By Marty Bitter, MUSD Athletic Director
Madera has a long baseball history with names like Kenny Taylor, who had an impact on so many youth in our community, and now has an annual award named in his likeness: the “Kenny Taylor Integrity” award. There are others as well but there is no name more associated with baseball in Madera than Eddie Chapa. The Chapa family has breathed baseball and now the late Eddie Chapa has the varsity field at Madera South named in his honor.
Well, let me introduce you to the latest in the Chapa family lineage to have an impact on baseball in Madera. Her name is — and yes I said her name — is Kaelei Kajitani! She is a freshman at Madera South High School and is the great granddaughter of Eddie Chapa. I had the pleasure of interviewing this wonderful young lady and she has such knowledge and passion for the game.
I asked her how she became interested in baseball and she said that she tried softball when she was 6 or 7 but it was a little too slow. All of her family and cousins played baseball and her mom encouraged her to give it a try. Kaelei fell in love with the game and owes a lot to her mom for introducing it to her and working with her, daily, to improve all of her skills.
As a freshman she was moved up to the JV team at Madera South where she was the starting first baseman and also pitched. You would usually find her batting 4th or 5th in the lineup and was probably the most consistent player on the team. I also asked her if she felt she was treated any differently, being the only girl on the team. Kaelei said the boys all accept her and treat her like any other teammate.
In the off season, she travels with a 16U team called DIB (Do it Big) even though she is only 15. The team is made up of players primarily from the Clovis and Fresno areas. They workout two days a week, one of which starts at 6am in Fresno. Her mom makes sure she gets there and this shows the true dedication both mom and Kaelei have. DIB does play in some tournaments but the focus is primarily on skills development.
Kaelei‘s has a couple of goals that are very dear to her heart. She loves her community of Madera and her first priority is to play varsity baseball on the field named after her great grandpa Mr. Eddie Chapa, and lead her team to the first Central Section Championship in Madera South history. Her second goal is to represent her country and play girls baseball for team USA. Those are pretty lofty goals, but after interviewing her it doesn’t take long to see the drive and know they are goals she will attain! Best of Luck Kaelei!