|The boys of
summer aren’t going anywhere
Hawaii may be an island paradise full of sun and
surf, but these boys from West Oahu are baseball
players through and through, and they’re
storming through Williamsport.
By Allie Weinberger
There have been 29 players in Major League
Baseball history to come out of Hawaii.
At South Williamsport, there 12 more just
waiting to break through.
Ewa Beach is just the ninth team in 58 years of
the Little League Baseball World Series to visit
Williamsport from the Aloha State.
“Right now, I don’t think they really feel it,
but what I heard back home is really everybody’s
watching,” said West Oahu Little League manager
Layton Aliviado. “From every island and people
from the mainland. I don’t think they know the
impact, but I know [the kids] know that it’s a
And it is a big deal. These Hawaiian hotshots
are just the third team from Hawaii to make it
out of regional play as the Northwest champions
in the past 30 years. And with an 11-0 record
heading into the 2005 Series, these ballplayers
– and their bats – are looking good.
“[Hawaii baseball] is real different than
mainland baseball,” said Hawaii first baseman
Layson Aliviado. “Cause they look not too good,
but they can rip. We look small, so people think
that we’re weak, and so they take us lightly.”
But West Oahu is 4-0 in tournament play,
outscoring opponents 26-4 over 23 innings. The
Northwest champs will take on West coast
powerhouse Vista Little League and its lineup of
California sluggers in the U.S. final Saturday
But is Hawaii – a paradise of sun, sand and surf
– really any good at baseball?
“I guess a lot of people think that Hawaii is
just a lot of surf,” explained the manager.
“We’ve got a lot of surfers, but in Hawaii,
sports are heavy.”
“We actually have Hawaii players in the major
leagues right now,” added one West Oahu slugger.
And one of those major leaguers, Cubs pitcher
Jerome Williams, took a real interest in these
They don’t want your John Hancock. They want
your Barry Bonds.
The West Oahu boys may not know all the
Hawaiians of Major League Baseball, but they
sure know some great major leaguers.
According to Aliviado, the boys choose their
favorite team by who the ballclub’s sluggers
“If there’s a home run hitter,” Aliviado
said, “they like him.”
Cubs pitcher Jerome Williams found out who
the island boys idolize in Wednesday night’s
“Can you get me Derek Lee’s autograph?” one
of the boys asked.
“Derek Lee? He’s a good friend of mine, I
can get you D. Lee’s autograph,” Williams
Then, the flood gates opened.
“How about Nomar?” one chimed in.
“Yeah, Nomar,” they all pleaded.
“You know what?” said a chuckling Williams.
“I’ll get all you guys a team ball for
But that wasn’t enough for these
“Can I get Barry Bonds, too?” one boy
continued, amid a chorus of laughter.
“Barry Bonds?” Williams said. “I don’t like
him. Nah, I’m just playin’, I’m just playin’.”
But the barrage of requests just kept
“Are you gonna see the Braves again?” one
“No we’ve played the Braves already. We just
play them now, but our next game’s on Friday
against Florida,” said Williams.
“Well, can you get me Dontrelle Willis?”
“Aloha,” said a voice from a black speakerphone
surrounded by a team of Hawaii 12-year-olds.
It was Williams, a Honolulu native, calling to
wish his Hawaii team luck and offer some last
“Keep on playing and don’t even worry about
[being nervous],” Williams said. “Just think
about [the U.S. final] as a normal game and just
don’t even think about it. Go out there and play
hard, play your best, and then at the end, if
you guys are up, you guys win. That’s it.”
So what makes Hawaii baseball so strong?
“For baseball, the weather is year-round. The
reason why we got a lot of good talent in these
boys is that a lot of people play year-round
baseball in Hawaii,” said Aliviado.
But the boys know it’s more than that.
“We play from the heart, because we’re so
small,” said the Hawaii first baseman and
Baseball practices in Hawaii are a whole
different beast than the practices of mainland
teams, the boys claimed. There is one thing in
particular the players say they do a lot more of
than any other team they know.
“Running,” said the boys in unison.
And what do they do after practice?
“We run more,” they agreed.
Aliviado runs a strict dugout and schedules two
to three hour practices six day a week.
“We practice every day, every day but Sunday,”
said right fielder Ty Tirpak. “We do it till we
can’t see anymore.”
Guys who choose to play for Aliviado know they
know will be practicing a lot.
“I just tell them straight,” the manager said.
“If you’re on my team, you’re gonna do a lot of
practice. If you don’t like it, play for
Practices during the week start at 4:30 p.m. and
continue through nightfall. And in the hot
Hawaiian summer, the sun doesn’t set until 7:30.
“Like I tell the boys,” Aliviado said, “hard
work pays off. They realize that, being here at
Practice is very important to the West Oahu
“You need a lot of practice, because there’s a
lot of stuff you gotta learn,” he explained. “A
lot of small stuff here and there, strategies
and all the fundamentals.”
Aliviado isn’t shy about his method for success.
And why should he be? It works.
