Monday | December 11, 2017
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Kaupu and Pacheco last of the game’s guardians

On a recent sweltering day in Panaewa, Bobby Kaupu and Pat Pacheco weren’t wearing any blue-colored articles of clothing, their designated standard for decades.

It’s just as well because they’ve heard those old lines, “Hey blue, you missed that call,” or “Eh blue, where your glasses?” one too many times.

The two longtime friends and BIIF officials are the last of their generation. Both have been an umpire or referee for baseball or basketball games for more than half their lives.

With the October 20th passing of Ramon “Sugar” Rodero, who was a BIIF official for nearly five decades, Kaupu and Pacheco are the only old-timers left.

Rodero was 85 years old when he died. He was a BIIF official until midseason this year and was an umpire or referee for basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball.

Kaupu is the Cal Ripken Jr. of the longest-serving BIIF officials, overseeing basketball, baseball, softball, and football for seven decades.

He is 97 years old, looks 15 years younger and has an elephant’s memory, recalling details decades and decades ago.

Kaupu retired as a BIIF official in 2013 and was a youth coach for over 40 years. He is golden Example A for giving his time to the community.

Pacheco, the youngster at 73 years old, has been a BIIF official for baseball and basketball for 43 years. And he’s still going strong.

It can be a thankless job, much like an NFL offensive linemen. You’re supposed to be perfect but give up a sack or miss a call, and everyone is on your case.

It’s mandatory to know all the rules, even though some fans don’t have a clue on half the rule book. Officials aren’t supposed to have rabbit ears, but some people yell at the top of their lungs.

And thick skin is a necessary requirement, too. Even the toughest punching bag couldn’t take all the verbal jabs thrown at officials.

Pacheco knows all this, of course.

He’s one of those early bird McDonald’s regulars. When he’s drinking a cup of coffee, Pacheco gets the customary warm greeting from arriving customers.

That’s the way it goes. Mornings are nice. BIIF games are all good, until a disagreeable call. Cue the record-scratching sound.

Still, the beat goes on for Pacheco, who most enjoys umpiring Kaha Wong’s Big Island Wooden Bat League games because of the players’ discipline.

“I came from the plantation days, and all we did was play baseball and basketball,” Pacheco said. “It’s my time to give back now. I give back to the sports I still love. I’m fortunate enough that I’m still able to do it.”

It was the same deal for Kaupu, whose personal supervisor was his wife Geri. She would go to games with him, and he would discuss a rule on a call that got someone buzzing like a hornet’s nest.

After their talk, the sound of “Oh uncle, you got that call so wrong,” would drown out with the soundtrack of coqui frogs during their deep sleep.

“I had one purpose when I was an official, control the teams because you’ve got to do it for the kids,” Kaupu said. “At least, you have to have somebody who can control the game. You have to know the rules and control the game.”

For a time, Kaupu worked with UH-Hilo softball as an assignor and evaluator. He also held umpiring classes.

When he wasn’t doing that, Kaupu would encourage the neighborhood kids, running around with nothing to do, to join his team, whether it was baseball or basketball.

Kaupu and Pacheco are BIIF historians, watching countless baseball or basketball games through the decades.

Back in the day, if there was a big game everybody talked about around the water cooler, chances are Kaupu or Pacheco were working it as a BIIF official.

But what they remember and appreciate most are the acts of Aloha thrown their way.

“Whenever you go to Kohala, whether it’s baseball, baseball, football or softball, after the game, they’ll invite you over and offer something to eat,” Pacheco said. “They take care of the officials.”

Long ago, retired BIIF executive director Roy Fujimoto was the Ka‘u athletic director and retired Waiakea softball coach Wayne Abalos was the Kohala AD.

Both threw out the welcome mat for Kaupu and his officiating partners.

“Roy would say, ‘After the game, come up to my house for something to eat.’ Wayne would cook fresh steaks,” Kaupu said. “Sometimes, we would talk story and not leave Kohala until 1:30 in the morning. Time flies.”

Time flies by so fast. All their old co-workers and officiating influences have passed away. Kaupu and Pacheco are the last ones left.

Like Rodero, the best description for a community-minded BIIF official is not what color they wore but what they did for others.

And their talk-story session was coming to close. Kaupu and Pacheco had stuff to do. There was a game on the tube, appointment viewing for both.


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