He’s not throwing that hard. The pitching isn’t from full distance, so it comes in faster,” he said.
Souza has been working on the right side of the plate lately.
“It’s a little bit difficult because I’m not used to moving that way,” said Souza, who is a right-hander off the field for everything else.
Imagine father in his prime against the young, promising 15-year-old son. One at-bat.
“Right now, I’d probably get a hit. In his prime, I think he threw about mid-90s. I haven’t faced that kind of pitching. If I saw it a couple of times, I think I’d have a chance,” Souza said.
Sue is enjoying the process as more and more Buffanblu reach the next level.
“It will be a lot of fun seeing how he progresses these next few years. He’s obviously a gifted player, but an even better young man,” Sue said. “Sky’s the limit for him.”
Favorite athletes: Mike Trout, Javier Baez, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Favorite class: Math. “I’ve only taken algebra and geometry so far.”
Hobby: Surfing. “I like to surf at Ala Moana. I don’t want it ginormous, but definitely some good-sized waves. I’m not a long boarder. I ride a short board. I have a six-foot Pyzel. It’s probably about a year old.”
Top 3 movies/shows
2. MLB highlights on YouTube.
3. John John Florence and Jamie O’Brien surfing videos.
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Arizona iced tea.
2. Li hing mui (dry).
3. Fried rice. “Both of my parents make it.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Bob Marley. “Three Little Birds.”
2. Travis Scott. “Goose Bumps.”
New life skill
Souza: “I learned how to cook a little bit. I like to make a grilled cheese. I put ham on it.”
Souza: “My mom and dad. My grandparents (Glenn and Claire Okasaki, Howell and Patricia Souza).”