The Baseball Roastin’, TikTok Postin’, Trail Blaizin’, Eye Brown Raisin’ Story of Sisipako Vehikite
Written by Victor Cascio on February 15, 2022
One of the most iconic scenes from the 1993 classic “The Sandlot ” is the part where Benny Rodriguez and his gang of neighborhood misfits rush to the ball field for their only night game of the Summer on the 4th of July. As Rodriguez rounds the bases and all of his teammates direct their attention to the barrage of red and green fireworks illuminating the sky, the narrator’s voice bellows the phrase “For us, baseball was a game. But for Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, baseball was life.”
For KWU Senior Sisipako “Pako” Vehikite, the same sentiment held true for a large portion of his teen years and even up through his first couple of years of college. Since first picking up a bat and ball for the first time at age 11, he had become instantly hooked and it seemed as though he had found his passion in America’s pastime. Vehikite spent many a Summer day and night during his teen year baseball seasons traveling to various tournament locations in the state of California (his home state) competing against some of the top young stars from the Southwestern part of the country. From age 13-16, Vehikite and his team of local talent tore through competition, racking up wins and filling up trophy cases.
“We were pretty unstoppable,” Vehikite recalls confidently. “We were winning every tournament, and that was a lot of fun.”
The path ahead seemed pretty clear for the former KWU outfielder. Despite a majority of his athletic talents being on the gridiron (Vehikite was a former prospect at the linebacker and wide receiver positions, receiving multiple Division I offers), baseball had stolen his heart from an early age. But his decision goes a little bit beyond just simply following his heart. His desire to burn a trail for other baseball players of Tongan descent to the Major Leagues kept him away from the jug machine and kept him in the batting cages. Although he was a dual-sport athlete throughout his 4 years of high school (and despite not receiving any offers to play baseball out of high school), Vehikite never waivered in his choice. He signed on with the College of San Mateo out of high school to stay close to home and continue his journey in baseball.
After redshirting his freshman year at San Mateo, Pako transferred to West Valley College where he played for two years. However, after his tenure at West Valley, interest in Vehikite as a collegiate baseball prospect seemed to be lacking. Kansas Wesleyan ended up being the only offer that he received out of JUCO, and wanting to continue this path to professional ball, he accepted. After a stint on the bench to start his junior season, he finally earned the starting position in centerfield, where he finished out the year.
However, the seeds of doubt for Vehikite’s passion for baseball were seemingly planted during his redshirt year at the College of San Mateo. The coach’s decision to apply the redshirt rule to him (making a player ineligible for that season) created a little bit of uncertainty and angst that stuck with him for most of junior college.
“When I redshirted my freshman year, I was like ‘Dang, am I not that good?’ I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could’ve been a starter playing football. But once K-Dub reached out to me, I started to think that maybe I was pretty good after all.”
KWU’s offer to Vehikite served as a sort of temporary passion renewal, giving him a replenished sense of confidence and trust in his abilities on the diamond. However, after a year at KWU, he realized that it wasn’t a lack of confidence. It wasn’t a sense of regret that came with choosing to pursue one sport over another. It wasn’t moving away from his home state for the first time. After years and years attempting to perfect his craft (or going on “the grind” as athletes commonly refer to it), he had simply burnt himself out and had a slim/nonexistent desire to continue putting in the work. Prior to the start of his senior year at KWU, he admitted that he had not participated in any sort of baseball workouts throughout the past Summer.
“It wasn’t anything the coaches did or anything like that, it just happened. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. To me, practicing was not really worth the time any longer.”
And so, after 10+ years of youth travel ball, JuCo ball, and NAIA college ball, Vehikite made the decision to retire from the sport that he had become enamored with all those years ago. But the beauty of athletics (especially college athletics, where the workload is always much more rigorous), is that they provide valuable lessons to those who devote the time to learn them. Discipline, focus, and yes, even passion, helped segway Vehikite into his new interests beyond baseball, starting with powerlifting. After always struggling to maintain a positive physical self-image, he has channeled his focus from hitting baseballs to hitting the weights and has seen a massive improvement in his physique in a very short amount of time. Currently, he maintains a rigorous workout schedule that requires a workout every day of the week minus Sundays.
