Little Leaguers back on field
Coaches, players thrilled to be playing again after getting county approval
KIHEI — The final score was Yankees 11, Dodgers 4, but that hardly mattered on Thursday evening at Dorvin Leis Field.
The Kihei Little League Majors Division game was one of the first sanctioned competitions of any kind in Maui County since the limited return of sports started during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nick Zingarelli, a rising seventh grader at Kihei Charter School, led the Yankees at the plate with a pair of doubles in a 3-for-3 day, but that wasn’t what mattered to him as he put his equipment away.
“It was really awesome that we could do this right now,” Zingarelli said.
The two Majors (11-12) teams in Kihei Little League had to submit their return-to-play permit plan to Maui County several times before they could return to the practice fields at Kalama Park two weeks ago. It took another couple tries to get their permit to play approved.
“It was really fun to just get out here and get active and get to play,” Zingarelli said. “I think everyone’s happy to finally be out here and play again.”
Yankees coach Josh James said the return to competition warmed his heart.
“We had a permit in place and then COVID hit and it actually expired right before the month of June and so Kihei Little League jumped through I can’t tell you how many hoops,” James said. “They had to submit three or four back-to-play plans and then we got permitted for only practices in the middle of June and that actually expired on June 30th and we didn’t even know if we were going to get to play.
“Then we got another permit for the first week of July and then they were submitting the back-to-game schedule and that had to be submitted twice. So, to get these kids back on the field is great. We’re trying our best to follow the rules so we don’t screw it up for the kids.”
Coaches umpired the game themselves and wore masks the entire two-hour, four-inning game. The players sat in the bleachers, not the dugouts, while parents and fans were perched in the outfield area to maintain social distancing requirements.
Dodgers coach Lopaka Kapoi was also overjoyed to get back on the field. His son Dane pitched on Thursday and daughter Arie played the entire game at first base.
“Oh, it’s always good, it’s always good to see the kids out there on the field,” Lopaka Kapoi said. “Just chilling. They don’t play other sports, so it’s good.”
Both teams got in about 14 practices before the first game of 10 on the schedule. They had been practicing for more than a month before things were shut down in March.
“This was short notice and it’s a learning curve,” Lopaka Kapoi said.
Arie Kapoi, a seventh grader at Lokelani Intermediate, was happy to be back on the field.
“Really fun,” she said. “I was a little bit excited, but I wasn’t expecting it. It felt good with all the hard work we had.”
Robert Collias is at rcollias @mauinews.com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP PHOTO: Yankees runner James Poling wears a mask at first base as the Dodgers’ Brocks Craig pitches in the first inning of a Kihei Little League Majors (1112) game Thursday afternoon at Dorvin Leis Field. The game, which the Yankees won 11-4, is one of the first sanctioned competitions of any kind in Maui County since the limited return of sports started during the coronavirus pandemic. Dodgers second baseman Cian O’Dwyer fields a first-inning throw as the Yankees’ Levi Bello tags second base. Yankees coach Josh James hands off the game balls to Dodgers coaches after wiping them off with disinfecting wipes.
LEFT PHOTO: Dodgers players physically distance as head coach Lopaka Kapoi talks to them before they take the field for Thursday’s Kihei Little League game at Dorvin Leis Field. RIGHT PHOTO: The Yankees’ Cross Huey connects for a first-inning single.