Q&A: Punahou’s slugging shortstop, D’Asha Saiki

Punahou's D'Asha Saiki is nearly impossible to get out at the plate. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

This is the season of D’Asha Saiki, doing Babe Ruth kind of things.

The Punahou senior picked up a new bat, courtesy of Mom and Dad, after breaking her old one. Great hitters simply wear out the old and bring in the new. She has not missed a beat. She batted .760 in preseason with 26 RBIs. In ILH play, after five games, she is batting .917 with an OPS of 2.584, 10 RBIs and eight runs scored. She has reached base in 19 of 20 plate appearances.

Punahou is 3-2 in ILH play after a 9-3 win over ‘Iolani last Thursday.

With a scholarship from Cal in hand, all those reps in the batting cages, all the hours on the diamond, Saiki could take a breather at some point.

Instead, she keeps pushing. In the offseason, she waits on standby at the airport terminal, flying on weekends to play with the Batbusters in California. The constant competition against the West Coast’s best players and teams is invaluable. Saiki intends on playing more tournament ball on the continent within a week after graduation day (June 1).  

One thing Saiki wasn’t familiar with before this season was the title of captain.  

“I have more of a responsibility to my team to always think of them first and to be a good example at all times. It makes me work even harder so I can be a good support system for my team, be someone they can trust and look to when we’re in tight situations,” she said.  

Punahou coach Dave Eldredge has seen a natural evolution in his standout player.  

“Because of her standard of excellence, she’s a natural leader. She didn’t want to be that person, but all the girls look to her, and now that she’s really taking to it, she’s leading in her own way — by example,” Eldredge said.  

Miranda Eddins, a teammate and close friend, has known Saiki since they had French language class together in seventh grade.

“D’Asha’s best quality is her desire to be the best. She strives for greatness. This causes her to push all of us to be our best as well, and her leadership motivates us to be better as a collective team,” Eddins said. “As her friend she’s actually a really funny person and has this sarcastic, witty sense of humor that can always make someone laugh. Her friendliness makes her really approachable and a fun person to be around. It’s cool to see how she’s so serious and focused on the field, but off the field, she’s completely different.”

Saiki chatted with Hawaii Prep World last Thursday. She was featured in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here.

D’Asha Saiki
Punahou softball

Q & A / Favorites

What’s in a name?
My mom (Nadine) had a friend whose daughter was named D’Alissa, and my mom thought it was pretty. D’Asha means hope in Indian. I’m not Indian, but to her it sounds pretty. I was supposed to be named Chantel. That would’ve been too girlie for me.

Athlete: Derek Jeter.
I think his persona on the field and him as a person makes him a great player. He’s definitely someone I liked watching. He knows how the game works, how to talk to people.

Food (at home): Mom’s pork and squash.
My mom always cooks. I’d say pork and squash. Or stew is really good. I like to bake more than cook. I can follow recipes. I like to bake chocolate chip cookies. All cookies are good. Or jello cheesecake.

Food (eating out): Chicken katsu curry (mild).
I like Zippy’s, but I love Curry House. Oh, I love their chicken katsu curry. They specialize in curry and other things like squid or pork katsu. All kinds of foods with curry and it’s pretty decent prices. The one we went to when I was growing up across Pearlridge.

Hobby: Music.
Me and my friends definitely like listening to music. I was in band from sixth grade until the end of my sophomore year. I played clarinet. I was mediocre, but I kind of miss playing.

Movie: Fast and the Furious.
I like the series. I like the later ones because they have The Rock and people who are famous now. I watched it with my dad (Wayne) a lot.

TV show: Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Blacklist.
My favorite is Blacklist.

Music artist: Bruno Mars, Russ.
Russ is my favorite. He plays kind of explicit songs, but I like his slower, mellow songs. I like September 16.

Teacher: Mrs. (Susie) Field.
She’s the sweetest lady ever. She was my math teacher last year. She’s just like a grandma. I didn’t pay attention a lot, but I did try hard. She did my rec letters for college. I did well in her class, but math at 2:30 (p.m.)…

GPA: 3.8.
I feel like it would be a little higher if I wasn’t an athlete. I get my homework in on time, but I’d be able to use my time more efficiently and turn in more quality work. I turn in pretty good quality work. I do all right. It’s fine. I try to use all my breaks as best I can, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

Class: AP Psychology.
You learn so much about people. One thing we learned is confirmation bias. You only hear the information that already confirms what you thought. It drew a lot of connections for me. You also learn about sleep cycles and REMs and dreams.

Place to relax: Lulumahu Falls in Nuuanu.

Motto: Our team motto is ‘Play like a Champion,’ and ‘Championship Mindset’.

What mom says that I can’t forget?
She really instills being nice to everyone, treat them with respect.

What dad says that I can’t forget?
‘Game on the line!’ Whenever I’d do drills and throw the ball on the run, that’s what he’d always say. He used to tell me to make my own luck. He said that to my brother, who wrestled, and me. Don’t let anything fall into the hands of other people.

What my coaches say:
Coach Boy talks about playing every game like it’s a championship. Play with intensity.

