The past met the present when Hawaii’s new Little League World Series champions returned home Monday.
Waiting at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to welcome them was a pair of players who could relate to the emotional experience the young Honolulu team enjoyed Monday.
Caleb Duhay and Alakai Aglipay were at the celebration, and spoke with Rob DeMello during KHON2’s live coverage of the team’s arrival.
Duhay was the starting pitcher of the 2008 Waipio team that beat Mexico for the world championship.
“Unbelievably proud, not just me but everybody from Hawaii. To be on this side and be able to see the whole community of Hawaii as a whole and cheer on another team is just amazing to see, just to see what they’ve done and awesome that they can bring it back home once again,” Duhay said.
“When they come through all this right here, once they hit the island man, it’s just going to be chaos. Like life is going to change for them,” he continued. “I know for me as a kid, I didn’t know how to deal with it. There were just like so many reporters, cameras, and all that stuff going on, it’s going to be crazy for them. The next coming year, it’s going to be crazy.”
Aglipay was an infielder for the 2005 Ewa Beach team that defeated Curacao for the title, becoming the state’s first ever World Series champion.
“These guys are going to remember it for the rest of their lives. For me, it’s almost 15 years later and I still remember every bit of it,” Aglipay said.
Both players, along with former pitcher and baseball analyst Harrison Kuroda, say this latest victory just highlights the sheer talent that Hawaii has to offer.
“I’ve always said this, is that Hawaii has talent. Hawaii can play baseball, and it’s a product of playing in paradise. There’s no real offseason here in the islands, so when you’re able to hone your skill 24/7 every single day of the year, that’s something really, really important, especially in the youth level when you’re so, you’re trying to mold yourself and you mold your skills and stuff like that. I’ve always said Hawaii has a really, really high caliber of baseball,” Kuroda said.
“Just pure dominance and just really showing how really talented Hawaii is. We’ve got good baseball players – not just baseball players, but all type of athletes too. We proved to the mainland and the world that on this small island, we’ve got competitors,” Duhay said.
The emphasis isn’t just on the talent, but the heart. The consensus is clear: Honolulu’s Little League team has both in spades.
“That’s all you can really ask for. These guys are 12 and 13 years old, and so to play at this type of stage and at this type of level, it’s just, the expectation for players at this age isn’t to be super well-spoken and things like that and represent and stuff, but they checked all the boxes, so this team is going to be cherished for a long time,” Kuroda said.
“I think for this group, it just shows that Hawaii can compete with anybody. We’re one of the best in the world, and these guys are just another special group, and they’re just going to do awesome things as they continue their careers moving forward,” Aglipay said.
“Enjoy this moment. Enjoy it and continue to make bonds with everybody and create that friendship with everyone you come across. People are going to remember you 10, 15 years from now, so continue to show that aloha spirit that you guys had the last few days of playing. Continue that, represent well,” Aglipay added.