When the Long Island Braves arrived in Kaua’i on Tuesday, they were looking forward to the “4th of July Classic,” a competitive baseball tournament which was to field 18-20 teams of various Pony League age groups.
They said they were promised a welcome luau on Wednesday, an “Aloha” Barbecue on Sunday, an awards banquet with trophies and at least four games for each of the two 17-18 age group teams it brought 7,000 miles from home.
But when the New Yorkers arrived at the Kaua’i Coconut Resort, 76 of them in tow, there was no welcome from tournament officials, no luau, no BBQ, and no teams. In fact, there was no tournament at all. Officials on Kaua’i said the tourney had been cancelled in May.
“Everything was going fine – the flight, the hotel – everything until we arrived at the resort and found out there was no tournament,” said Chris Tranchina, the Braves’ head coach. “We were never notified that the tournament was cancelled. We were extremely disappointed and felt cheated.”
Tranchina discovered an advertisement for the Kaua’i 4rth of July Classic at the website, www.baseballtravel.org, which to this day still promotes the tournament on its site. Through the website he came in contact with Carl Clifton, a Colorado resident who has been a promoter for youth sports tourneys in Hawaii for five years and provides business to the Ridgequest travel agency, which booked the Braves’ flights and hotels.
Following hours of fundraising and approximately $70,000 in payments, Tranchina and his Braves were set for their trip to Kaua’i. It was going to be a break from their usual trip to a tournament in Canada. Given the costs – about $1,000 a person – it was a good deal. They had no idea the tournament wasn’t going to happen.
Clifton, who was responsible for telling the Braves the tournament was cancelled, told Tranchina prior to arriving on Kaua’i there would be tournament officials at their resort who would greet his teams and provide scheduling information. When Tranchina found there was no tournament, he attempted to contact Clifton, but said the organizer’s cell phone was out of service.
Clifton, who receives compensation for the teams he organizes to come to Hawaii tournaments, told the Garden Island that as far as he was concerned, the tournament was going to happen.
“I told coach Tranchina that the tournament was going to happen because I thought it was going to happen,” said Clifton, who noted he was unable to be contacted recently because he had to travel to Michigan after the Colorado fires provoked a lung condition. “I told the Kaua’i tournament officials they had to host the Kaua’i Classic because the teams had already committed.
But Pat Baniaga, who helps run island tournaments with Al Soto, said he sent an email to Clifton on May 23 clearly stating the tournament wouldn’t happen. He said that he and Soto made the decision to nix the tournament earlier this year when they found it only attracted three commitments from outer-island teams, both from New York, and because at the time Kaua’i didn’t have a Colt League. The tourney wouldn’t have worked.
Baniaga said he understands it was Clifton’s responsibility to contact the team, but didn’t know why the Long Island coach failed to check with tournament officials before travelling to Kaua’i.
“They received no itinery, schedule or information on the tournament, and they never attempted to contact us,” said Baniaga. “If I didn’t receive anything, I would want to call and make sure everything was straight before I brought my team.”
Despite their unfortunate situation, Baniaga, Soto and Kaua’i residents have done their best to show the Long Islanders the aloha spirit. Tranchina says the two Kaua’i administrators, along with Dondi Viquelia, have gone out of their way to make the Braves’ trip worthwhile.
Viquelia offered his services, free of charge, to umpire games between the Braves and teams from the Kaua’i Summer League, which changed its schedules to accommodate the Long Island team. They played in a scrimmage on Thursday and will play again today in a double-header versus the Bruddahood and the Zaps at Hanapepe Ball Park, starting at 10 a.m. They may play on Sunday against one of the Kapa’a teams as well, although that plan has not yet been confirmed.
When Tranchina returns to New York, he said he wants to let others know what happened to his team so that they can avoid being victimized in the future.
“We got a chance to visit Hawaii and play baseball, but we are still disappointed that there was no tournament,” said Tranchina. “When we get back, we want to make sure people know what happened, because we don’t want others to have to go through what we went through.”