David Rapanot: Molokai standout was first-team All-Star in three sports

David Rapanot’s nickname of “Tuff” was earned before he was a year old.

Rapanot was born in January 1996 with pneumonia – forcing him to spend the first two weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

When he was three months old, he was diagnosed with asthma. At six months and nine months of age he had to be flown to Oahu by air ambulance due to severe asthma attacks.

“His two older brothers, Scottie & Ryan, along with my husband Scott & I used to always whisper in his ears that he has to be ‘TUFF’ & come back home to us on Molokai,” his mother, Kim, wrote in an email. “That is how he got his nickname.”

David Rapanot now stands a solid 5-foot-11, weighs 175 pounds and excels at most any sport he tries.

After a senior year at Molokai High School during which he gained Maui Interscholastic League first-team All-Star recognition in eight-player football and Division II basketball, and was the coaches’ unanimous choice as MIL D-II Player of the Year in baseball, Rapanot is The Maui News MIL Boy Athlete of the Year, becoming the school’s second recipient of the honor.

Manu Adolpho was the first winner from Molokai, for the 2006-2007 school year.

“I remember Manu,” Rapanot said before a baseball practice at Maui High on Wednesday. “Hard worker, track and field, cross country, basketball.”

As for what having another honoree will mean for the Friendly Isle, Rapanot said: “Proud, it will pretty much make them proud.”

Rapanot, who will continue his baseball career at Feather River College in California, still battles asthma.

“It pretty much makes me push harder all the time,” he said.

“The doctors just tell me to stay active. I really just thank the Man upstairs for keeping me safe.”

This summer, Rapanot is playing with the Maui Big League All-Star team, loaded with MIL All-Stars from several schools.

“Oh man, playing with guys like this is a lot of fun,” Rapanot said. “You can have trust in them all and you don’t really have to put too much pressure on yourself.”

Rapanot is not sure what his main position will be at Feather River – his fastball touches 89 mph, and he is also a sure-handed middle infielder.

His prowess on the diamond was demonstrated in the MIL D-II tournament final against St. Anthony, when he was 4-for-4 with two triples, a three-run homer and four RBIs, and on the mound retired 15 straight batters – nine via strikeout – in a five-inning win after surrendering an infield single to the first batter of the game.

Rapanot played football for the Farmers as a freshman, but not again until his senior year, when he was a quarterback and cornerback.

“I wish I would have had him for four years,” Molokai football coach Mike Kahale said. “We were just happy to have him as a senior. Good kid, great athlete. We had to use his athleticism to the best of our ability. He definitely could have played Division III, Division II (college) football. It would have taken a lot of effort and focus to get a Division I scholarship, but that would not have been out of reach.”

Rapanot was also a McDonald’s All-American basketball nominee.

“Football was fun,” he said. “I wish that I had played sophomore and junior year. Yeah, I’m going to miss that a lot. Basketball, I’m going to miss that a lot, too. But baseball, since T-ball, that was my No. 1 goal, to become a professional baseball player.”

Mike McCutcheon, the Molokai baseball coach and a graduate of the school, would like to see Rapanot play all three sports in junior college.

“I have seen a lot of athletes come and go from Molokai being that I was raised there,” McCutcheon said. “He is probably one of the most athletic kids that I have seen when it comes to multisports – being able to just adapt to whatever is thrown at him. He doesn’t have the size that some of those athletes that he may be compared to, however, his athleticism helps him rise above.

“As a baseball player he was unique. He was able to produce a lot of quality pitches, a good compact swing, fielding – he was just the true athlete. And it didn’t take much work from the coaching staff, it was his hard work that brought him to where he was.”

Rapanot will have the backing of an island with him at Feather River.

“I really know that I always have them behind me, being from a small island,” he said. “I just want to make them proud.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com