There will always be an ocean near Cody Kashimoto.
When the Punahou shortstop committed to UC Santa Barbara in the summer of 2019, he had just completed freshman year. The campus, the coaches, the splendor of a pristine college environment was a magnificent lure. But the ocean sealed the deal.
Kashimoto and his family are avid spear fishers. Now a junior, he relishes down time so he can take his board to a favorite surf spot. In 2019, he had just returned from a baseball trip to California with his club squad, HBG (Hawaii Baseball Group).
“Coach Donegal Fergus was an assistant at UCSB,” he recalled. “He was watching us in the Phil Singer (Summer Series). I think it’s called the Elite Talent Summer Series now. We played all over at many different colleges, many different fields. He got in contact with my coaches and I called him.”
At the time, a number of colleges were interested in Kashimoto. Pepperdine. San Jose State. USF, coached by ‘Iolani graduate Troy Nakamura. Hawaii.
“He was the first to offer. The scholarship came after I came home in late July (of 2019). There was a lot of (family) discussion,” he said.
Older brother Cole, an outfielder at Saint Louis, was already heading to HPU.
“It was that kind of thing, where does it fit for me. We visited the campus before and checked out the facilities. The campus is absolutely beautiful, right on the coastline. The water’s right there,” Kashimoto noted. “They have surf wave (waves), longboard.”
Roughly two weeks after Coach Fergus’ offer, Kashimoto accepted.
“It’s a great school, great team and I love the coaches. The field is great up there,” he said. “I wanted something on the West Coast and Santa Barbara gave me a reminder of home while I’m stuck up there at college.”
Fergus, who was also an associate head coach, left the Gauchos just before Christmas last year to become to become a minor league hitting instructor in the Minnesota Twins organization.
“Coach Fergus was a great guy, very clear, very intelligent when it comes to the game of baseball,” Kashimoto said.
Punahou’s season last spring was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kashimoto’s sophomore campaign ended with one hit in two at-bats. The defending state champions, reloaded with talent, never got a chance to repeat in 2020. Coach Keenan Sue considers many of his players, including Kashimoto, among the best in the islands.
“Cody is a special talent and diligent in his preparation. I prefer to let someone else hit him fungos so I can just watch. Amazing feet, hands and judgment,” Sue said. “He is a nightmare for opposing teams on the bases. You’ll seldom see a player run the bases as aggressively and instinctually as Cody.”
Is he the best shortstop in the coming season? How does he stack up against shortstops in Punahou’s illustrious history?
“The shortstop debate is highly contested in our ranks, so I’ll stay away from rating him against past players,” Sue said. “To be fair, he hasn’t actually played shortstop for us yet as we’ve had Jake Tsukada (Portland) and Kalae Harrison (Texas A&M) during his tenure on the varsity. I will say if he wins the spot, there is nothing left to be desire from a defensive standpoint. Cody is as smooth and consistent as they come. He does bat from both sides, which those guys did not. We love to watch him play.”
The gift of Windward Oahu for many is the bounty of Kaneohe Bay. In the offseason, every free morning has possibilities.
“We look at the weather, the swells and the winds. If it’s a good day, we’re out there,” Kashimoto said.
When Kashimoto, his dad (Colby) and brothers get in the water, it’s all about menu.
“We like to eat fish. I like spear fishing because it’s sustainable. You can pick what you want to take to eat,” he said. “I have a wet suit. It helps a lot, protects you in the corals. We take our masks and snorkels. I can stay under for a few minutes. I like to shoot a bunch of different fish. Uhu. I like to target papa and ulua. We go deeper for ulua. Sometimes, we stay closer to get pan-fry fish, manini and kole.”
The times of nom are few now for Kashimoto.
“During quarantine, we were able to get out once or twice a week. Now that baseball has started up again, I’ve started prepping for this trip to Arizona and California. We had to shut that down and focus on baseball,” Kashimoto said by phone from Arizona.
The Fall Classic began on Thursday, and he has a doubleheader with his TB SoCal team on Friday.
“My dad is with me. It was good. The weather out here is scorching,” he said of the 105-110 degree temperatures.
The cuts and camaraderie in the family batting cage are better than Disneyland for baseball lifers. Colby Kashimoto, a former Hawaii player, installed a pitching machine with the cage. That’s a big reason why Cody delved into switch-hitting.
“I’m a natural right-hander. In seventh-grade, I started taking switch-hitting seriously. It started with a shoulder injury. My dad said, ‘You might as well swing from the left side.’ It’s so great having (the batting cage and pitching machine). When there’s free time, we’re in there.”
