Softball: Pahoa’s Degele returns for ‘the love of the game and helping the young students at the school’

  • Coach Frank Degele

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Frank Degele coached Pahoa High’s baseball team for 33 years, and Wednesday he’ll begin his 16th season as the Daggers’ softball coach when they host Kamehameha.

Frank Degele was at Pahoa’s softball field at 3 p.m. Tuesday taking temperature checks for his players and preparing the field until 7 p.m.

That’s been his way of life for 49 years for the longtime BIIF coach, who coached baseball for 33 years for the Daggers and is in his 16th year with softball.

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The Daggers host Kamehameha in a high school game at 4 p.m. today at Pahoa Regional Park. No spectators are allowed. Pahoa hosts Ka’u next Tuesday.

Degele, 74, already has the BIIF record for longest service as a league coach. He has no plans to stop anytime soon.

“As long as I can get on the field,” he said. “It’s the love of the game and helping the young students at the school.”

His dedication isn’t lost on Pahoa athletic director Hoku Haliniak.

“Coach Degele is an athletic director’s dream from paperwork, volunteering at games and projects, early at practice, last to leave, awesome jokes, plus being Santa Claus, and so much more with his main focus, always about the kids,” she said. “Just (Tuesday), one of his softball players needed help. The sister called coach, and he went to help his athlete. He always says if someone needs help, and I can help I’m going to help.

“Besides my dad, the late Peter Haliniak Jr., coach Frank is 1.5 in my book, my dad being 1. He’s too much. He’s awesome.”

During this coronavirus era, there’s a lot more responsibility on coaches, especially with the safety protocols.

“Practice is hard. You have to make sure the girls leave their masks on. After every batter, we have to shoot down the bat handle with Lysol,” he said. “The girls have to use their masks regardless if they’re on the field or not. We give each girl a helmet to take home. They use that helmet and take care of it. We have to wipe the balls down like volleyball.”

The starters will sit in the dugout and the subs under a tent outside the dugout. The team practices Tuesdays and Thursdays and follows the same protocols.

“With the Covid, the girls had to stay home, study at home and can’t go out,” Degele said. “They were calling when they could practice. They’re all happy.

“The parents have to drop off the girls. They can’t come to the field to watch. They can go up by the soccer field to watch but can’t come near the field. If they do, we have to call off the game. They need to realize it’s for their daughters.”

Sophomore Jaylynn Kaawaloa-Alidon will draw the start in the pitching circle, and the Daggers have other returning starters in sophomore catcher Jamie Pabro-Andres, junior first baseman Kaeley-Mae Kalawe, senior second baseman Riesnel Haili and junior infielder Hope Kamakeeaina and senior infielder Kuuipo Sylva, whon are from Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science.

Kamehameha has several seasoned players in senior second baseman Dioni Lincoln, shortstop Kawehi Ili, center fielder Kaula Martin, and sophomore third baseman Kahiwa Ili.

One parent who will be able to watch his daughter on the field is Derek Lincoln, father of Dioni, who’s a Pahoa assistant. Kalani Fernandez is the other assistant.

“Everything I tell the girls, they repeat it,” Degele said. “They know what they’re doing. They are good coaches.

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“The only thing sad is the parents can’t come to the field to watch. They have to keep their distance. It’s all about their daughters playing.”

And that’s why Degele is still coaching Daggers softball and closing in on five decades.