At Honolulu Airport, fans and relatives gave a noisy welcome to the victorious Ewa Beach players, who will be grand marshals in a parade through Waikiki on Labor Day. Joy Macias, right, greeted each team member with a candy lei and a kiss.


Hawaii's Little League World
Champions return to throngs of
well-wishers and newfound celebrity

The Ewa Beach Little League team touched down at Honolulu Airport last night still flying high -- if a bit travel-weary -- following its historic win on Sunday in South Williamsport, Pa.



Layton Aliviado

Clint Tirpak Tyron Kitashima

Layson Aliviado, Myron Enos, Alakai Aglipay, Sheyne Baniaga, Michael Memea, Vonn Fe'ao, Quentin Guevara, Ethan Javier, Ty Tirpak, Zachary Ranit, Zachary Rosete, Harrison Kam

With a stunning sixth-inning comeback and one swing of Michael Memea's bat, the team of 11- and 12-year-olds wrote themselves into Hawaii sports lore by winning the state's first Little League World Series championship.

United Airlines Flight 935 ended a long trip for a team that left for the Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, Calif., on Aug. 3 after winning the state championship in Hilo.

Twenty-six days later, they returned with the world title thanks to Memea's game-winning home run in the 7-6 victory over defending LLWS champion Curacao.

"This is incredible," infielder and pitcher Vonn Fe'ao said, "but the whole trip has been incredible. I really don't know what to say. This never gets old."

The players and coaches returned last night, drained from a long flight from the East Coast and a bit awed by their newfound celebrity. The team was greeted by a vocal throng of about 700 family, friends and fans outside the baggage claim area before being whisked away in two stretch Hummer limousines, which took them to a community party in Ewa Beach. The limos were escorted by four Honolulu police cars.

Most players said they did not realize the impact they had made back home until they stepped off the plane.

"This is the best," outfielder Ty Tirpak said. "I knew people would come, but oh my gosh."

"It was mellow until we got home," Ewa Beach coach Layton Aliviado said, gazing into the crowd that cheered the team's arrival. "It's nuts now. I never expected this."

"It was real special because it was the first time we've seen them live," shortstop Kini Enos said.

When screams erupted from 700 well-wishers at Honolulu Airport, Dawn Aglipay, mother of player Alakai, said, "They had no idea what they did, and now they know. The kids will remember this forever."

The crowd lined up six deep along a cordoned-off area from the Diamond Head baggage area, screaming and putting leis on each player.

Gov. Linda Lingle, Sen. Willie Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach), Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) and Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a distant relative of Michael Memea, greeted the arriving team members at the gate. Their airplane was escorted to the gate by six fire engines.

Terry Memea, Michael's mother, said, "I don't think the kids realized that they represented the whole country until the chant came up USA (at the game)."

A sign congratulating Harrison Kam and other members of the Ewa Beach Little League team adorned the corner of the Mid-Pacific campus at University Avenue and Maile Way yesterday.

Little League championship team member Vonn Fe'ao, above, prepared to accept another lei from proud fans last night at Honolulu Airport.

Leis piled up graduation-style on Alakai Aglipay.

A beaming coach Leyton Aliviado talked to the news media. The team later left the airport in Humvee limousines with a police escort.

Dawn Aglipay said her son has wanted to be a professional baseball player since he was 5. "Now this is a steppingstone to have his dream."

Denise Baniaga, mother of clutch hitter Sheyne "Bubbles," said: "It's the best experience the boys could have. The kids are like movie stars back there in Pennsylvania. Everyone up there loves them. The kids are beautiful. I think the parents are more excited than the children.

"I hope this leads to a college scholarship in the future."

The Baniagas used their vacation to attend the tourney and have been on unpaid leave.

"Sheyne is a student at Highlands Intermediate, and he's missed three weeks of classes, but he's a good student and he'll catch up."

Each player had at least one parent there to cheer him.

Amy Kam, mother of Harrison, said: "U.S. championship was great enough, but the world championship was the icing on the cake. I don't think the boys know the magnitude of what they did. They were just there to play baseball. They worked so hard for so long, and it was wonderful to see it end at the top."

As the motorcade bringing the team to its next appearance was stuck in traffic, the crowd at the Ewa by Gentry recreation center kept growing, anxious for their chance to greet the baseball heroes.

Roland Sumile, 65, Layton Aliviado's uncle, said he has been watching the team play from the beginning. "I like their style, the way the manager is and the way he treats them. He kinda quiet but he's really a nice person."

"Once you follow, you gotta watch till the end," Sumile said. "But a lot of stress. I don't think I want to go through that again."

Hawaii State Little League District Administrator Bob Kawamoto said, "I've been involved in Little League for 40 years, and this is the best team we've sent to the majors."

The Ewa Beach team's win capped a banner summer for Hawaii youth baseball.

The Oahu All-Stars won the Cal Ripken World Series (ages 11-12) in Aberdeen, Md., earlier this month. Pearl City sent representatives to Little League's Junior and Senior world series. The Hawaii Warriors won the CABA 9-and-under world series title. Pearl City lost in the U.S. championship of the Junior League World Series and advanced to the championship game of the Senior League World Series (ages 15-16).

A Hawaii team also reached the finals of the Babe Ruth World Series (ages 13-15) in Abbeville, La.

"There's a lot of talent in Hawaii," Layton Aliviado said. "Don't overlook Hawaii, because in Hawaii the kids are awesome, they're talented. They won't overlook us now. We showed them we can play."

Ewa Beach players will be grand marshals of a parade honoring Hawaii's three championship teams through Waikiki tentatively scheduled for Labor Day. The festivities will include a replay of the championship game on the screen usually used for Sunset on the Beach, and a fireworks show.

University of Hawaii associate athletic director John McNamara said plans are in the works to honor the teams at the Warrior football team's season-opening game against No. 1 Southern California on Saturday.

"It'll be a nice forum to honor them. We're just trying to work through all of the logistics," McNamara said.

But last night, the Ewa Beach players were simply glad to be back in familiar surroundings after an unforgettable trip.

"It feels great because I can go back to my own house and my own bed," Enos said.

Star-Bulletin reporters Jerry Campany and Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.


Schools eager to book
special events for
World Series Champs

School officials at several schools will be recognizing the players of the West Oahu team at assemblies tomorrow and Thursday. The baseball players attend various public and private schools on Oahu:

Damien Memorial School in Kalihi: Brother Greg O'Donnell, school president, will recognize Michael Memea, who hit the winning home run, with an award at the beginning of an assembly tomorrow at 1:20 p.m.

Ilima Intermediate School in Ewa Beach: School officials are planning to hold an assembly next week to recognize Zachary Ranit and Vonn Fe'ao.

Hanalani Schools in Mililani: Ty Tirpak and his father, coach Clint Tirpak, will be recognized at an assembly to be held at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow. Rep. Lynn Finnegan (R, Mapunapuna-Foster Village), an alumnus of the school, is expected to attend.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ewa Beach: An assembly will be held in the school's church at 9:15 a.m. tomorrow to recognize Layson Aliviado and his father, manager Layton Aliviado.

Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pearl City: School officials are planning an event to recognize Myron "Kini" Enos Jr.

Mid-Pacific Institute in Manoa: Banners went up near the school yesterday to recognize Harrison Kam and his teammates. School officials will recognize Kam during a 10:15 a.m. assembly Thursday.

Calls to Waipahu Intermediate, which Quentin Guevara and Zachary Rosete attend, and Highlands Intermediate School, which Sheyne Baniaga and Ethan Javier attend, were not immediately returned. Player Alakai Aglipay is home-schooled in Ewa.

Little League World Series

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