Ponafala identical twins take different paths
When Nick and Jeremy Ponafala joined the Montgomery College baseball team last year, coach Dan Rascher had a hard time figuring out which 2012 Paint Branch High School graduate went with each name.
The 5-foot-11 Ponafala brothers, 19, are identical twins and the only visible distinguishing characteristics between the two are that Jeremy Ponafala has longer hair and a Samoan tattoo on his arm. Their taste in music also may be slightly different. Jeremy Ponafala says he would choose House of Pain’s “Jump Around” for his walk-up introduction music while Nick Ponafala says he’d pick Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky.”
“I had trouble knowing who was who,” Rascher said with a laugh and a smile during an interview on Saturday at batting practice. “Now, I got it figured it out. One (Nick) looks a little more serious than the other.”
Ponafala said. “I just wanted to grow it out and Nick has always been a short-haired guy. There was definitely a lot of confusion last year. It was fun and we are used to it.”
The now-sophomore twins — Jeremy starts in right field for the Raptors and Nick starts at third base and occasionally pitches — have always played on the same baseball team. They began playing tee ball together in kindergarten and moved their way up, including coach and kid pitch levels of the Oxon Hill Boys and Girls Club. When they moved from Temple Hills in Prince George’s County to Burtonsville the summer before enrolling as high school freshmen, they switched to play for the Burtonsville Big Dawgs.
“Ever since we picked up a bat and glove, we’ve never split up,” said Jeremy Ponafala, who was voted Montgomery College’s team captain this spring. “I can’t imagine not playing together. I think it would be awkward.”
Added Nick Ponafala: “We have an extra connection. Baseball became easy because we always had a guy to practice with, hit with and throw with.”
The twins’ parents, Pua and Cindy Ponafala, encouraged them to try several sports growing up — they played basketball and soccer before settling on baseball.
The Ponafala twins are also known as Tai and Uta in short for Vailoatai and Vailoauta. Their father Pu'apu'a Ponafala is from Vailoatai, American Samoa and now resides with his family in Maryland.