KALAHEO — The fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Pinto Tournament begins today at Kalawai Park in Kalaheo.
The three-day youth baseball tournament is hosted by the Kalawai Youth Baseball Club. Twenty teams will compete — three from Oahu and 17 representing the Kalawai, Kawaihau, Lihue and West Kauai Pinto leagues.
“Usually, what happens is the Kalawai league just stays within the Kalawai league. We don’t travel to play any other teams,” said Christine Chow, Sgt. of Arms for the Kalawai Youth Baseball Club and tournament coordinator.
“Lihue does the same as well. West Kauai, their’s is different because they travel to the other (leagues), like Koloa or Kekaha for their games,” she continued. “For us, we strictly stay here. So, it’s a big deal when we have this tournament due to the fact that these kids, some will be playing each other for the first time. It’s really exciting. It gets really competitive by the end of the tournament.”
The first game is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today, and the last is set for noon Monday. Games will be played on four fields simultaneously at Kalawai Park.
Each team will have about 15 players aged 6-9 years old. Chow said the event is not so much a traditional tournament, but rather a goodwill competition.
“Not a tournament with elimination or anything. Everybody just plays four games, pretty much. Or five games,” she said.
The tournament will host a home run derby at 11:30 Sunday.
“Each team picks one player. They get seven pitches, and whoever hits the most home runs wins,” Chow said. “You’d be amazed at these kids. And it’s coach-pitched. Pinto league is coach-pitched.”
She added players from Waimea High School’s baseball team will be volunteering as umpires.
“It’s so much fun. A lot of those players played in this league,” Chow said. “It’s cool to see that whole camaraderie. Like, now the older ones get to mentor the little ones.
“I was here last year, and it was amazing,” she continued. “Parents are already setting up their tents. Usually, everybody sets up their tents, and in-between games the kids are all resting and running around. It’s a nice, open-field area. It gets crazy and fun.”
The tournament is free and open to the public.
Kaneohe Kapakahi (Oahu)
Wai-Kahala AC Tigers (Oahu)
Mililani Pirates (Oahu)
Lihue Dodgers B
Lihue Giants B
Lihue Blue Jays
Waimea Blue Jays
Hanapepe Cubs A
Hanapepe Cubs B
Hanapepe Cubs C