LITTLE LEAGUE U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP
Team revels in support
The Waipio Little Leaguers are enjoying themselves in Pennsylvania, but they miss the food from home.
"Everybody is missing rice and poke," said Raena Donahue, mother of shortstop Christian, 13, and wife of Timo, the team's coach. "Everybody is missing the food over everything else."
The team has made frequent trips to McDonald's for hamburgers and fries. To the players' disappointment, fruit punch and saimin were not on the fast-food menu. "The kids are shocked, asking, 'How can you not have fruit punch?'" said Donahue.
Back-home food is so important that family members recently had a luau at a bed-and-breakfast inn where some are staying, the same place where some players from the Ewa Beach world championship team stayed.
"Somebody roasted a pig. Somebody sent fish from home," said Waipio assistant coach Kiha Akau.
Meanwhile, the players' parents are experiencing the jitters. "I think most of the parents are very excited, a little anxious about the game," said Cindy Akau, mother of catcher Iolana Akau and wife of Kiha Akau.
"It's unbelievable. They're doing it, not us. They don't get frazzled. We're very proud of them," said Kiha Akau.
It is the first trip for the baseball players and their families to Williamsport, Pa., almost 5,000 miles from Hawaii. And it has been a monthlong journey to the national championship.
Parents made sure their children's time spent in Pennsylvania was packed with fun with trips to Knoebels Amusement Resort and Clyde Peeling's Reptiland.
The team has gained celebritylike attention.
Many, including coaches from other teams, have supported the Hawaii team. E-mails have poured in from people internationally and nationally including some from Hawaii expatriates.
Among the e-mails was one from Layson "Kaeo" Aliviado and his father, Layton, coach of the Ewa Beach team, which won the world championship three years ago.
"This is farther than any expectation we thought that would happen for us," said Donahue.
Her husband thanked everyone for their support for the team. "We're going to do our best out there. (Today) we'll see what happens," he said.