Tournament of Champions a hit

WAIMEA — Garrett Agena said Sunday that he had a relative playing for the Lihue Orioles in the Tournament of Champions T-ball tournament organized by Hanapepe Baseball.

“Just look for the ‘Agena’ on the back of the shirt,” Garrett said to a lady looking for the Lihue team. “I have a relative playing for the Orioles. I also have two grandsons playing now.”

Ryan Lee, the Hanapepe Baseball president, said grandparents are one of the reasons they put this first 16-team tournament together.

“We wanted something the grandparents could watch and enjoy,” Lee said. “The turnout and response has been unbelievable.”

Alden Pablo, the Hanapepe Baseball business manager, said the organization took advantage of the election season to get sponsors for the five fields spread out over the Waimea Canyon Park.

“We just put the word out to candidates and took the sponsorships on a first come, first served basis,” Pablo said. “Saturday, we were treated by an appearance of a candidate who took time to speak to the young players.”

Vincent Luis, coach of the Koloa Diamondbacks, made up of 4- to 6-year-old players, said having the tournament is good exposure for the kids.

“The kids love it,” Luis said. “Especially the young ones. They don’t have too many opportunities to be exposed to tournament play and atmosphere. They’re even having a home run derby.”

Teams participating in the tournament came from Lihue through Kekaha, each team playing at least three one-hour games a day.

“I’m just helping the Koloa teams,” said coach Vince Killeen, a coach with the Lihue Baseball League. “This is the first games for the Koloa teams. Their season starts Monday, and for the last two weeks, it’s just been practice.”

Lee said under the current league format, Hanapepe doesn’t have an opportunity to play the Kalawai teams, or other league teams because of the scheduling.

“This is a good way to have all the teams come together and enjoy playing with each other,” Lee said. “We call it the Tournament of Champions because when you watch the players, it’s so cool. We’ll try to make this an annual event.”

Michael Koerte, longtime baseball official, had two grandchildren to track down.

“The best part of this tournament is the goodwill,” Koerte said. “We have teams from all over playing, and no one is squawking with anyone. When I watch the games, it’s back to humble beginnings for me.”

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