Honolulu LL has achieved more than a title

The Honolulu, Hawaii Little Leaguers play for the U.S. Championship Saturday afternoon.

What they are doing at the Little League World Series, though, is bigger than baseball. What they are accomplishing goes far beyond what any scoreboard says.

Hurricane Lane began pummeling parts of Hawaii on Thursday morning. The center of the Category 4 storm could become the first major cyclone to make landfall in Hawaii since 1992 and was expected to move close to the main islands or cross land Thursday night into Friday. Governor David Ige has advised residents to set aside two weeks’ worth of food and water supplies. Landslides already were creating problems and 10-30 inches of rain is being forecast.

It is a dire situation, especially for a state surrounded by water, and that is why what this Honolulu team is doing is so important. Who cares if Honolulu wins another game here? They already have done something far greater.

“We told the kids this is our opportunity to really give back,” an emotional Hawaii manager Gerald Oda said following Wednesday’s 10-0 win against New York. “We know there’s a lot of people watching the game. For them to watch us, we can give them hope. We can take their minds off it and that’s what we hope we do.”

Hawaii is a close-knit state and a special bond has been built between team and state. Despite all the fear and chaos enveloping Hawaii, the team still feels its love. Residents are still watching the games, still sending well-wishes and still staying inspired.

It is a reciprocal relationship. That support is making a great team even stronger.

“It’s kind of scary. Obviously, we have a lot of friends and family in Hawaii. There’s a big concern because we definitely don’t want anyone to be injured or get hurt,” Oda said. “We’re definitely sending our prayers to all of Hawaii and letting them know that even though we’re 4,000 miles away we’re definitely still connected and it feels like they have such a big storm coming and yet they’re still supporting us. It really means a lot.”

This team provides Hawaii’s perfect representation. It is tough, caring and humble. This is a fabulous baseball team. The coaches helped the players reach their full potential and erase any pressure they might feel. The team is deep, plays super defense and is undefeated this summer, going 3-0 at the Series.

It speaks volumes then that Honolulu’s players and coaches are even better off the field. The coaches keep telling the kids that this run is not about them. It’s about those who have sparked the journey and it is about showing respect for everyone along the journey. This is all about embracing opportunity and giving something back.

Oda had to be especially proud following Wednesday’s post-game press conference. Seconds after it concluded, players Aukai Kea, Sean Yamaguchi and Jace Souza stood up and approached the media. Without being asked to, each player shook hands and thanked each media member present for being there.

It was a little thing, but it said so much. This team exudes class. Everything Little League Baseball hopes to symbolize Honolulu’s all-stars are.

There are some who say sports are not important and they are wrong. Sports can bring communities together and provide comfort through trying times.

Maybe Honolulu will win a world championship. Maybe it will not. It does not matter. No banner is needed to validate itself as champions.

Honolulu Little League has achieved something more valuable than any banner or trophy could ever be.

It has become Hawaii’s inspiration.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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