Inside Sports for Wednesday — December 07, 2005

• The Tokioka Tribe has spoken


The Tokioka Tribe has spoken

By Duane Shimogawa Jr. – The Garden Island

In the immensely popluar reality TV show, Survivor, the words, “The tribe has spoken,” means that a cast member is voted off of the island and the Tokioka family made the same statement to the PONY Baseball organization yesterday, in front of a statewide panel of media on O’ahu, along with U.S. Senators, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka.

“As an organization whose mission is to coach and provide young athletes with an opportunity to excel, I was surprised and disappointed by the PONY Baseball’s treatment of Pono Tokioka. If anything, PONY Baseball should step forward, acknowledge its error, and then take reasonable actions to demonstrate that if a young person, with or without disability, works hard enough and perseveres, there are no limitations or obstacles. I wholeheartedly support the Tokioka family and their quest for fair treatment,” Inouye said.

And when reached for a remark yesterday, PONY Baseball officials declined to comment on the issue. Pono, who is not used to all of the attention, said that he had butterflies in his stomach yesterday at the press conference on O’ahu.

“I think it’s sad if I don’t get to play baseball anymore. If I don’t have an interpreter, I can’t play,” Pono said.

His mom, Beth, mentioned that his spirit remains high and that eventually, the right thing will happen.

Senator Akaka also agrees with the Tokioka family, calling Pono “a true warrior.”

“Fifteen years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disablities Act to tear down the barriers of ignorance and indifference that face millions of our citizens, our friends, and family members every day. We’ve come a long way, but as Pono can tell you, we have more to go. I hope this particular situation can be resolved amicably, because there can be no argument to support the decision to deny Pono and his teammates, his right to play ball,” Akaka said.

It’s a shame that this issue has to come to this level, but some good things have been brought to the forefront.

“It’s upsetting to us. I never thought it’d be an issue, but they (PONY) have made it a big issue,” Pono’s father Jimmy said.

It all started in July at the state tournament and it should’ve ended on the Big Island, but because of PONY’s unwillingness to display some sort of basic understanding, Pono is being held responsible for something that’s out of his control.

A rule is a rule and all PONY has to do is make an amendment to a policy that keeps Pono’s interpreter out of the dugout. How can an organization representing America’s pastime keep a youth from playing the sport he loves without reasonable accommodation?

Well, that answer sits in the hands of PONY Baseball, which seems to not be acting on behalf of what it really means to be an American.

I truly feel for the Tokioka family, especially Pono, who should be enjoying what every 10-year-old loves to do, instead of fighting for his right to play baseball.

“He asked me if he could go to class yesterday, instead of going to O’ahu for the press conference, because his class was studying astronomy,” his mom Beth said. It doesn’t take an astronomer to figure out what PONY Baseball has to do.

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