KAHULUI – The DataHouse State Softball Championships began in 1977, and the fifth version of the event was held at War Memorial Complex in 1981.
Today, 32 years later, the Division II event begins a four-day run on the Maui High School campus at Patsy Mink Field.
It is a significant step for the Maui Interscholastic League and the Valley Isle.
“To have the Division II state softball tournament here on Maui, that’s a big statement for our league,” said Joe Balangitao, the MIL executive director.
“Every year at the HHSAA meetings we try to lobby to have state tournaments on Maui, at least every three years. I think it’s critical that they recognize that we have good venues on Maui and there should be a rotation to the Neighbor Islands.”
In an unprecedented 12-day span beginning today, the MIL will play host to four state tournaments – champions will also be crowned in boys and girls golf at the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course, and in Division I baseball at Maehara Stadium.
The softball tournament has been held off of Oahu only three times, the last in 1986 at Wong Stadium in Hilo.
“It is not only for our kids, but also for our families, because it costs so much to travel,” Balangitao said. “So, if the timing is right, a family could see at least one of their kids play in any sport once every three years. I think that is one thing that we should be looking at.”
Balangitao feels the Valley Isle has the facilities to make that happen. He would like to see D-II baseball here when D-I is not.
“Maehara is one of the best venues in the state, a beautiful field,” he said. “If we can get a little bit more seating at Patsy Mink, I think you could hold the D-I tournament over there. All that is good for Maui.”
Maui High athletic director Michael Ban, the coordinator for MIL softball, was a major force in landing the softball tournament during June’s Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association convention.
“We have been working on it for the last couple years and finally when the last phase was completed at Patsy Mink Field the MIL and I were able to propose a plan to have the HHSAA state D-II championships here on Maui,” Ban said. “We were able to get in there at HIADA – it was a unanimous vote, so we were very happy about that.”
The final phase of the Mink construction – the concession and bathroom building and additional seating – was completed last year. Hawaii and UH-Hilo played an exhibition game at the facility in 2011.
Ban said it is vital that fans support the state tournament this week.
“The whole state will be watching the success of this tournament, so we need everybody to come out and support these girls,” he said. “It is the first time it has been on this island, it is the first time that Maui High is hosting it on our field. It is some great competition, great food and we hope everybody comes out.
“Our goal is to one day host the D-I tournament and hopefully with a good showing we can lobby to have more tournaments here on Maui so our fans, spectators, parents can all watch some great competition.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com