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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Yankees bet highly on Kamehameha star

 •  Five from Isles get baseball draft call

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

When the New York Yankees made Bronson Sardinha the 34th pick of Major League Baseball first-year player draft yesterday, the 18-year-old had his second victory in a year over his Kahuku brothers.

Bronson Sardinha points to a New York Yankees sticker on his front porch. He was drafted 34th overall yesterday.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The cul de sac at Peawini Place was the site of many a sprint race among brothers Dane, 22, Duke, 20, and Bronson "Bully" Sardinha.

But being the youngest, Bronson would always lose the 40-yard sprint toward the family home.

That all changed last September. This time, in a race over 60 yards at the University of Hawai'i, Bronson beat Dane.

"Bully used to say he was faster than Dane," recalled their mother, Darneen. "They would race at our house, but only this year Bully finally beat Dane. He just loved to follow his brother. Everything Dane did, he wanted to do."

And now both may someday play in the major leagues.

A year ago, the Cincinnati Reds picked Dane in the second round, the 46th player chosen overall.

Dane, who is at the Reds' Class A Mudville (Stockton, Calif.) club, always said that Bronson was potentially the best among the baseball-playing brothers. Duke, the middle brother, just finished his sophomore season with Pepperdine.

While Bronson might have gotten off the starting blocks slow, it wasn't quite like that at birth. Bronson was delivered 3 1/2 weeks prematurely through an emergency cesarean section.

It was a life-threatening situation for the family.

"My mom thought I was going to die," Darneen Sardinha said. "She told me to take care of yourself first, the (other) kids need you more. But I told her, 'I have to do what I have to do. This is more important. I don't want this baby to die.' "

Bronson, now 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds, entered the world weighing 7 pounds,14 ounces.

"That was good for a premature baby," Darneen said.

Now, Darneen can look back at the episode with some levity.

"He came out so fat," she said laughing. "He has that Hawaiian nose. Looks like a bulldog. That's how he got that name (Bully)."

As for names, their father, Dexter, an avid surfer, named his sons after surfers Dane Kealoha and Duke Kahanamoku.

His wife balked at another surfer name and chose Bronson after her favorite actor, Charles Bronson, Dexter said.

They also have an older brother, Brandon, 25, a Kapolei firefighter and a sister, Samantha, a softball player, who will be a senior at Kamehameha.

Still, it was no accident that three of their sons excelled in baseball.

When Dane and Duke were just entering PONY league in Kahuku, Bronson served as their team's mascot.

"It was the Kahuku Indians so he dressed up as an Indian," said Dexter, an all-star catcher at St. Louis School ('74).

Baseball runs in the Sardinha family. His grandfather, Les Akeo Sr., was a star player in the old Hawai'i Baseball League in the 1950s and coached at the high school level. At 67, he still helps coach his school-aged grandchildren.

His uncle Les Akeo Jr. played four seasons with Hawai'i Pacific University and also coached at the prep level.

The father-son duo conducts clinics for youths and have the Sardinha boys assist them.

Besides his family, Bronson also credited other coaches for his success.

His high school coach, Vern Ramie, played for the University of Hawai'i and later in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

He also said that Joe Kamai, Al Kam, Gary Fuller and Mike DeKneef also were instrumental in his growth.

But his father provided the most consistent help. After church each Sunday, Dexter pitched batting practice to the three sons.

To give Bronson an edge, Dexter also had him play for Kamehameha's American Legion team during seventh grade.

One problem: American Legion is for high-school aged players.

"It was kind of scary at first," Bronson recalled. "You put me on the field with these guys and they are huge. The balls (they hit) come harder than you are used to. But it was challenging working with them. It helped me improve my game a lot."

Bronson mostly pinch-hit and played in late innings on defense during American Legion games. But the experience was immeasurable.

"His (batted) balls wouldn't go as far (as his older brothers)," Dexter said. "He would say, 'One day I'll hit better than them.' He was always competitive."

The Sardinhas do not anticipate a trying negotiation with Bronson since the Yankees kept their promise that they would draft their son.

And with Duke available for next year's draft, they look forward to next year.

As for the family's ultimate dream?

"I would love to see Dane, Duke and Bully play for the same professional team," Darneen said. "Maybe they'll get traded and play on the same team. That's my dream."