By Rob Tota
It has been a tense few days for residents of Honolulu, as Hurricane Lane continues to pass through the capital city of Hawaii. Saturday will offer a unique distraction from the tropical storm, as the city of Honolulu will unite behind their Little League® team as they fight for a spot in the 2018 Little League Baseball® World Series Championship.
“We have this Aloha spirit, but that Aloha spirit can actually be found everywhere …”
Hawaii Manager Gerald Oda sees his team’s success as a potential beacon of hope in a difficult time for Hawaii, a mentality he has aimed to instill in his players. He thanked the city of Honolulu for their continued support, and gave a heartfelt message to his home city.
“We have a great responsibility, and this opportunity to give back to our great state of Hawaii,” he said. “It’s our turn to repay that support that they’ve been giving.”
Hawaii has yet to lose a game in Williamsport, defeating a highly-touted Mid Island Little League team from Staten Island, N.Y., on Wednesday to earn their spot in the United States Championship Game. They will take on Peachtree City American, the Little League representatives from the Southeast Region and the state of Georgia.
He would go on to say that the game will provide a much-needed distraction across the state.
“Just for those few hours of their day, instead of them worrying about the hurricane coming, they can focus on watching us play,” he continued. “Hopefully by us playing we can make them smile and forget about the hurricane, and give them a sense of joy, pride, and hope that everything’s going to be okay.”
It’s words like these that have resonated with his players. Outwardly, there has been no issue adjusting to the massive change in environment that the Little League World Series brings. Oda talked about how his players have made this adjustment, beginning their journey on a remote field at the base of Diamondhead Mountain, and finding themselves on the world’s biggest Little League stage.
“They are just amazed at the stadium, and that there’s so many people who come to watch a Little League baseball game,” he said. “But credit them, they got used to it in the sense that it’s still the same game, just with a little more excitement.”
He applauded the way his players have conducted themselves on and off the field, demonstrating a tremendous amount of growth and maturity in this unique environment. While many of these values are taught at home and in school, Oda believes that baseball is a great avenue for children to bring these values into play.
“For us to be in this kind of environment yet to be humble, and especially to appreciate what others have done for us, speaks volumes,” he said. “Character is built on this kind of platform. You learn it in one environment, but you must apply it in this kind of environment. This is where you show whether you actually get it, or not.”
As the 2018 Little League Baseball World Series comes down to its final four teams, Oda reflected on the opportunity the experience provides his players to see the world. He loves watching his players interact with people across the globe, something he never imagined doing at such a young age.
“We have this Aloha spirit, but that Aloha spirit can actually be found everywhere,” he said. “Hawaii is a small little rock in the Pacific, but the world is big, and it really gives them the opportunity to realize there’s so much more that they can see.”
Honolulu Little League will look to continue its run towards a world title at 3 p.m. Saturday at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, for a chance earn the honor of being crowned the nation’s top Little League team. Hawaii will enter the game with the same mentality Oda has been preaching throughout the year.
“If we win a baseball game, great,” Oda said. “That’s just one more day we get to stay together as a team.”