Q&A: Roosevelt pitcher/slugger Jaeda Cabunoc

Roosevelt's Jaeda Cabunoc started the year 3-1 with a 0.91 ERA in the regular season and has the Rough Riders ranked No. 9 in the state this week. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

The numbers say a lot about Roosevelt’s ace pitcher.

Jaeda Cabunoc is 3-1 with an 0.91 ERA (as of Saturday) as the Rough Riders make their mark in the OIA East. This spring, the junior is stronger on the mound and at the plate, where she is hitting .412. All her statistics are up from last year’s solid sophomore season. That’s a big reason why coach Kris Fujii-Dias is optimistic about Roosevelt’s season. Coming into this week, the Rough Riders are 5-1, trailing powerful Kaiser in the standings.

Fujii-Dias isn’t predicting instant titles, but when she compares this year’s Rough Riders to the 2009 OIA championship team, it’s an intriguing thing.

“Honestly, this team is more well-rounded from one through nine. We’re a lot stronger. Defensively, we’re about the same. This year, with Jaeda, we have two other pitchers, so we’re actually better,” Fujii-Dias said. “I know when Jaeda sets her mind to it, she can achieve a lot. When I pitched, I was the only pitcher, so I had to take that challenge. So I’m starting to see that in her. High school pitching is everything. If you have a strong pitcher, you have a strong team.”

Cabunoc can be stoic, but the fire is real. Last year, the Rough Riders reached state tourney, losing to ILH powerhouse Kamehameha 2-1 in the opening round. 

“We can go far. If we could go as far as we did last year, I have no doubt we can go farther, especially with the team we have,” she said. “We all work hard and we work together, so we can go far.”
Cabunoc chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Sunday, discussing her favorite player, mom’s cooking and the story behind her middle names.

She was featured in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here.

Jaeda Cabunoc
Roosevelt Softball

Q&A • Favorites

Athlete: Derek Jeter
> Growing up, I’ve just been around baseball. I have an older brother, and I always looked up to him.

How old were you when you stopped playing baseball?
> Maybe around nine. Not organized baseball, but hanging around with him at his practices.

Team: I don‘t necessarily have a favorite, but I like Los Angeles Angels. That was the first MLB game I went to. I even got to meet Jerome Williams because he went to Waipahu High School with my dad. That was in 2010.

Food (at home): Cream of mushroom pork chops.
Who makes the pork chops?
> My mom. I’ll pop in the kitchen. I’ll request it and she’ll make it for me.

Could you make this?
> No. Maybe with the help of my mom, but not by myself.

Food (eating out): Outback Steakhouse, prime rib.
> Any Outback. I get the creamy horseradish, and the au jus.

Hobby outside of sports: Driving around the island with my family visiting the beaches, graves, and eating Kahuku shrimp.
> We visit my nana and my grandpa’s gravesites in Kaneohe. Then we stop by the shrimp truck (in Kahaluu).

Did they used to come to your games?
> They passed away before I was born.

Movie: Madea movies
> The comedy, the drama. I love the drama.

TV show: One Tree Hill and Criminal Minds
Which one is better?
> That’s hard. One Tree Hill, I like watching how the characters grow up. High school, then getting older and having their own kids.

Criminal Minds is personal for you, isn’t it?
> I don’t know if it’s personal. It’s something that I want to be when I grow up (an criminal investigator).

So the question is, would you rather be a private investigator or climb up the ranks in the police department?
> Probably private. Chaminade is a college I’ve been looking at because of the forensic science.

Video game: Not a video game person.

Music artist: I have many, but I really like 70s, 80s and 90s music.

Teacher (elementary through high school): I have two, Ms. (Justine) Nakagawa and Ms. (Maila) Aguilar (of Ewa Makai Middle School).
> Those are my two middle school homeroom teachers. When I had my tough moments at school, I always went to them and they were always there for me.

GPA: 3.0.
Does sports help you become a better student, or does it make it tougher?
> Personally, it helps me because during softball season it pushes me to do better in school, keep my grades up. It motivates me to keep working harder in school.

Class: Chemistry
> The best thing is mixing chemicals in the lab.

Place to relax: Home

Motto/scripture: “There is no success without preparation.”

What your mom (Katherine Kumaewa) says that you can’t forget: “Know your role” and “Do your job.” Whether in sports, school, or life in general, she reminds me to make sure I always know where I am, who I am, and what I need to do.

