Hilo Little League won’t field three divisions


By KEVIN JAKAHI

Tribune-Herald sports writer

Two summers ago, the Hilo All-Stars won the Senior League World Series, featuring four players — Kean Wong, Chayce Kaaua, Jarett Kitaoka and Kodi Medeiros — with roster spots waiting at the University of Hawaii.

They’re all eligible to jump up a level to Big League (ages 16-18), a division no team from Hawaii has won. But that stacked team with the Big Island’s best talent won’t get a chance to replicate the Senior League (ages 14-16) summer glory of 2011.

In fact, for the first time in Hilo’s Little League history, there are no Junior (ages 13-14), Senior or Big League teams at all.

According to the league’s website, hilolittleleague.com, there are a minimal number of applicants for the Junior League, but a division is pending. However, the site was last updated Jan. 2. The site said due to insufficient applicants a Senior division won’t be conducted in 2013.

Longtime coach Kaha Wong, who led the 2011 Senior championship team, confirmed there are no Senior and Junior divisions, and declined further comment on the subject.

The site also stated that there are 30 player applicants for Big League. That item was last updated April 11.

Longtime coach Bo Saiki, who’s been involved with Little League since 1974, confirmed there won’t be a Big League team.

“The last date to show up was Sunday and only six players showed up,” he said.

Hilo Little League president Eugene Narimatsu couldn’t be reached for comment.

In October 2009, the District IV (Big Island) administrator position was eliminated. District III (Maui) administrator Naomi Campbell, who oversees the Big Island, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“The biggest problem is we couldn’t vote for a district administrator three years ago,” Saiki said. “We couldn’t get a consensus on one person after two people tied. They couldn’t compromise and the West Region shut the position down. They went with the District III, and it’s been a problem on the Big Island.

“There’s nobody we can run to if there’s a problem in the league. Ever since then, it’s been a mess.”

In recent years, there has also been a lot of turnover in Hilo Little League leadership.

And according to the website, there was an insufficient number of Hilo applicants for Major or Little League (ages 11-12), the division that ABC televises every year as its annual World Series summer highlight.

According to various reports, Little League makes $3.7 million off its television deals, which also includes ESPN broadcasting regional play.

The next round of upcoming competition for many Big Island ballplayers is the Big Island Wood Bat League, which Wong founded in 2006. The league starts in October.

However, like he has done for nearly a decade, Wong said he will take ballplayers on summer showcases to play in front of Major League Baseball scouts and college coaches. He has landed scholarships for over 40 players.

Kean Wong, a Waiakea senior catcher, is a candidate for the MLB first-year player draft, which will be held June 6-8. MLB.com will provide live coverage.

Before the summer tour, Kaha Wong is running three baseball tournaments, featuring age groups from 13-14 years old to high school seniors, which will be held Memorial Day weekend.

On Saturday, there will be five games, including one Senior age division game, starting at 8 a.m. at Wong Stadium.

On Sunday, there will be five games, with the inaugural East vs. West Hawaii High School game at 6 p.m. A home run derby will follow the game.

On Monday, there will be three games, starting at 8 a.m. The Junior championship is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. For more information, call tournament coordinator Wong at 895-4595.

PONY tourneys

Several PONY League playoff tournaments will be held on the Big Island. Following are division and tournament dates:

Pinto (ages 7-8): Regional from June 21-25 at Kailua-Kona.

Mustang (9-10): Sectional from June 8-9 in Kailua-Kona; regional from June 28-July 2 at Hilo.

Bronco (11-12): Sectional from June 15-16 in Kailua-Kona; regional from June 28-July 2 at Hilo.

Pony (13-14): Sectional from June 22-23 at Kailua-Kona.

PONY (Protect Our Nation’s Youth), under the Nobu Yamauchi RBI League, doesn’t feature Colt (15-16) or Palomino (17-18) divisions.

The league is run by the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island. For more information, visit bgcbi.com.

 

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