Mana Lau Kong remembers the priceless feeling of winning the Little League World Series with Honolulu Little League in 2018. As the team’s leadoff hitter and first baseman that year, Lau Kong’s home run in the championship game against South Korea set the tone in a 3-0 victory for Honolulu.
Three years later, Honolulu Little League is back in Williamsport after winning the West Regional earlier this week. Lau Kong has gone on to accomplish even more feats in his baseball career, but the LLWS will always hold a special place in his heart.
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“I just want to tell them to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and it’s not gonna come back again. Enjoy being with all your teammates because like I said, you’re not gonna be able to come back here when you’re older but when you’re older, you’re gonna be able to look back at what you had coming up and growing up,” Lau Kong told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “You make lifetime friends up there. Today, I saw one of the kids walking out and he asked me if I was from the Little League World Series. I was like, ‘yeah.’ I kind of remembered him because he told me his name and I remember playing ping pong with him actually at where the dorms were so yeah, you make lifetime friends and it’s not like it’s gonna be the last time you see them because when you keep coming up to these tournaments, you’ll eventually be able to see each other play and hopefully in the big leagues one day.”
Pono Hawaii Baseball, a club team based in Honolulu, is currently in Cary, N.C. at USA Baseball headquarters for the National Team Identification Series. A total of 30 kids were selected to represent USA in the Southwest region, which is represented by California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Hawaii.
Half the Southwest team is made up of players from Hawaii, as 15 players from the 808 State were selected, including Lau Kong and ambidextrous Honolulu Little League pitcher Tyler Shindo. Shindo, who tossed three scoreless innings for Honolulu in its 7-2 win over Southern California on Saturday, will not participate in the Little League World Series in order to play in the NTIS event.
“On and off the field, we can help each other. Coming up here, there’s many different guys from all over the country,” Lau Kong said. “This is like a national thing where we have to showcase what we can do but it’s kind of like bringing the Aloha spirit to this tournament to show them what we got.
“It’s a blessing. Kids from all over the country competing for those spots, but it’s just a blessing being able to compete with kids from all over the country, coming from just a small island with big dreams.”
Lau Kong, who graduated from the Little League level three years ago, currently stands at a towering 6-foot-6 despite being just 15 years old. In addition to his physical growth, the first baseman/shortstop hopes to keep growing on the diamond in order to chase his dreams.
“I’m very confident now,” he said. “I came from just being a little kid in Hawaii Kai just playing baseball with my dad and my boys from all over but now being able to travel in the summer with all these other guys in the mainland and kind of show them what’s up and what we have in Hawaii.”