Brackenridge Chasing His Dream

Kalani Brackenridge gave up football at UH to 'give it my all' in baseball

To say the Brackenridge family excels in sports is a huge understatement. When one member of your ohana makes it to the bright lights and the big city, some may say luck had a lot to do with it. But for the former Lihu’e family, it has nothing to do with four-leaf clovers or a rabbit’s foot – it’s all in the Brackenridge bloodline.

It begins with the head of the household, Lyle, who played collegiate baseball at Cal-Berkeley and then went on to a short stint in the majors with the Minnesota Twins.

Then you have Lyle’s children. Tyron starred at Washington State and is now a defensive back for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Tryon’s sister Brittany is having a stellar collegiate softball career at Clark Atlanta University, after playing two years in Arizona.

And then there’s Kalani, a sophomore outfielder at the University of Hawaii, who’s well on his way to following in his dad’s footsteps on the diamond.

“I chose UH because it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me as a dual-sport athlete,” he says. “My goal was to play both football and baseball. I was getting a lot of attention from schools like Washington State, University of Southern Utah, University of Cal-Berkeley, Loyola Marymount, Oregon State, Idaho and Wyoming. Every one of them wanted me for just one sport. UH was the only school that would have allowed me to play both sports.”

Kalani initially signed a letter-of-intent to play football after head baseball coach Mike Trapasso and head football coach Greg McMackin agreed to allow him to play both sports.

But things changed during this past year’s major league baseball draft.

'Never quit, never give up' is Brackenridge's philosophy

“I was surprised to have been drafted in the 44th round,” he says. “I knew the scouts were watching me in high school, but I had not played baseball all of my senior year, so I really didn’t think I had enough playing time to compete. It was tough to decide what to do as I enjoyed playing football, but my love was always baseball.”

Kalani says the draft made him think twice about giving it his all in one sport versus two:

“One thing my dad always said was that the scouts would never see me on the baseball field during the summer if I was playing football. The second thing was that I can only get better if I gave it my all. Missing summer baseball would not be ‘giving it my all.’ It made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to forfeit my football scholarship to play only baseball.”

After a freshman year filled with spots of unexpected playing time, Kalani is now looking forward to taking on more responsibility in his sophomore season.

“My focus is to give it my best at every practice to earn playing time,” he says. “I believe that every moment on the field is giving me the opportunity to perfect my game, and as long as I continue to self-improve at every practice, I will earn time in the games.”

Kalani and Trent Allianic, his former teammate at Kaua’i High, are the lone rangers on the UH baseball team from the Garden Isle.

“It feels just great being on the team period,” Brackenridge says. “It’s a blessing to get to play at this level. Being from Kaua’i means a lot to me as I have made many good friends there, played with many good athletes and had some really great coaches.

“Furthermore, it’s my mom’s home where most of our family lives, which makes it even more special. Kaua’i will always be a very special place.”

But Kalani wasn’t always a Red Raider. He decided to transfer to Kapolei High during his sophomore season.

“My sister Brittany started the move in her junior year, wanting to play softball at a more competitive level, so my parents found a place in Kapolei and expanded our family business at the same time,” he says. “I wanted to stay at KHS, so my dad and I stayed on Kaua’i for my freshman year while my mom and sister made the move to Kapolei.”

Throughout that year, Kalani and his dad would fly to Honolulu on weekends to work out with then-Kansas City Royals’ scout Eric Tokunaga.

“During the summer, Eric got me in a summer league playing with Waianae,” Kalani says. “After that summer, I realized that my opportunity to get better was a lot greater being on Oahu.”

But his heart still remains with his friends and family on Kaua’i, who used to watch him fielding at least 150 ground balls a day from his father at the Lihu’e Ballpark.

“I didn’t always feel like going but once I got out there, I loved it,” he says. “I believe that every person has a dream and if we fight hard every day to get better, we will only move closer and closer to accomplishing that dream.”

It’s a dream shared widely throughout the Brackenridge family’s bloodline.

“Never quit and never give up,” Kalani says.

“Yes, you will be faced with many obstacles, but know one thing, anything worth having is worth fighting for. It doesn’t matter where you live or where you come from, what matters is that you keep fighting every day to get closer to your dream.”

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