Sometimes, teammates join in.
“It keeps us hitting and gives us hitting partners, and they can get hacks in. Quarantine has been pretty good, actually. Some people say it’s boring, but for us it’s a time to work out and hit every day,” Kashimoto said.
Sue and other Punahou alumni were stoked to see one of the Kashimotos suit up for the Buffanblu.
“As a former player for UH, Cody’s dad knows what it takes and has helped prepare him well. His big brother, Cole, was also an electric player to watch and compete against. Both boys are total class acts thanks to mom and dad,” Sue said. “Cody is a tremendous leader and a great example for all the players in our program to follow.”
Punahou is in online mode, and classes are college style with two or three per day rather than six or seven crammed into one full day. That leaves time management and responsibility heavily on students.
“We will have the option to be on campus or online. We’re supposed to return (to campus) Oct. 5, but it got pushed back. I’m staying online,” said Kashimoto, who has a 3.7 grade-point average. “I think some kids are just tired of being at home.”
He gets his schoolwork done first, and then has time for fun. The ocean was fully accessible for surfers during both Oahu lockdowns.
“I love to surf. I usually don’t like to surf someplace if it’s really crowded,” he said.
The natural ambiance of the ocean, riding waves and the sounds of water are the perfect complement to the daily grind. Not that he would have it any other way. In addition to the cage and pitching machine, Kashimoto has a vast array of weapons, so to speak.
There are more than 100 bats in his collection. Most of them are in “on-call” status. At the moment, his wood bats are in use in Arizona. At home, he has the BBCore bats.
“I would use one of my old bats if I had to. I would say most of them are still good. It takes a lot for bats to go dead and be unusable,” Kashimoto said.
If he seems sentimental about his bats, even his glove, that’s because loyalty means a lot.
“This is a baseball family. My mom (Carrie) is very supportive. My parent and grandparents (Jan and Kalvin Kashimoto, Iris Hayata) are at all my games,” he said. “They love baseball and love to support me and my team. My family serves as motivation for me, knowing they’re my supporters,” he said. “They’re my why.”
1. Concessions (Ala Moana). “It’s a nice wave. It gets pretty crowded, but the good thing is the buildings nearby block the wind.”
2. Kewalos. “My friends and I, it’s a pretty good spot to go. Not too crowded. It’s a good learning wave for my friends.”
3. Diamond Head. “The wave forms a nice line. You can see it. But it can get pretty choppy and windy.”
1. 5-foot-7 Tokoro. “It was given to me by my uncle (dad’s friend, Reid Tokujo). He’s always been helping me with surfing since I got into it. He has a bunch of boards. I think I could go a little bit smaller, less wide and a little thicker, but it’s my favorite board so far.”
2. 5-9 Tokoro. “It’s a little bit older. This was also given to me by the same uncle. This was my first short board.”
3. Custom 5-6 Tokoro. “I did get the chance to custom my own board. It’s a little, my weight pushes it down. So we’re keeping it for my (younger) brother.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Rib eye steak. “My dad makes it great. On the grill. I like it medium rare. Just by itself (no condiments). Steak and rice.”
2. Haribo Gold-bears Gummy Candy. “I like the sour one. One bag lasts me a week. I try to limit the junks.”
3. Slurpee, Coca-Cola flavor, 7-Eleven.
Top music artists
1. Luke Combs.
2. Josh Tatofi.
Wood bat: Victus. “It’s black and brown, -3 (33/30). This bat is new. I like my handles skinny so I can grip the whole bat. I like this bat because it feels nice and you can hear the crack. It’s balanced. My other (wood) bat is a Marucci. It feels pretty similar. The Victus has a little more pop. I don’t keep (multiple copies) of the same bats because I don’t like one specific bat to just get one.”
Non-wood bat (BBCOR): Louisville Slugger Meta Prime, 33/30. “This one is pretty old. It still has a lot of life in it. I’d say it has well over 1,000 (more hits). It’s awesome. When I was 12, I had an Easton XL1. It had so much pop. It’s in a closet now with all my old bats.”
Glove: SSK 11.5” (tan, navy blue, silver, black). “I used to use a black 2G. Now I use my custom one since it’s broken in. I just constantly pounded it with my hand and threw a baseball into it over and over again, and played a lot of catch with it. My glove is special to me.”
Cleats: Adidas (white).
Kashimoto: “My parents and grandparents. And shout out to HBG and the coaches — Daryl Kitagawa, Chad Konishi, Keith Komeiji, Garret Yukumoto.”