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The Young Man With The Big Voice

Felipe Ojastro. Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

I first met Felipe Ojastro, the island’s fastest-rising young sportscaster, when he was just 18 years old and fresh out of Moanalua High School. He was the board operator at AM 1500 and seemed to have his hands in just about every show that the station had on the air. The first thing I noticed – and the first thing that others notice, too – is his booming voice.

“People who listen to me probably think I’m about 44 or something,” he says in his most resonating tones, “and they can’t believe I’m just a kid.”

Ojastro was dubbed “The Reverend” by Jim and Kanoa Leahey, after the hardworking young broad- caster picked up the title of ordained minster online. “It cost me $13.95 and they let me keep my religion,” he says, joking. “I can’t believe (the nickname) has lasted with me this long.”

“The Rev” is now 24 years old and is all over the local airwaves. He’s the sideline reporter for University of Hawaii football on ESPN 1420; he’s the voice of Chaminade basketball, volleyball and soft- ball on goswords.com; he’s the play-by-play announcer for Starcomm’s high school games in football, basketball, volleyball, softball and base- ball; and he’s the rotating sideline reporter for high school football on OC-16. Somehow, he also has time to be a disc jockey Sunday afternoons on 94.7 KUMU.

“The schedule is so busy,” he says, adding that he’s had to put his studies at UH on hold. “This has been a great year, so exciting, but I had to take a break. I’ll get back at it in the spring. Education and getting a degree is still my priority.”

Ojastro’s talents were first noticed back in the sixth grade.

“I listened to the (local) radio and TV announcers like you and Jim and Kanoa and Bobby, and I tried to emulate your voices,” he recalls. “I would go outside the classroom and practice how everyone registered their voice, and a teacher heard me. Soon I was asked to be the sixth grade emcee at all the events at Red Hill Elementary.”

Later, at Moanalua High, he tried his hand at playing basketball, but rarely got off the bench: “I figured, if you can’t play the sport, why not call the sport?”

Ever eager, he landed radio gigs at a local Honolulu station and then got a big break when he was just 19.

The regular announcers for HPU weren’t available, so his name was suggested, despite his youth and inexperience.

“I had never called a game before, and I went to the meeting thinking I was doing radio,” he recalls. “They told me to get there 90 minutes before and started talking about cam- eras. ‘Cameras?’ I said. ‘Yes, it’s a simulcast.’ Before that, I had no idea it was a TV game. I studied like it was an AP English exam!”

As a bonus, the game turned out to be Tony Sellitto’s 300th career victory, and Felipe had a blast on-air. “It was the most fun I ever had making $106.50,” he quips.

The opportunities kept presenting themselves and Ojastro never passed on anything asked of him.

“I’m very fortunate to have all these gigs,” he says. “I’m learning all the time. I get feedback from everyone.”

And sometimes he even hears from people who knew him “way back when.” Recently, he got a note from his fifth-grade teacher, who was thrilled to see him on air and shared her memories of the young boy with the big voice. “I will always remember your smile, your sense of fun and your wonderful attitude toward learning,” the note says.

Yes, Felipe Ojastro, “The Rev,” keeps on learning, and Hawaii’s sports fans have a young voice that should be on the local air- waves for years to come.