Fans of the Waipio Majors All-Stars Little League team — left to right, Jeniffer Sabog, Rueben Sabog, Anthony Sabog, Randy Stevens and Troy Ogasawara — gathered yesterday in the Waikele Golf Course Clubhouse to cheer the team on. Waipio lost to Fort Worth, Texas, 8-0, but plays again today at 2 p.m.

Waipio fans cheer
through triumph
and defeat

Hometown pride grips
the breakfast crowd
watching ESPN live

Waipio Little Leaguers remain in contention

By Leila Fujimori

Waipio Little League fans roared for each small triumph.

They shouted encouragement.

And even when they were down 8-0, they screamed out cheers.

"Wai," shouted Jeniffer Sabog, cheerleader for the 80 or so fans.

"Pio," the crowd boomed back.

These fans weren't in the stands as the Waipio team played its second nationally televised game in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., yesterday against the team from Fort Worth, Texas.

Instead, they were riveted to TV sets yesterday morning at the Waikele Golf Clubhouse, during the ESPN broadcast, while they ate loco mocos, pancakes and omelets.

The crowd cheered when the camera focused on the proud mother of Waipio's only girl player.

Her sign said, "Sanoe Aina, You go girl."

Sanoe hit a line drive, the crowd roared, but moaned a collective "ohh" when the ball was caught by the second baseman for an out.

If Waipio wins today's game against Webb City, Mo., it advances to the next round.

For the fans at Waikele, including family, friends, neighbors, ballplayers and coaches, it wasn't just about winning.

"This is the first time for Waipio, so we want to be a part of it," said Rosie Akau, whose daughter and two sons play Little League baseball.

"Someday maybe our kids will be a part of it, so we want them to get that feeling.

"They made it this far. If they come home tomorrow, it's been a great season," said Kent Jones, father of pitcher Travis, who hit a game-winning homer Friday.

"We're so proud of him," said Wendy Duazo, visiting from Germany, of her brother, left fielder Daniel Nishimoto.

"I'm so glad I could see it. It's an honor for them to be up there."

Daniel's father, Paul Nishimoto, and twin brother Andrew, who made the trip to the regional championships in California, could not make the World Series.

"My mom said I have to stay here 'cause I have school, so only she went," said Andrew, who held a sign that said, "YPO, Hawaii, Go Nish #14, Daniel."

"I wish I was there," Paul Nishimoto said.

"But he (Daniel) didn't see his mom for three weeks. At this age the moms play a very important role."

Nishimoto credited coach Clyde Tanabe for bringing the team to the World Series by creating a relaxed atmosphere, rather than the intense pressure the players usually face.

Marcus Moises watched with pride as his son Isaac, 11, played in front of a national TV audience. "He struck out but that's all right," he said.

"He's done great during the whole tournament."

Fathers have to remember it's not about their sons playing for them, he said.

"It's about them. When they come back, it doesn't really matter, win-lose. They got there. Out of 7,200 teams, we made it."

The parents were especially grateful for the community support. "You look at the community here," Moises said, glancing at the crowd, some rival players and coaches. "They're supportive even if they played against this team. It's always been like that."

Older players and coaches helped the team with batting practice and fielding drills, Jones said. "So they should all be proud of the kids."

And bringing the community closer together is what it's all about.

"That was our main objective," said Dennis Fukunaga, who founded the Waipio Little League 18 years ago. "We started from scratch when there was nothing, not even a baseball field," he said.

The community pitched in and helped build the league when there were no sports in Waipio and kids were going to Pearl City and Waipahu to play ball, he said.

"We won our first district tournament after 12 years. It's a great community," he said.

E-mail to City Desk


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Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --