A lively crowd of family members and community supporters greeted Hawaii’s Little League world champions at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Monday afternoon.
Fans included Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and even Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
“I’m just so proud to be governor of Hawaii, because it’s not only the fact that you’re the best in the world, but how you did it, and truly the commitment to the team, to helping each other be successful, and doing it in the right way for the right reasons,” said Ige. “I just really wanted to congratulate each and every one of the players, wanted to congratulate coaches, who provided guidance to help the team be the best they can be, and finally to the parents and supporters, because I do know it takes a village to be a world champion, and I really want to congratulate each and every one of you for staying with the program of being committed to supporting the players and, most importantly, being committed to representing all that Hawaii means, that aloha spirit, that commitment to being bigger and better than yourselves, of representing the state in everything you did with class and determination and most importantly, outstanding success.”
“They exhibited the best values we were taught by our grandparents and parents, about being humble. As a community, we don’t do tan-ta-dan. We give credit to everybody and they did exactly that. These young men, I can’t imagine how I was at their age, but these young men showed grace and humility,” Caldwell said. “I heard a story about one night. They played late, had to have dinner, went to a restaurant that was ready to close, but they said hey, we will accommodate you and feed you. But you know what these young men did? They stayed around after and cleared up. That’s something only folks from Hawaii do.”
They and other state and county officials and the Royal Hawaiian Band held a welcome celebration for the team as they entered the baggage claim.
The team captured the hearts of Hawaii during a time of crisis, winning the Little League U.S. title and finally the World Series title as Hurricane Lane barreled toward the islands.
“Because of this team, we were able to see, I guess the light of everything else going on this weekend. That’s why we’re here, because of the happiness they bring to us here,” said fan Diana Morris.
“The whole team, it’s nothing like it. They were just fantastic, so in sync, just one perfect machine,” said Mark Boucher, grandfather of player Bruce Boucher.
The team has been on the mainland for nearly a month. For the family members who made the trip, this homecoming made the championship even more special.
“This is just amazing. For support from the people of Hawaii, and just everything has just been an amazing journey and lessons we learned, living the dream of a 12-year-old boy is just unbelievable,” said Layna Yamaguchi, mother of player Sean Yamaguchi.
“This journey has been such a humbling experience,” said team manager Gerald Oda. “Prior to us leaving Hawaii, we were able to visit Mayor Caldwell’s office and he reminded us to play with aloha, be humble, and I’m so proud these kids took it to heart. Nothing made us more prouder than to represent everyone here, and during that time during the hurricane, it was such a great opportunity, again, to represent all of you. Please realize that even though our 14 kids are standing up along with three coaches, there’s hundreds of you, volunteers, parents. That’s what this is for. All the people that are behind that really support each other. This was just an amazing opportunity again to really thank everybody. On behalf again of the Little League players, parents, and coaches, I just can’t say thank you, thank you enough for everything that you guys did. We really felt it on the mainland.”
Caldwell says a parade will be held in the team’s honor. Details have yet to be confirmed.