LIHUE — Leighton Ottoman represented the Makaweli Indians in accepting the Kauai Americans of Japanese Ancestry baseball league championship trophy for the 2017 season, and Jason Nakata and Shawn Ogata of the Indians were recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Players Sunday at Vidinha Stadium.
The recognitions were part of the Kauai AJA opening ceremonies marking the start of its 88th season of playing baseball. The league started in 1923 among the plantation camps of laborers who were brought here from Japan. Despite a break when World War II broke out, the league has continued until today.
“Appreciate,” said Tom Shigemoto, Kauai AJA president. “I wondered what to say as we start our 88th season, and my 25th year as the president of the league. ‘Appreciate’ is most appropriate. To the players, be thankful that you can play the game — being healthy and physically fit, and having an organization and coaches who bring this together so we are able to play with one another and have fun together. We are not enemies.
“I was going to do a farewell speech,” he said. “But I’ll postpone that. Look at us (in the leadership position). We all have white hair. We need some of the young people to come in with fresh ideas.”
Kauai will host the state AJA tournament at Vidinha Stadium, April 7 and 8.
Other AJA league officers are Brian Yamase, first vice president; Mel Nishihara, second vice president and league manager; Russell Maeda, league treasurer; and Gerald Ako, league secretary.
“As we gather for the 88th season of the Kauai AJA baseball league, may all the AJA members who take part in this league gain valuable experiences in sportsmanship, and promote physical development and recreation,” said the Rev. Tomo Hojo of the West Kauai Hongwanji in his invocation.
Teams participating in the Kauai AJA include Hanapepe, with coach Leroy Nonaka; Makaweli, with Mel Nishihara coaching; Kalaheo with Jason Koga and Zoom Bukoski as coaches; Lihue with Curtis Matsumura coaching; Garrett Agena leading the Waimea Tsunami; and Ikaika Pezario leading Kapaa.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 70 years,” said Ichiro Chiba, who has three generations of the Chiba family involved with the Makaweli club.