Growing up, catcher and second baseman Derek Sun was told he was too small, and that he was not fast or strong enough to play baseball. Now, he uses those critiques to his advantage.
“I always play baseball with a chip on my shoulder,” Sun said. “That helps me through a lot of stuff.”
Sun used to play volleyball, basketball and soccer along with baseball. In high school, he chose to dedicate himself to baseball alone, partially due to its team-oriented nature.
“The camaraderie is probably better in baseball than it is in any other sport,” Sun said. “And I think squaring up a baseball is one of the best feelings in the world.”
When he’s not on the field, the Saratoga, California native enjoys hiking, mountain biking and playing “Call of Duty.”
Sun said that he views being able to play baseball as a blessing. In regards to his Tiger baseball career, he has one thing in mind.
“Winning,” Sun said. “I know we’ve had some pretty good years here and I want to keep that tradition going. I came from a winning program in high school. I want to keep winning.”
A self-described introvert, first-year shortstop Samantha Yee has had to adopt a louder personality on the softball diamond as the leader of the Tiger infield.
“I feel like when people see me play, I’m a different person than when I’m actually talking to them,” Yee said.
Yee credits her father, who would go to the park with her on weekends to hit her ground balls or pitch to her, for helping her improve her game.
Yee’s family has provided her with some of her fondest moments outside of sport as well.
“Whenever I’m hanging out with my family, we do the weirdest things,” Yee said. “Like over Christmas, me and my sister, we decided to get onesies. So we ended up getting these huge onesies and we wore those for all of our Christmas events.”
Yee has brought some of her family’s fun spirit into the dugout, keeping a fuzzy green ball named Arthur Nathaniel Fuzzball in her bag at all times since her first year of high school.
“My coach gave me this fuzzy green ball,” Yee said. “She would have me put it under my neck so I had to keep my head down.”
Just like Arthur in the dugout, Yee will be a fixture in the infield for the softball team for the next four years.
In the past, first-year golfer Dylan Jirsa would succumb to the frequent frustrations of the game. As he has matured, Jirsa has learned to stay focused.
“I’ve broken a club or two, honestly,” Jirsa said. “I think with [physical] maturity, came maturity in my mental game too. I think the biggest thing for me is putting it in perspective, and realizing just how lucky I am to be here and to be playing golf.”
An only child from Estes Park, Colorado, Jirsa fell in love with the links at a young age. Neither of his parents were golfers, so Jirsa taught them the game.
“I think that created a nice balance,” Jirsa said. “So they really had my back. They knew where I wanted to go with it, and they were doing everything they could to support me.”
Even though his parents never played, Jirsa quickly found a welcoming community at his local golf course.
“We’re in a pretty small town,” Jirsa said. “It’s like 6,000 people. So when you’re at the golf course you get to know everyone. So it’s like you have tons of friends out there.”
Jirsa said that he knows he has the potential to be a better golfer. This knowledge keeps him self-motivated to work hard to improve his game.
Jirsa’s goals for his time at Occidental are to be a top golfer in the SCIAC and to help the team finish among the top three in the conference.
Samantha Farrell keeps many balls in play as a tennis player for the Occidental Tigers. The potential Media Arts and Culture major is both an athlete and a musician who sings and plays the piano, ukulele, guitar and harp. She particularly enjoys covering Simon and Garfunkel and Mumford and Sons.
Although she did not get serious about tennis until her junior year of high school, the sport has always been a staple in Farrell’s life. This is largely due to her mom, whom she names as her greatest influence in tennis.
“She was always there for me to congratulate me if I won, or support me if I lost,” Farrell said.
The Oakland native’s constant desire to challenge herself and improve her game are what keep her going. For her, half of the battle is in her mind.
“When you’re in a match, since it’s so mental, it’s really easy to get down on yourself and give up and not try your best,” Farrell said. “My goal, since I don’t really care about winning all the time, is probably just to be able to stay positive, because that’s one of the hardest things to do.”
At five feet three inches tall, Hi’ipoi Lee, a first-year water polo utility player from Honolulu, routinely faces down opponents much larger than she.
Lee used to play volleyball and basketball, but her love of aquatic settings led her to focus on water polo, which she first played the summer before sixth grade.
Part of what influenced Lee’s decision to play college water polo was her desire to be one of the few Hawaiian athletes who continue to play their sports on the mainland. According to her, Hawaiian collegiate athletes are underrepresented in the contiguous United States.
“It’s just cool to show them that you can do it, that you can compete with these girls,” Lee said.
Before games, Lee shuts out the world by listening to rap artists such as Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan.
“I don’t understand a single thing they’re saying, but the beats behind it and just listening to that really gets me pumped up,” Lee said.
A potential cognitive science and philosophy double major, Lee enjoys shows such as “Law and Order: SVU,” “Criminal Minds” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” which reflect her career goal of working for the FBI.
For the time being, Lee is focusing on being in the best shape possible and playing to the best of her abilities. In the future, though, she believes there is room for her to grow in her leadership responsibilities.
At the end of sixth grade, first-year Isa Kibira’s parents forced him to pick between soccer and tennis. He chose tennis on a whim, a decision that would shape his future for many years to come.
Kibira, a Minneapolis, Minnesota native who has been playing tennis since the age of seven, sometimes regrets choosing to focus on tennis rather than soccer. However, he acknowledges that tennis is part of the reason he ended up at Occidental.
“I feel like if I had picked soccer I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities,” Kibira said.
Kibira, who has a difficult class schedule, describes his midday tennis practice as a much-needed source of invigoration.
“After tennis I have a better attitude and more energy going into the rest of my day,” Kibira said.
Kibira is also a stickler when it comes to his pre-match routine; he is adamant that he needs to get exactly eight hours of sleep.
“I think that, if I get any more sleep, then I’m too groggy, and if I get any less sleep, I’m too tired,” Kibira said.
Competing in one of the toughest Division III tennis conferences in the nation does not phase Kibira, as he is familiar with being the underdog. He recalls beating a high-school opponent who was ranked number seven in their section—despite being unranked himself—as an experience that he is particularly proud of.
The potential politics major enjoys sports in general and recreationally plays soccer and basketball in addition to tennis.