Win brings pride
to Leeward side

Community leaders are
planning parties and a parade
for the Little League heroes

The world championship won by a West Oahu Little League team is turning things around for Ewa Beach, says state Rep. Kymberly Pine.

"From now on, we're world champions. What the boys have proven to all of us in Ewa Beach is you don't have to come from a family of great wealth to be the best in the world. All you need is a commitment to work hard, have a supportive family and coach, and a lot of heart," Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) said yesterday.

"It has become a community center-point," area Councilman Todd Apo said.

County and state leaders joined the statewide outpouring of aloha for the team whose come-from-behind win brought the governor to tears.

"It was an incredible victory for the state of Hawaii but also for the United States of America," said Gov. Linda Lingle.

"Well, I was crying at the end of the game," she said. "I was so excited. There was so much emotion. It was up and down."

Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting yesterday at the Ala Moana Hotel, Lingle said: "If you were like me, you were watching every single pitch yesterday. And if I would have written a television script for an inspirational story about a team of youngsters from far, far away who would come in and represent their country on national television, I couldn't have scripted a better story."

Last night, Lingle, Pine and Mayor Mufi Hannemann were among the crowd of hundreds of supporters at Honolulu Airport who greeted the returning heroes.

On Sunday, Ewa Beach came to a standstill.

"There were no cars on Fort Weaver Road. For the first time, there was no traffic," Pine said.

Everyone was watching the game, "and you could hear screams from almost every home," she said. "They were announcing the scores on the Foodland sound system."

She arranged to have limos pick up the team members at the airport and take them to the Ewa by Gentry Community Center for a public celebration party last night. Food was donated by Grace Pacific.

Pine is pushing for a parade in Ewa Beach on Sept. 10, but Hannemann's office is looking at holding a parade on Labor Day, Monday. Haseko is donating money for it.

Pine's office is raising money for the families to help defray costs of traveling to Pennsylvania and possibly for the parade. People who want to donate can call her office at 586-9730.

Apo, who was on a team that won the Colt Baseball League World Series in Indianapolis when he was 16, said his office is working with other state and city officials to help arrange celebrations.

"There's a lot of willingness to hold some kind of celebration," he said. "We will make sure that something is done in the Ewa community."

"We've got a lot to celebrate in youth baseball," said Apo, who also noted the recent win by an Oahu team in the Cal Ripken World Series in Kentucky. "The bigger things that it does for the community is immeasurable."

Lingle said she did not think the Ewa Beach team could come back to erase the deficit in Sunday's game.

"So what did they do? Instead of coming back and winning ... they come back and add drama by tying it in the bottom of the sixth.

"Then the pitcher gives them that harsh look. They (the TV announcers) keep saying, 'He's a linebacker.' I'm thinking, 'No, he's Samoan.' They just aren't used to this. He let his pitching do his talking for his team, for the entire state and the United States of America. He strikes out the side.

"Then comes Michael Memea in the bottom of the seventh," Lingle said. "It is tied 6-6. This kid hasn't had a hit the whole game, not one hit. He doesn't just come up with the first pitch and get a home run, it has to go to a full count. I was a nervous wreck at the end of that game."

Lingle added: "I was so proud. Those boys taught us so many lessons -- lessons as adults. That is sure, things don't always go well from the beginning, just get into it and play through it. Sure, life gives us some bad calls, but you just have to keep coming back.

"When I looked in the stands and the parents and fans were cheering, they were no longer cheering for Ewa Beach or West Oahu or Hawaii," Lingle sale. "You hear what they were chanting: 'USA, USA, USA.'"

Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Little League World Series

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