The Flyin’ Hawaiians
Our 50th state, known to many for its beaches, volcanoes and world-class surfing, wants you to know that it takes its baseball seriously – and it has the hardware to back it up. With two Little League World Series titles (2005, 2008) and one runner-up (2010), the Aloha State takes a backseat to no one when it comes to producing talent and success on the diamond.
Can’t make it to Honolulu? Don’t worry, they’ll come to you. In addition to playing tournaments in Nevada and Texas in recent years, the club has also traveled approximately 4,300 miles to Kentucky to compete against their mainland peers (for comparison, at 3,800 miles, Honolulu is closer to Tokyo than it is to Kentucky!). And, according to club manager Reagan Martinez, the Sluggers are planning to travel even further in the near future, perhaps to a location on the east coast.
Individual fundraising helps make these trips possible, but it’s the Sluggers’ family atmosphere that makes them fun, as well as memorable. “Every coach of every team,” says Martinez, “they take care of the kids like they’re their own sons. I think that’s what makes it a little unique and different. We would trust our kids with any one of our parents from our teams.” He adds: “We spend so much time together, it has to be a family atmosphere.”
That emphasis on family, which Martinez says is imbued in the Hawaiian culture, along with a passion for sports, has produced a number of stars over the years, including two-time World Series champ Shane Victorino (the original Flyin’ Hawaiian), St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, and Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Mariota, whom Martinez coached in football and says could have potentially had a successful career as a professional soccer player. Mariota is set to enter his third year as the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.
On the diamond, you can expect to see the teams from Hawaii approach the game much the same way West Coast teams do, as Martinez says the focus growing up is on the fundamentals: footwork, ball-handling and conditioning; however, don’t be surprised to see influences from the Dominican Republic, with lots of movement and focus on every pitch.
This summer, the Sluggers will embark on a return trip to the contiguous 48 to compete in Baseball Youth’s Reno tournament, so if you happen to be in Nevada, stop by the park and say aloha!
Story by Eric Kaufman – Baseball Youth | Twitter: Baseball Youth