“Once the season starts, we go two weeks with
conditioning,” Aliviado said. “We don’t throw a
ball, we don’t hit balls, we just do
conditioning. And a lot of drills – cone
After that, Hawaii moves on to the basic
fundamentals of the game. Only after that do
they begin to work on hitting and pitching. Once
the season starts, the players focus on
defensive work through live game situation.
But to get the hot bats the Hawaii hitters have
up and down the order, they must do a lot of
“That’s what we do everyday,” Aliviado said.
The skipper’s motto is “work hard, play hard,”
and that’s exactly what these Little Leaguers
do. But how can Aliviado keep them off the beach
and on the diamond?
“Well, we’re used to [the distractions],” said
ace pitcher and star slugger Alaka’i Aglipay.
Though the kids say they don’t go to the beach a
lot, they also admit they probably would if not
for baseball. And sometimes, they don’t want to
do either activity. Sometimes, they just want to
stay at home and sleep.
To Aliviado, though, his home in paradise is
actually an asset to his club, not a
“The beaches and all that is a plus,” he said.
“On the free day, you can relax and go to the
beach and not think of baseball. Just go to the
beach and relax, surf, get some sun, swim, body
surf. So I think it’s a plus having beaches and
Slugger Vonn Fe’ao can put his finger on why the
West Oahu players stick with it through grueling
practices in the Hawaii heat.
“We’ve been together a long time,” he said. “We
And they are on certainly their way here in
“We hit better [than mainland teams], and we
don’t strikeout,” said catcher Michael Memea.
The Hawaii players also chalk up their success
to aggressiveness on the bases.
“Hawaii teams, they seem like they’re more
aggressive than the teams out here on the
mainland, especially on passed balls,” said
Tirpak. “In Hawaii, everybody’s going, but here
they kinda hesitate a little bit more.
“I think everybody practices that in Hawaii,
that’s just one extra way to score,” continued
Tirpak. “It really is [a big help in the Little
League World Series]. We steal a lot of bases on
little bobbles and passed balls, so that will
help us get to the next base. If the guy [at
bat] gets a base hit, you could score rather
than just getting to the next base.”
The pitching of Hawaii squad as a whole is also
stellar, and Williams was the perfect person to
give the young staff some good advice.
“You give up a home run, you give up a home run.
So what?” he said. “You gotta give up home runs.
You give up home runs and you’re gonna have
errors out there.
“As a pitcher, guys make errors. You can’t get
mad at them. All you gotta do is pick them up,
go along, throw your pitch, make good pitches
and get them out. That’s all you have to do,” he
Williams also knows that this Hawaii team has a
great a coach behind it. How? Well, Aliviado
coached Williams back in Hawaii Pony League in
“I coached Jerome and my oldest son played with
Jerome. Me and Jerome’s dad coached together,
coached our kids,” said Aliviado. “I feel old.”
But the kids aren’t necessarily aware of the
Hawaii talent in Major League Baseball right
“They know some of them, not all of them,” said
their skipper. “But I think they realize that
coming out of Hawaii, it’s harder to make the
major league. We’re far away and we’re just
islands, so they don’t notice us as much. But
when the scouts come down, they realize that
Hawaii has a lot of talent.”
What the players don’t understand is the impact
their success is having on Hawaiians everywhere.
But Aliviado is working on that.
“We get a lot of emails from all over the
mainland and Hawaii,” said Aliviado. “And what I
do is I give every kid one email, and then they
read it to the team before we go to sleep.
Before we say our prayer, they read the emails
from all the people all over the world.
“We don’t know the impact back home, but they
say the impact is real good,” he added.
Aliviado and Williams both understand what the
Hawaii team is doing for the islands while they
are here in Williamsport.
Aliviado also knows the other teams
underestimate the strength of his team’s force.
“I think they figure that we’re just a bunch of
surfers, a bunch of boogie boarders, and they
don’t realize that because of our weather, we
have a lot of talent,” he said.
But four teams have already lost to the West
Oahu Little Leaguers, and Little League squads
are learning to take Hawaii seriously the hard
“Because [West Oahu] is a growing community, the
league is growing,” said Aliviado. “I figure in
the future, West Oahu should be back here.”
So are the guys in the Cubs clubhouse going to
be watching the island All-Stars in this
“You know what, I’m gonna make them watch,” said
Williams during Thursday night’s conference
call. “I’m gonna make them watch because
Hawaii’s the real deal. I mean, Hawaii’s been on
the map since day one, but nobody really knows
about Hawaii baseball because we’re so far away
from the mainland.
“You guys are representing Hawaii in a good
way,” he continued. “And I’m gonna make these
guys watch you guys play and see how we play
back at home.”
So maybe there isn’t any magic to Hawaii’s
success. Maybe West Oahu is just the team no one
“We take every team seriously, and we just hope
for the best and do what we have to do to win,”
the manager said. “We just stay humble.”
Humble or not, Hawaii’s success means a lot to
the islands. Maybe these 12 players don’t quite
realize it yet, but one day they just might.
Aliviado certainly does.
“You know what?” he said. “I think it would make