Daniel Rivera had something in common with everyone who attended Saturday’s Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation baseball regular-season conference opener — he was anticipating the start of the season.
Rivera, a grandfather of Red Raider player Lucas Rivera, was ready for what should have been one of the most competitive seasons in KIF memory.
Rivera knew what every KIF spectator knew, that any one of the island baseball teams this season would be more than capable of representing the island well at the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Division II state baseball championship.
He stated he understood the reasons behind the HHSAA suspending its season because of the outbreak of COVID-19 that has momentarily paralyzed the world.
Still, he also thinks about the players, specifically the seniors, some of whom might be competing for a chance to get noticed by small colleges or competing with teammates they grew up with for the last season.
In the industry of sport, finality is inevitable and swift in specific scenarios for players, coaches and athletic directors.
For the seniors of the KIF, that final moment may have already come and gone. The Red Raiders’ parents were aware of this, and chose to decorate the stands for what became senior night.
“It sucks, and it’s bad for the kids, if you know what I mean,” Rivera said. “They all practice hard, and it’s a short season. What are they going to do after that? I know they shouldn’t be getting sick. I think it’s kind of bad for them.”
Bryton Lumabao, whose brother-in-law’s son Cory Soares plays for Waimea High, was surprised when he first heard the news of the suspension.
Lumabao wore the school colors of the Menehune proudly, as did many of the other parents, relatives, family and friends in support of these hard-working kids. Even though Lumabao knew the logistical reasons behind the suspension, he admitted being surprised.
“I was shocked,” Lumabao admitted. “The kids worked all year for it, and each team has a bunch of seniors. The seniors are losing out.”
The reason for the initial shock was that Lumabao was most likely thinking about the seniors, individually, and especially Soares, whom Lumabao has supported throughout his baseball career as a spectator. All of the moments Soares got to experience throughout the years with his teammates are now history.
It’s as if the coronavirus itself expedited the natural progression of time for the seniors.
“I know it’s all about the kids’ safety,” Lumabao said. “I feel for the kids because they worked hard and everyone is trying to get to the championship game. I just wanted Waimea to be able to make it (back) to the state tournament.”
Nerio Lazaro, father of Waimea player Kainalu Lazaro, wasn’t surprised at all about the cancellation.
Lazaro admits he has had a lot invested in his son’s success and baseball career over the years.
“It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve been watching the media, and I knew what was going on,” Lazaro said.
“They want to control the outbreak and isolate (the spread of the virus). It’s rough with what we are dealing with, but then again, this is some of the first disruptions (on our islands). It will eventually trickle down to education in the classes, which is kind of good because spring break is next week. Hopefully, we try to limitactivities. I will continue to train with my boy and do backyard training.”
‘Put Me In Coach’
In 1984, musician John Fogerty wrote a song titled “Put Me In Coach,” which became a staple at arenas during warmups, and still to this day can be heard at the local ballpark, arena, minor league field and classic rock stations.
Fogerty wrote that after being inspired after attending the 1984 Major League All-Star baseball game in San Fransisco, and even though the song is now fading for the likes of more flashy and high-end stars such as Wiz Kalifa, Tyga and Lil Wayne, it may be apropos.
“We were all shocked,” Kaua‘i player Dahlus Hood said. “We felt like it was going to happen. Hopefully, it doesn’t take a turn for the worse, and we can play a little bit more. We hope this isn’t the last day we are playing baseball. We will still practice, stay ready and continue to play by going harder and harder, and hoping we get another chance.”
Waimea Senior Tysson Unciano is taking the news in stride.
Because of the extraordinary circumstances beyond the kids’ control, they may have fewer memories playing together than they would have under a regular season.
“This could be my last game,” Unciano said. “Hopefully, this is not, because everything would pass by and we are just enjoying the ride, going through it, and living in the moment. If we aren’t going to play, we just have to keep doing what we do, keep warm and enjoy the memories we have left.”
Jason Blasco,sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.