2015 Interstate Softball Tourney: One Year Later It was the grand finale for the spectators, and it was the most spectacular game—and it just had to be the last game of the entire tourney on March 28, 2015. The Spokane boys kept hitting to the leftfield, and Betrick Lakkiñ Kaious, the Speedy-Gonzales leftfielder on the Oahu team kept chasing the near-homerun hits and pulling them down at the last instant each and every time. When dusk finally seeped in, the field’s lights automatically clicked and attempted to illuminate the entire field; attempted because the Elden Gillespie Softball Park in Westminster has been serving the city’s residents and the rest of Orange County for years, and its lights needed revamping, especially toward the left field where the game’s high-flying balls were driven. Everyone thought that the sullied and diffused lights would have hindered Kaious’s view and created a double-vision for him each time he aimed, positioned himself and opened his glove, but none of those: precision was his game.
Meanwhile, Mr. Neamon Tokjen, aka “Nemo,” was the lone pitcher for the Spokane, WA team who truly stood the test of time—he singlehandedly pitched the entire series for his team from the Pacific Northwest. He was the one who threw those consecutive curve and knuckle balls, and when the batters from Oahu swung in slow-motion, missed and agonized in pain-and-disgust, it usually was the change-up that kept creeping in. From the outset till the last and the most spectacular game, Nemo was consistent, confident and calm; he never showed any sign of fatigue as he shook and nodded his head to the catcher and gave the intimidating-look to the first and third basemen. Endurance was his mission, and the MVP award was his accomplishment.
Five visiting teams came together, collaborated and launched the 2015 Interstate Softball Tourney—a first, focusing solely on fastpitch softball: Oahu, Hawaii; Sacramento and Orange County in California; Enid, Oklahoma; and Springdale, Arkansas.The generosity of the Pacific Islander Health Partnership (PIHP), a 501(c)(3) entity in Garden Grove, CA which funded the tournament, essentially made the special event possible. Aside from the games’ supplies and gears, we were able to hire an Orange County league umpire; the PA system amplified the announcements, the play-by-play and the stunning island live music performed by well-known artists who traveled from the other states just to share their musical talents: Salt Lake City’s Cashman, Sacramento’s Tokran, Spokane’s Kitamon and Orange County’s own and the tournament founder Francis Langinbelik.
Through PIHP, we were able to erect several selling booths for foods and beverages, island handicrafts and fabrics. A special meals and snacks booth stood and fed the competing players from each of the six teams all-day long; and two booths were designated for the visiting teams and their fundraising coordinators to showcase and sell their exotic island foods: fresh from Hawaii, dried & undried saltfish, coconut fruits & juices, island lollipops and hot coconut fruit recipes. The visiting fundraisers were more than elated to sell all of their goods and amassed some real profits.
The tourney’s takeaways are multi-faceted. We opened the sports event by recognizing our island church and traditional leaders through the opening ceremony, thereby reinforcing our humbling foundation. Pastor George Briand and Traditional Chiefs Kili James and Rody Nakamura took the field and sprinkled their blessings. The local folks of Orange County—through keen leadership from the families of Francis Langinbelik & John DeBrum—gladly intercepted the visiting players and made them feel at home. The two families and their friends entertained and ascertained that the players were fed breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then some, during all of the five days they were in town. PIHP provided the funds, and the families and friends prepared and served the several hundred meals.
Two of our good friends who visited from Arizona really shined as guanine team players. Titus Bolkein & Greeken Samuel kept showing up early and leaving late at the meals staging venue, Francis’ home, to man the onslaught of meal-gobblers who, naturally, were athletes. These two gentlemen kept near, were always looking and asking how best to help, and were ever-present through the endless days of community interaction. From barbequing the fish to cooking the perfect rice, and from juggling the water canisters to hauling the countless cases of beverages, and from day one to the last day, Titus & Greeken were absolute godsends. If the so what question is to be posed, and if it would be fair to claim that everything came to fruition in retrospect, the 2015 Interstate Softball Tourney left its permanent footing on good terms: not only will the event continue every other year, but it has evolved into a 2-prong annual tournaments when it rotates from a softball in one year to a basketball in another. This upcoming weekend in Costa Mesa on March 19 & 20, the basketball portion will roll in and open the first interstate basketball tournament as a spin-off of the 2015 Interstate Softball Tourney; and next year in 2017, plans are already in place for the 2nd annual softball series. An island sports event cannot be solely composed of sports per se. It comes with an island tradition, composed of delectable island foods, moving and swaying island music, rekindling of the island spirits, and deep respect toward our customs. If the 2-prong sports festivities can bring our people together from Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland, we hope to sustain and solidify this back-to-back gathering. And if PIHP will continue be our sustaining partner, then all of our interstate communities will always remember who and what PIHP is: an advocating entity whose focus on health reaches afar.