How does softball affect your life?
Time-wise, it takes up a lot of time. There’s school work, friends, social life. Fall, first semester is when I try to really get my grades up. Fall is off-season with weights and running, and I fly up to play with my Batbusters team. My dad works for the airlines, so we fly on stand-by. I’d leave on a Friday night, stay there and leave (back to Honolulu) on Saturday or Sunday. Then there’s winter league for school.

Youth sports
I started playing baseball when I was 5 in Mililani. I think I was more outfield when I was little. Then I started playing softball when I was 10. I played when I was 7, then I stopped when I was 8 and went back when I was 10 to play for Coach Benny (Agbayani) for Crush (club). I tried volleyball and tennis. A lot of my teammates at Crush, six I want to say, went to ‘Iolani. Six or seven. A lot. I tried Muy Thai (kick boxing) when I was younger. I wish I stuck with it.

Kindergarten through sixth grade, Wheeler Elementary, then Punahou to now.

The future: University of California.
I leave on June 7 for (tournament play). The two final options were Cal and UCLA. There was other interest. Oregon. Degree-wise, I don’t know what I want to major in yet. I really like the atmosphere there (at Cal), the coaches and the girls were so friendly. I enjoyed my visit and it’s a really nice place to be. I like the location, close to San Fran, a lot of places to eat and things to do. Going to Cal with Aleia (Agbayani) is a big plus, too. There were times when we played (for Batbusters in California), the coaches got us mixed up.

Sports travel
I really liked this tournament we had in Kansas. It’s humid and hot, more humid than here, and raining and thunderstorms, but I really like the tournament. They make it really fun, a lot of TV games and the stadium’s really nice. I’ve played mostly in California.

Hidden talent: I have no hidden talent. But we have team bonding for karaoke soon.

Ultimate dream/bucket list
Definitely France, Japan. There’s so many to choose from. I’ll say Italy.

Time machine
I feel like I want to go backward because there are so many memories. We used to always go Christmas time to Kauai because my aunts and uncles and cousins lived there, but now they’re in Washington and other places. My mom and dad are from Kauai. My grandma on my mom’s side lives in Kalaheo. My mom’s side lives in Waimea side. My grandma lives right on the beach, old plantation house. That’s was really fun and we’d all open presents together. I’d go back as an observer.

Weapons of choice
Louisville Slugger LXT2019. 34 inches, 24 ounces. I just got this two weeks ago. I had the old LXT. My old one broke. I got a lot of swings out of that, definitely more than 500. This new one, the first hit was really good. A lot of pop on it. It’s really pretty. The old one, whether I’d shake it, there’d be a big noise, rattling in there. I love my DeMarini bats, but it actually shattered after I just bought it. This one (Louisville Slugger) cost $370, I want to say. My glove is Wilson A2000. I got it from my Batbusters team. This one was hard to break in originally. My (previous) Mizuno was soft. Now (the Wilson) is broken in. My dad likes the open web. I think it looks nicer, too. Wilsons are nice.

How tough is the ILH schedule for Punahou and every team — and why?
The ILH competition is really strong this year and everyone has a fair shot at going to states. No one has an outstanding pitcher who’ll blow it by you, so the key to our success as a team will be our defense. All the ILH teams can hit, so our pitchers just need to work to pitch strikes and our defense has to make plays. We just need to go into every game ready to play and be prepared for anything. We can’t take any team lightly.

How does this season feel any differently for you from past seasons? 
I think the main difference between this year and past years is my role on the team. This year, as a captain, I have more of a responsibility to my team to always think of them first and to be a good example at all times. This leadership position makes me want to work even harder so I can be a good support system for my team; be someone they can trust and look to when we’re in tight situations. 

If this year’s team was an animal, what would it be?
I think this year we would be cheetahs because we have a lot of speed on our team. Compared to last year, we don’t have as many power hitters. Cheetahs are a perfect representation of this because what they lack in strength, they make up for with their speed. By losing a lot of starters and having a lot of new people on the team this year, we’ve had to adjust and figure out a new game plan. We had to learn how to utilize the new talent on our team to still come out and win. 

Does talking about goals like ILH and state titles help as a team? Or is it more day to day, focusing on basics? 
Definitely a little of both. Talking about our team goals ensures that we are all on the same page and that we can hold each other accountability in order to accomplish it. But at the same time, we’re working hard day in and day out, getting in the reps we need to prepare us for games. Repetition and focusing on the little things is what ultimately wins games, so that is definitely important as well.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?
I would say if anything it is Asia Lee. Some people may overlook her because she’s only a freshman, but she’s stepped up for us big time. She’s young, but she can swing it at the plate and she makes plays for us on defense. She’s definitely someone who’s going to be a key player this season and will be essential for the future of Punahou’s softball program.

Shout outs
My friend Miranda wants to be shouted out. I don’t know why but she’s one of my good friends. And my friend Kenzie, too. All my friends and parents.

Bonus memory
Miranda Eddins: We were playing mini-golf with a few friends once, and there was this mini-river going through the course. There was a rock in the middle of the river so instead of going across the bridge like the rest of us, she decided to hop across the river on a rock. The rock was actually fake and loose, so she completely ate it and fell into the river and got all wet. It was super hilarious. She wasn’t hurt or anything. It’s funny ’cause we all are used to seeing her as super athletic and coordinated, but she was so clumsy in that moment.


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