Hawaii presents leis to Georgia prior to game

It was Thursday morning when parts of Hawaii were being hit by Hurricane Lane. The storm was expecting to move closer to the main islands possibly by sometime Friday.

And while the Honolulu, Hawaii, Little League players and coaches were thinking about the family and friends back home, so was the Peachtree City, Georgia, Little League team.

Unbeknown to Hawaii manager Gerald Oda, Georgia decided to do something about it. That’s when Oda received an email Friday that Peachtree City had made a donation to the Salvation Army for hurricane relief in Hawaii.

It speaks to who the Georgia players, coaches and parents are to do such a thing for another team at the Little League World Series, not to mention someone they were playing the next day for the United State championship.

“I think that’s just a great reflection of their coaches, kids and their parents,” Oda said after Hawaii beat Georgia in the United States championship Saturday. “It really touched our hearts when we found out. … What a class act.”

It was an unexpected gesture from a team Hawaii beat in an epic 11-inning contest earlier in the Series. After learning about the gesture, Hawaii wanted to do something to show their appreciation. So prior to Saturday’s game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Oda and Hawaii reciprocated by presenting Georgia with a gift: leis.

“We wanted to tell Georgia thank you because they’ve done such a selfless act by making a donation for the community and at the same time, we needed to let them know, yes we’re competitors, but it’s just a game,” Oda said. “We want these kids to remember when they leave the field to have a positive experience and giving the leis to kids, we wish you the best. We’re going to play hard of course, but we wish you the best.”

Oda said they specifically gave Georgia manager Patrick Gloriod a lei made from kukui nuts.

“It’s a very important lei we have. Kukui nut oil, ancient Hawaiians used to make light out of it, and it was something for royalty,” Oda said. “So I told Patrick that he’s the light … he’s the light for his kids because we see it. At the same time, we wanted to honor him because it was an honor to play this game with that team. Just to show our appreciation.”

While Georgia wasn’t expecting to get any gifts from Hawaii, the gesture from the Honolulu Little Leaguers wasn’t something that surprirsed Gloriod or his team.

“It’s just who those guys are. Me and the Hawaii coach were watching the International game in the Grove this afternoon and standing there talking about how excited we both were for two of us to be meeting because they’re just such good people and I think our kids have shown how good they are,” Gloriod said.

“I think that’s what Little League’s about. Even though we’re opponents, it’s not about hating the other guy. It’s about sharing the love of the game,” Oda said about watching the game together at the Grove.

Oda mentioned he found out at 2 a.m. Saturday after he got done praying the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. For him, it made coaching Saturday’s U.S. final much easier.

“I finally got the notice that the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm and at the same time, the tropical storm was moving away from the island,” Oda said. “It’s a big relief.”