On Saturday, Honolulu Little League begins its quest towards a second consecutive Little League World Series appearance by beginning West regional play against Southern California’s Glendora Little League at 4:30 p.m. HST on ESPN+.

Honolulu Little League, which finished third overall at last year’s Little League World Series, is aiming to become the fourth consecutive team from Hawaii to win the West regional en route to the LLWS in Williamsport, Pa.

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In 2018, Honolulu Little League won the Little League World Series, while Central East Maui Little League went in 2019 and finished fourth overall. The LLWS was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gerald Oda, who managed Honolulu to a world title in 2018, is back at the helm in 2022. In 2021, he keenly watched from afar as Brandon “Bud” Sardinha nearly led “Da Boys” to the championship game.

“It’s great. Last year was definitely more relaxing watching someone else coach the team. Hats off to the coaches last year, they did a phenomenal job with the team making it all the way to the semifinals in Williamsport,” Oda said. “This year, I feel very fortunate to get the opportunity again to coach 14 kids. We’re not there yet, but at least we have the opportunity to go further and hopefully qualify for the Little League World Series. Again, totally feel blessed and fortunate.”

HLL switches head coaches for its All-Star team every year on a rotational basis, and 2022 is Oda’s year to lead the team. Over half a dozen of the members of the 2018 team have already blossomed into legitimate college and professional baseball prospects, such as Aukai Kea, Jace Souza, Sean Yamaguchi, Mana Lau Kong, Chandler Murray, Ka’olu Holt and others. Oda says that while the 2022 team may be more laid back than the 2018 edition, he looks forward to seeing what this year’s crop can show on the field.

“This year’s group, a little less outgoing should I say. However, we can definitely expect that these kids will represent Hawaii very well. One similarity is that they’re going to be ambassadors of Aloha, we told them that that’s our mission: To play great baseball, but at the same time, really be good ambassadors of Aloha and really spread this Aloha to the rest of the world like the 2018 team did,” Oda says. “I think they did a phenomenal job of showing the world this is how people from Hawaii are; how we perform and how we play, basically how we respect everyone. We have some characters and we’re waiting to see how they show up on the field. Definitely a close group like the 2018 group, a very close-knit group. They support each other, they love each other and they’re definitely looking forward to taking on this challenge and responsibility of representing the 808.”

The West regional runs from Aug. 6-12, while the 2022 LLWS runs from Aug. 17-28. Whereas last year’s Little League World Series featured only teams from the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 LLWS features a full slate of American and international Little League teams for the first time since 2019. The size of the field has also expanded to 20 teams, with the U.S. producing 10 regionals. In Honolulu’s case, the West regional now contains just Arizona, Hawaii, and Northern and Southern California.

“It’s definitely way more competitive,” Oda says of the new regional format. “Now, you only have four teams; Arizona, Northern California, Southern California and Hawaii. Traditionally, these are the four best teams in the West region. The West region is traditionally one of the best regions in the country. Every game should be close, every game can go either way. As far as our approach to it, it’s the same thing: Play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch and if we’re fortunate to have one more run than the other team, great. If not, then we can always try again and we always tell our kids to just be focused on the effort. The results are gonna happen based on our effort and as long as we work hard and do our best to represent the 808 and make us proud, then of course whatever happens, it’s gonna be a great day.”