Al Asuncion enjoyed working with youth teams in the past, so he figured coaching the Punatics kupuna softball team would be just as fun – and more relaxing.
He was halfway correct.
“You figured with kids you get the hardest time, but kupuna, man, they are a little bit more grumpier, ” the 62-year-old Asuncion said.
And about that fun part, few things are as enjoyable as winning championships.
The Punatics never did click during the Hawaii County regular season, the team was rarely all together, Asuncion said, and their record relegated them to the C bracket at the state tournament. But before the Punatics left for Kauai, they beat the Honomu Rockets to end the regular season, and a member of the Rockets told Asuncion, “You guys don’t belong in C bracket.”
He was right.
The Punatics literally had the wind at their backs on Kauai last month, slugging 36 home runs and outscoring their six opponents 103-40 to bring home a state championship.
“I never thought we were going to play at that level,” Asuncion said. “On Kauai, everybody played at a high level. We had so many people come and watch our games, they didn’t care what bracket we were in, because we had so many guys hit the ball out of the park.”
As the catcher, Asuncion’s saw the team’s momentum build right before his eyes – Dave Oger pitched; the infield was Sam Terry, Brian Pangan, Mongo Lyon and Victor Martinez; Teddy Medeiros, Randy Medeiros, Tony Acia, Mondo Yadao, Virgil Porter and Tracy Pacheco roamed the outfield; and Leonard Ambrosio and Wayne Yoneda, who played with HK during the regular season, also lent a hand.
It was a powerful display.
“They would walk guys to get to the next batter, and that guy would hit it out of the park,” Asuncion said. “They made a new rule and told us we needed to get our ball when we hit it out of the park.”
He said Teddy Medeiros launched 10 home runs, and Randall Medeiros hit seven or eight. The Punatics hit seven to eight grand slams.
“Guys were hitting bombs,” Asuncion said. “A 14-inch ball normally doesn’t travel that far, but we had the wind behind our back. We had the only field that had the wind behind our backs.
“I guess the gods favored us.”
Hilo Pomaikai had the best record during the county season but they were upstaged at the state tournament by Pueo, which finished third in the A bracket. The Kona Gold beat the Rockets 14-12 in the title game of the B bracket.
That’s probably the bracket in which the Punatics belonged.
Sure enough, Asuncion heard a familiar refrain on Kauai: “You guys don’t belong in the C bracket.”
Maybe next season the Punatics will qualify for a higher bracket, but it could come with a new moniker. Asuncion said the team will hold a vote to determine if a name change is in the works.
Either way, he’s grateful to have his wife, Rose Abalos, by his side.
“She’s the team’s mother hen,” Asuncion said. “We never could have made it as far without her. Nobody knew how to go on a computer to make a flight (to Kauai), but she helped.”