What your dad (Jason Cabunoc) says that you can’t forget: “Each game will be harder than the last game. You just have to believe in yourself and do your best.”

What your coaches say that you can’t forget: “Don‘t be afraid to be good.”
> Coach Kris (Fujii-Dias) just recently said that to me and every day it sticks to me. It always stay in my mind because I doubt myself sometimes.

How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
> While playing softball, it takes up most of my free time. I am so used to having no free time because I have been playing since I was 6 years old. At times it feels weird to not have softball because I don‘t know what to do. I would catch myself sleeping most of the day.

What middle and elementary schools did you attend?
> Ewa Elementary School and Ewa Makai Middle School

What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?
> Youth: AYSO Soccer, Kolohe Softball, Kūlia Softball, Hawaii Gold, Kaikamahine, RR Gold.
> Club: Easton Preps.
> For youth, after school I would have practice at 3 p.m. We would practice 5 days a week, for three hours. It was all about having fun and getting us ready for high school. After high school season, I would go back to club and practice five days a week again for three to four hours. During the summer, we would travel to play in different tournaments to get exposure to college scouts.

When did you know you loved the sport so much that you would work this hard?
> From the start when I was 6.

Where have you traveled for softball?
> San Diego, Reno, Oregon, Nevada, Irvine and Kaua‘i.

What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
> I like to watch crime shows and I want to major in Forensic Science. When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, they don’t expect me to say a criminal investigator.

What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? Where would you like to travel, what life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports?
1. Travel the world: Japan, Thailand, Tahiti, New Zealand, Bora Bora.
2. Go skydiving.
Is this safe?
> Yes.
3. Swim with dolphins.
Can this happen here?
> I think so. I’m not sure.

What is the history and background of your name?
> My name is Jaeda Ka‘ualanihau‘oli Makakoa Cabunoc. My two middle names are family names: Ka‘ualanihau‘oli means “The Happy Heavenly Rain” and this is my Aunty‘s name. Makakoa
means “Fearless Eyes” or “Brave Beloved Child” after my great-great-grandmother.

Watching your team play recently was memorable. Very solid defense, smart hitting and your pitching was on point.
> That’s what a pitcher needs. This year, I have no doubt that my team behind me will always have my back.

What was it like coming back from the wrist injury in the middle of last season?
> When I first came back, I did lose some confidence in myself, a little scared to go at bat. Coach Clay (Okamura) was there and he made my wrist brace. “He was in the shed and he put two things together from scratch.

She pitched for Roosevelt (1996-99) and was an assistant coach on the ’09 team that won the OIA. Does she still bring it on the mound at practice?
> We’ll play toss, sometimes she’ll pitch. She still has some heat on her. Some of her curve balls or whatever, because she’s a lefty, I don’t know what she throws.

Coach says you can be playful, but also very introspective.
> I’m very serious and I rarely smile. If I get a good pitch, I might smile. I pretty much have a straight face. When I’m in the dugout I might smile.

What’s your full package of pitches now?
> Fastball, curve, change, screwball, riser, drop, off-speed (slower than drop).

A lot of growth has happened in the past three years.
> It’s different from freshman year. When things would get tough, I would give up easily. Looking at this season, I definitely feel stronger mentally. I can see that I did get tougher.

And now Roosevelt is a powerhouse again.
> We can go far. If last year, we could go as far as we did, I have no doubt we can go farther, especially with the team we have. We all work hard and we work together, so we can go far.

Any shout-outs?
> I would like to shoutout to Coach Clay. Without him, I would not be where I am right now in my high school career. Every game is dedicated to him.

We don’t get to see the other side of him as spectators.
> During games, he’s always yelling but at practice you see another side of him. He just wants his players to succeed in life, not just sports. People don’t really see that.

> To my team, thank you for always having my back on and off the field. For helping me get out of tough situations throughout the game. I believe in each and every one of you, the same way you guys believe in me.

> Coach Kris and Coach Tanya (Sing Chow), for always pushing me to get stronger every day at practice even when I complain 24/7. For always working with me whether I’m pitching or playing outfield. Thank you for always believing in me even through the times where I don’t believe in myself.

> Lastly, to all my family for always being there at every game to support me. Those before and after game talks never go unnoticed. I appreciate you all.


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