116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi is playing his second season for Mount Mercy baseball, but he hasn’t taken a normal path here.
The Hawaii native and all-state baseball player for Mililani High School in Honolulu made a lengthy stop in Lawrence, Kan., contributing to the Kansas Jayhawks’ Power-5 program. After COVID-19 relief years caused a logjam of talent and his redshirt impacted his return, Souza-Paaluhi entered the transfer portal.
Devin Fujioka, a Mustangs assistant at the time, reached out. Souza-Paaluhi was able to intern with Perfect Game to earn his degree from Kansas and attend Mount Mercy for grad school. He has also been able to continue his college baseball career, including this final season.
“Devin Fujioka kind of brought me in here,” Souza-Paaluhi said. “It opened up the door for this place and that’s how I ended up here. Being able to work at Perfect Game and play here has been a true pleasure.”
Souza-Paaluhi leads the team in seven offensive categories and ranks among the Mustangs’ best in two more after a 12-1 and 7-3 doubleheader sweep over Culver-Stockton Saturday at Plaster Athletic Complex. Souza-Paaluhi has simply been a dynamo at the plate, entering Game 2 with 57 hits, seven home runs, 13 doubles, six triples, 39 RBIs, 34 runs and a .429 batting average.
“He’s putting together a tremendous year,” Mount Mercy Coach Jack Dahm said. “We had 24 straight games with the wind blowing in 20 to 30 miles per hour. He could very easily be sitting at about 15 home runs and his average even higher, if the weather was a little different.”
His work ethic shines through in his passion for baseball. He splits his time working for Perfect Game and his athletic and academic responsibilities. It is common for him to work at Prospect Meadows early in the day, play in games or attend practice and even return to work, if needed.
The love for the game was seen with his smile and joking with Dahm as they broke the postgame huddle. He enjoys baseball.
“The saying in baseball is go out there and have fun,” Souza-Paaluhi said. “That’s part of the game. Just go out and have fun. Play the game, do things the right way and good things will happen.”
Some of that fun stems from the realization that his playing days are numbered. He is trying to get the most out of every moment. Souza-Paaluhi wants to go out with a bang.
“I’m coming out here, trusting myself and my abilities,” he said. “With this being my last year, I’m giving it everything I’ve got left. It’s been exciting.”
Souza-Paaluhi, who is one of three players on the Mount Mercy roster from Hawaii, posted a strong start last year, according to Dahm. He broke a finger sliding into a base and was hampered for about two-thirds of the season. He finally turned things around toward the end, but his production was deceptive to his overall ability.
The experience was tough, but it made him an even better hitter for this last go-around.
“I feel like more of a free swinger,” Souza-Paaluhi said. “I’m taking advantage of what they’re offering me at the plate. A lot of minor adjustments I found myself doing have been working so far.”
Dahm said Souza-Paaluhi has earned the respect of his teammates and praised him for being as good a person off the field as a player on it. A true glue guy — keeping the team together — to go along with a good bat, helping the Mustangs improve to 27-16 overall and 16-10 in the Heart of American Athletic Conference.
“He’s such a great kid,” Dahm said. “He’s a lot of fun. The teammates love him. He’s just a great kid. We’re blessed to have him.”