Youth baseball leagues still waiting for fields to open

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Hilo Pony 13 All-Stars celebrated a state championship last June at Walter Victor complex en route to winning the PONY World Series. It remains to be seen if there will be youth baseball at Walter Victor this summer.

If it’s opened, they will come.

Twice postponed but not yet deterred, Hawaii PONY Baseball has rescheduled a bevy of state tournaments for Labor Day weekend in Hilo, pending state and county approval.

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The latter’s consent could become a sticking point.

Hawaii PONY region director Gwen Earl said tournaments in as many as five age groups are a go as soon as she receives confirmation that Hawaii County fields are open. Kauai’s league recently received the go-ahead to start its season after being delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but under Mayor Harry Kim’s eighth emergency rule, released June 13, large venues on the Big island remain closed.

“For Maui and the Big Island, we haven’t been given a date,” Earl said. “Hopefully, some time this month, we just don’t know when.”

However, Big Island PONY president Wayne Yamauchi sounded unsure that his organization would be able to participate even if Kim opens the fields up soon. Yamauchi’s board will meet next week to plan a path forward.

“We would have to practice the whole month of July and play in August,” Yamauchi said. “I don’t know if we’d get to play in a state tournament and put together (an all-star) team.”

There also may be a scheduling conflict, he said, since the annual PONY Baseball Memorial Day Tournament in Kailua-Kona was rescheduled for Labor Day weekend.

“A lot of kids might not play (this summer),” Yamauchi said, “and we have our winter league to think about.”

Little League also could focus on fall ball, said Big Island district administrator Gene Narimatsu.

He said Hilo, Ka’u and Gold Coast (softball) were “holding out hope” of having a season and playing district championships. North Hawaii and West Side won’t participate this season, he said.

“It’s hard to say when we would need to get the go-ahead in order to play this summer,” Narimatsu said. “We might be able to play some games, but everything is hypothetical.

“Hilo threw out an invitation to hold a state tournament, but nobody could commit.”

Also on ice is the Nobu Yamauchi RBI League. Under normal circumstances, the league that Wayne Yamauchi leads would be preparing to send two baseball teams and one softball squad from the Big Island to California this summer for West regionals.

“It’s so sad that COVID came about,” Earl said, “but I believe that there are a lot of things being set in place, Zoom and such, that are going to be the wave of the future.

“We have to take it from day to day. I’m just hoping that everyone will make a decision that will keep everyone safe.”

HHSAA extends

suspensions

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The Hawaii High School Athletic Association announced it was extending the suspension of practices until “return-to-play guidelines” have been adopted for the reopening of facilities and workouts. Previously, the HHSAA set Aug. 17 as target start date for football, with the five remaining five fall sports beginning two weeks later.

Ostensibly, Wednesday’s release could be seen as a reminder that voluntary workouts also are forbidden at this time between players and coaches.

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