Play ball!

Lit­tle Lea­guers back on field

The Maui News - - Front Page - By ROBERT COLLIAS Staff Writer

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

The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER pho­tos

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.

The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER pho­tos

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.

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