Inside Sports for Sunday — October 30, 2005

• It’s a time to listen up!

It’s a time to listen up!

By Duane Shimogawa Jr. The Garden Island

Countless individuals have opened their arms to the Tokioka family, with regards to the situation surrounding their 10-year-old miracle worker, Pono, who might turn to golf, if the national rules committee for PONY Baseball doesn’t amend a rule to accommodate the hearing-impaired allstar.

After talking to him yesterday through signs from his father, Jimmy, and even through his soft, soulful voice, you could tell that he’ll be fine and nothing will stop him from making it in whatever he chooses to do.

He’s been fortunate to have such caring parents, who stand by him every step of the way.

In a perfect world, Pono would be born with the sense of hearing, but to tell you the truth, the lack of hearing has led him to heighten his other senses that are oustanding.

Plus, Pono has learned to deal with his disability and, instead of letting it get the best of him, he trudges ahead and keeps things in perspective.

When conversing with him, it’s hard to imagine that he’s only 10 years old.

And he’s passionate about the game of baseball, and yesterday was a great example of how much the game has impacted his well-being.

After talking to him about watching my first baseball game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Pono’s eyes lit up like a late-night Polihale bon fire.

He ran off a list of more than five ballparks that he’s been to, and he even mentioned the teams involved in the contests.

I’ve never been around or interacted with a deaf person until Pono, and I can tell you that I’ve been missing out.

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding deaf people. Instead, it’s that I’ve hardly ever been around hearing-impaired individuals.

And Pono makes me want to become more aware and educated about the matter.

In addition, I hope that the national rules committee for PONY Baseball relinquishes their stronghold of a rule that seems to be taking away something that is very special to a 10-year-old deaf boy.

It’s almost like taking away something you love just because someone else is selfish enough to take it away from you, for no apparent reason.

But Pono will be fine and the right thing will happen, just like anything else in his life.

His father Jimmy and his mother Beth knew when Pono was going to be deaf that there were trying times ahead and this incident is a great example.

However, if you’re a PONY Baseball official in charge of amending the rule, so Pono is allowed to have an interpreter, then you must feel extremely shameful, especially if you were one of the individuals who voted against the rule change.

After talking to Gwen Earll yesterday, who’s the Hawai’i State PONY director, it was apparent that she wants this situation resolved really soon.

She mentioned that she feels for the Tokiokas, and that all the Hawai’i Region leaders can do is recommend a change.

So the next step is to put the pressure on the National PONY organization leaders in Pennsylvania. But something tells me that they won’t budge, because they overwhelmingly struck down the amendment, 4-1, which appalled everyone involved with the situation, including young Pono, who is at the heart of the matter.

So this is the time to listen up and think about not only Pono, but other youths who could fall in the same situation in the future, because they deserve to be allowed the same opportunity as others — just a chance to suit up and play America’s pastime!

Besides, if baseball is America’s pastime, then why are we not allowing able youths to participate in the game they love so much?


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