LAHAINA - While MMA is the rage, and youth wrestling programs are overtaking youth baseball in communities like Lahaina across the country, West Maui Little League is hanging in there.
Formerly one of the top youth sports programs on the West Side - in some past years with over 300 youngsters involved - the 2013 WMLL had two Majors Division (ages 11-12) teams, a Minors Division squad for nine- and ten-year-olds and Coach Pitch and T-Ball teams for the younger kids.
These two Majors teams, the Cardinals and the Phillies, battled each other over the 12-game regular season that ended last month, and now the top players from those rosters will compete in this year's District III All-Star Tournament at Kaunakakai Ball Park on Molokai.
The West Maui Little League Majors Division All-Star Team is competing in the 2013 District III All-Star Tournament at Kaunakakai Ball Park on Molokai.
The West Maui All-Stars are coached by Royden Ginoza, John Lopez and Jeff Felice from the Cards, and David Watson of the Phillies.
The player roster includes Dylan Smith, Daniel Smith, Tani Kim, Duke Miniham, Micah Barroga and Tyler Toshikiyo representing the champion Cardinals, and Rage Bush, Mason Arruda and Chandler Watson from the Phillies. The team mom is Denise Smith.
Play began last Friday with West Maui facing Lanai, along with Kihei, Molokai and Central battling for the District III title for the right to advance to the state tournament on Oahu.
"We've got some pretty good hitters on this team, and our defense is solid," said head coach Ginoza.
"The most important thing is that these kids really work hard. They've put out a lot of effort to get ready for this tournament. Longtime District III participant Upcountry did not field a team this year, apparently falling victim to the aforementioned shift to youth wrestling by many kids in the Kula, Makawao, Pukalani areas," he continued.
"We send a big mahalo out to Maui Jims for donating the use of their charter boat to take the team over to Molokai for the tournament," said team mom Denise.
"We did some fundraisers, selling kalua cabbage plates and baked goods, to raise money for the trip, and Nate Starkey of the Molokai Little League was kind enough to arrange vans and accommodations at a church hall on Molokai for us. Thank you to all who helped us out."