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Pride - and sadness - follow Little Leaguers' unprecedented run

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:08 a.m. HST, Aug 30, 2010


The Waipio Little League All-Stars fly home to Honolulu this afternoon one heartbreaking win short of the title of World Series champs, but they have still stirred the dreams of players like 10-year-old Logan Yee, who hung on every pitch yesterday.

GREET THE TEAM

Waipio Little League All-Stars return:
» When: 4:55 p.m. today
» Where: Honolulu Airport Baggage Claim H
» Flight: United Airlines Flight 83 from Los Angeles

DONATIONS

Two funds have been established to help defray the costs for the parents and players from the Waipio Little League All-Star team:

HAWAII CHILDREN'S FOUNDATION

Care of Clear Channel Communications, 650 Iwilei Road, Suite 400, Honolulu, HI 96817

FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK 'YES WE CARE' FUND

Checks payable to "Waipio Little League Champions" may be delivered to any First Hawaiian branch. The bank will contribute the first $5,000.
As he watched the game live on network television at Alonzo's at the Mililani Golf Club, surrounded by dozens of the team's supporters, Logan dreamed of one day, too, representing Hawaii in South Williamsport, Pa.

"I feel like I have to be there," he said, "to make everybody proud."

Even in defeat, Hawaii will celebrate the boys and their coaches -- and honor their effort.

City officials are making plans for a parade in the team's honor, acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. Gov. Linda Lingle said she wants to host the players, coaches, staff and parents once they get settled back home.

In a statement yesterday, Lingle said, "I am so proud of these athletes who played each game with grit and youthful exuberance. ... The loss to Japan (yesterday) in no way takes away from what the Waipio All-Stars have brought to our state: Tremendous pride to their families, their community and the entire state of Hawaii."

The Hawaii boys could not muster a third come-from-behind win in the series and ended up losing to Japan, 4-1.

But no one can take away their title as 2010 U.S. Little League Champions -- or diminish the effort they made to get into the final game.

Because they lost their first game of the World Series to Georgia, the Waipio team had to play an unprecedented seven games, and "these kids battled every day," said Stephen Masuhara, president of the Waipio Little League. "It's quite an accomplishment to play at this high level every day."

Some of the people crowded into Alonzo's yesterday had been original teammates and coaches of the Waipio players before they were selected for the all-star team that represented Hawaii in the Little League World Series.

Four of the boys -- Shiloh Baniaga, Ty DeSa, Kaho'ea Akau and Cody Maltezo -- played on the Waipio Silver Dogs that included Logan, and his father, Tim Yee, who was one of the coaches.

As Cody threw strikes yesterday, Yee yelled "Atta baby!" at the big screen inside the clubhouse.

Christian Donahue, 15, pitched and played shortstop on the 2008 Waipio team, which won the Little League World Series in the same Howard J. Lamade Stadium that the 2010 Waipio boys played in yesterday.

As the television cameras panned the stadium yesterday, Christian said, "It brings back a lot of memories."

His father, Tim Donahue, managed the 2008 championship team and said it is impossible for the 2010 team, coaches and parents to understand all of the hoopla going on back home while they are focused on the tournament.

"We had heard things (in 2008), but we didn't have any understanding about how big this was until we came home," Donahue said. "You don't realize how excited everybody is. Now I get to see it."

And few people can appreciate the hardship on the players, coaches and their families, said Masuhara, president of the Waipio Little League.

"They've spent 25 days on the road," he said, "and they're together 24/7."

Two funds have been established to help ease the financial cost on the families.

Don Horner, chairman and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank, announced the creation of the bank's "Yes We Care" fund yesterday and said in a statement, "What these young people and coaches have accomplished has made the entire state proud. More importantly, the spirit of sportsmanship and humility they exhibited was truly exemplary and a great example for our young people to follow."

As yesterday's game ended, Charlotte Pagaduan -- whose son, Christopher, 6, plays for the Waipio Phillies -- echoed the sentiments of untold others around the islands:

"I feel sad but proud," she said. "They did really, really well."

Before most of the crowd at Alonzo's filed out, the parents, players and fans of the Waipio Little League gathered in a circle and chanted, "Wai-pio, Wai-pio, Wai-pio ..."

"It's been just a wonderful, wonderful ride," Masuhara said. "I'm sure Hawaii is going to be back again."






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