But where Vehikite’s story takes a real turn has nothing to do with athletics. All his life, he had let his athletic abilities/passion steer him in different directions. From football to baseball, to powerlifting, his answer to life’s challenges had always been physical activity in one form or another. So when he decided to form his own Instagram page during his junior college days, there wasn’t much of a hope for any sort of return; he was simply a college kid looking to have some fun on social media. After an initial following of about 50 accounts, Vehikite began receiving re-posts of different comedic bits from his channel, which helped to expose his page to the masses. After a few successful months on Instagram, he decided to branch out and explore the realm of the then-new phenomenon known as Tiktok. It wasn’t long before his content graced the presence of thousands of different “for you pages” across the nation, and he continued to amass a larger and larger following. As of right now, he currently owns a following of 1.1 million TikTok users.
While Vehikite’s humorous personality has a lot to do with the success that he has found online, the lion’s share of his success is due to his uncanny resemblance to WWE superstar turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He estimates that about 40% of his success on TikTok is on account of his personality, while the other 60% is related to his looks. Vehikite is quick to acknowledge the resemblance and even embrace it. Some of his most popular TikTok videos involve his impersonations of the world-famous actor, so much so that he even changed his TikTok handle to @pak.the.pebble as a nod to his eerily resemblance to Johnson. Videos of Vehikite imitating The Rock’s famous eyebrow pose have been reposted by famous pages such as Daquan, WorldStar, and The Shade Room, all of which have continued to rack up Internet traffic to his profile pages. He even recalls an instance two summers ago where ESPN picked up one of his videos and posted it on their Snapchat story. Additionally, celebrities such as “All American” actor Michael Evans, YouTube sensation Daddy Long Neck, and most notably fellow YouTuber KSI have all come across his page recently.
“Social media has definitely changed my life. I’ve been exposed to a lot of love. Also a lot of hate, but that’s just part of the game. I’m not really worried about it, I’m more focused on the love,” Vehikite says with a smile.
While Vehikite has enjoyed his success on social media and the fame that has come with it, he continues to stay humble (as his father always instructed him) and also knows that there’s much more to life than the number of likes and shares he’s receiving. “It’s a cool lifestyle, but people overlook it. Clout and followers don’t define who you are.”
In his case, however, it truly isn’t about clout, followers, or fame. More than anything, his rise to prominence on social media has given him a plethora of connections with people in the acting/performance business, where he looks to make his career. After spending some time as a criminal justice major, he switched to communications and will be wrapping up his degree this Spring. After he walks across the stage at commencement this May, Vehikite plans to move back to California and get into acting school and make a push to become a key figure in the industry, where those connections can be put to good use. Most notable is his connection to Dwayne Johnson’s photographer, John Brandon, who follows him on Instagram. He also plans on doing some work with a talent firm manager in California following the current semester. His heart is set on making a push to get to the top of a competitive yet rewarding business.
Vehikite says that all he does is for the people who show him support. His desire to put a smile on people’s faces is the primary force that drives him to continue doing such work.
“I love being in front of the camera. I love making people smile. People reach out to me all the time, saying they appreciate me, making them smile, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
To say Pako’s journey has been unorthodox would be an enormous understatement. From youth baseball player to Division I football prospect; from juco baseball player to NAIA baseball player to now powerlifter/Internet sensation; and from a career path into public safety to now becoming an aspiring actor, he has enjoyed many successes, dealt with many hardships, and made the most out of every direction his life has taken him.
“I just think about how crazy God works and his different ways. I had a plan of going to a 4-year school to play baseball and study criminal justice; I never had the thought of getting into acting. I think that I’m more effective on social media than in other areas of life. It’s crazy to think about, but I love it. I wouldn’t go back on anything and I don’t regret anything. I’m enjoying everything that’s going on right now.”
So, as it turns out, Pako Vehikite was more like Benny Rodriguez’s teammates rather than Benny himself; while he thought baseball was going to be his life’s work, it ended up just being a game. But it’s what that game led him to that matters more than anything else. To view Pako’s story as a baseball player as a failure would be a complete misjudgment of what athletics can mean and what it can lead people to. What started out as a journey to Major League Baseball has provided him with rewards that would’ve seemed far-fetched as recently as 4 or 5 years ago.
By stepping away from the game that had stolen his heart as a wide-eyed 11-year-old kid with a knack for all things athletics-related, Pako has gained an intensified focus on fitness and a renewed self-image, a chance to focus on his post-college goals as an actor, and a TikTok following that never fails to show him unwavering support. It’s certainly not a path that many are led down, but his ability to embrace this journey that he believes God has put him on is a true testament to his adaptability, perseverance, and determination. Regardless of where he ends up and what kind of success he achieves in later stages of life, it’s certain that he’ll be rounding the bases of life while putting on his own firework show for people to enjoy for years and years to come.