SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. » Even in a loss, the Waipio chants rang through Lamade Stadium.
Parents stood and cheered, waving their signs in the air.
No matter what, the boys are "their LLWS champs."
"All the parents, we are just proud of the boys and all of the accomplishments," said Bert Ramos, father of Keolu Ramos. "Like I told the boys, whatever happens, it’s just a bonus. No matter what happens, we’ll always be No. 1 in the United States, and no one can take that away. There were probably people who didn’t even expect them to win states. It’s just gravy now."
Japan led 2-1 after five innings, and Konan Tomori hit a two-run homer in the sixth as the Japanese left South Williamsport with the 2010 Little League World Series championship. It was the first time since 2004 that an International squad won the world title.
It was just an incredible run for Waipio in 2010.
After losing on the second day to Georgia, there were some that probably thought Hawaii wouldn’t make it back through the elimination bracket.
The players who fought all week to overcome deficits and beat the odds didn’t quite have enough left in them after winning five elimination games.
COMING HOME PROUD
The parents of the Waipio team enjoyed the wild ride their boys took them on and have no feelings of disappointment.
Columnist Ferd Lewis recognizes the Waipio players not just for how well they played but for how they carried themselves throughout.
A game-by-game look at how Waipio climbed back from the verge of elimination to win the U.S. championship and reach the world title game.
That’s what the parents remember most: the heart, fight and soul of this squad.
Not the loss on a sunny Sunday in central Pennsylvania.
They remember the victories over New Jersey, Ohio, Georgia and Texas.
Burned in their memories are the smiles on their children’s faces, holding their United States championship banner on the sacred pitcher’s mound of Lamade Stadium.
The friendships, sights and sounds are what last through time.
"It was amazing watching them battle. At times, you do forget that you are watching 12- and 13-year-old kids," said Dean Shackles, father of pitcher and third baseman Noah Shackles. "Their maturity and discipline on the field are incredible. I don’t remember when I played ball having that level of maturity on the field.
"Our guys have done such a tremendous job and have represented the district and the state of Hawaii very well. They’ve had great attitudes, and have shown great sportsmanship on the field. I’m proud of the way they’ve carried themselves. They are very humble guys. Bottom line, if they don’t win it, they are still champs."
Obviously, the Waipio players wanted to win the title.
"They are competitors," manager Brian Yoshii said. "They leave a lot of heart on the field. Some of them took it hard. All I told them was to give it everything they got. That’s exactly what they did."
Even walking into the stadium, the parents — some clad in the powder blue T-shirts with West written across them and others dressed in the traditional white shirt with Waipio stripped across — showed their support.
The cheers started an hour before the game.
They didn’t stop — even when a loss seemed inevitable.
"We are just so proud, just like we were when the 2008 team won the title. This is special for the players," said Naoko Yoshii, mother of Brysen Yoshii and Brian’s wife. "It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. We are just proud of them, and excited that they made it this far. I’m excited for my son. He’s having so much fun out there. You will never get to experience an atmosphere like this again. It’s an experience he will always have."
The good times will always outweigh the bad, all the parents agree.
They remember the run through the Hawaii state tournament.
They recall the trip to California, where the boys battled back from an early loss to Southern California to win the West Regional title.
And they will always relive their 10 days in youth baseball’s pinnacle.
"It’s a dream come true," Bert Ramos said, "for the kids and everyone back home. For me as a parent, it’s humbling to see my little boy put on his catcher’s gear and play in front of 30,000 people. It’s emotional. I am proud of everyone on the team."
Also passed along was the message of gratitude for all the support from back in Hawaii.
"The aloha that we are experiencing now is more than anything we’ve seen in our lives," Dean Shackles said. "I can’t believe how much the people of Hawaii are just rallying around this team. It means a lot to everyone. … The wins are great. But those are the memories you carry with you through life."