Prep players returning to field in All Pono league

Baseball games set for Saturdays in April


Play ball!

It’s not exactly what they originally had in mind, but Craig Okita and the Maui baseball community will take it.

Okita, a two-time world champion head coach in Little League play and head coach for Baldwin High School, is the commissioner of the All Pono Spring Baseball League that is set to begin play in April, likely as soon as Saturday.

With the Valley Isle’s COVID-19 numbers too high for the state Department of Education to clear the Maui Interscholastic League for practices, the APSBL was born.

“I got confirmation that the MIL sent an email to the county releasing the fields (on Saturdays) in April and Jon (Viela) with All Pono is in the process submitting some additional paperwork that will be required for the All Pono permit,” Okita said Tuesday. “At this point it looks promising that we will start April 3rd as requested.”

The MIL currently has priority for the use of the Maui High and Eddie Tam fields for weekday practice and games on Saturdays.

With the need for nearly a month of conditioning and practices to take place before DOE-approved scrimmages can be held among high school teams, the MIL has given their Saturdays to the APSBL for games to be played on Saturdays at each field, pending and expected approval from the County Parks and Recreation Department.

“Because of the need for an extended re-conditioning period for our student-athletes and because the high average COVID-19 positive case count on the island has not allowed us to start practices, scrimmages currently set for Saturdays in the month of April will be postponed,” the MIL said in a statement emailed to The Maui News from the state DOE on Tuesday. “We are hoping to hold such scrimmages in May and we thank the County of Maui Parks and Recreation for their patience and understanding.”

The MIL will keep priority for practices on weekdays, in case the county COVID numbers decrease to the point where practice is allowed. The numbers are evaluated on a weekly basis.

The APSBL will include club teams comprising student-athletes from Baldwin, Maui High, Kamehameha Maui, Lahainaluna and King Kekaulike. There will also be a combination team with players from St. Anthony and Seabury Hall.

“We are going to be at two parks and I have everybody playing once and I’m going to try to get another game with our (Baldwin) guys with whoever else wants to play,” Okita said of the tentative slate for Saturday. “Since it’s just the first weekend, I didn’t want to doubleheader anybody who wasn’t ready, but I’m going out and searching for a second game for us.”

Games are tentatively set for 9 a.m., 12:30 and 4 p.m. Okita wants each team to play a full round-robin slate of five games, at least.

“I’m hoping everybody goes out with uniforms, at least so it’s like a league — it’s just the whole feeling for the kids, that’s what I’m after,” Okita said Monday. “The seniors — I felt bad for my son and the kids I coached last year who lost a year — but these kids have lost way more. They’ve lost their whole entire senior season and senior year. Those are things that you’ll never be able to replace. I feel terrible for these kids and I’m going to do everything I can to help them out.”

The All Pono Foundation was also the sponsor of a smaller league that held games on Saturdays and practices for 60 players at the Maui High field in February and March.

This effort is much more wide-reaching. The team with Baldwin players will be called the Braves, Upcountry/King Kekaulike will be the Orioles, Maui High is the Royals, Lahainaluna is the Athletics, Kamehameha Maui is the Angels, and Seabury Hall/St. Anthony is the Rays.

“The last time was the Pono kids, right, all the kids who were in that organization already,” Okita said. “We just made two teams in each (age) division and we just played each other. This time around, since it’s pretty evident that the MIL season will not happen, hey, let’s go try to do something for all the kids on Maui.”

Okita said the APSBL is standing by to take over practice times on weekdays, if and when a determination is made by MIL athletic directors that time has run out on the hope to play spring sports in a scrimmage-only format. Some golf and tennis matches have been tentatively slated between MIL private schools, but with graduations looming in mid to late May, time is short.

“Every Thursday they look at the numbers, so I’m not going to even go down that road — like I said I was hopeful that everybody could go practice on their own and then show up on Saturdays,” Okita said. “At this point, unless the MIL comes out and says, ‘You know, based on the numbers it doesn’t make sense to start, we’re not going to start, we’re going to release the fields,’ then I would probably go try and do something.

“I know they’re still hopeful just to get the kids out conditioning and doing something, so at this point I know they’re not going to use the Saturdays, so that’s what we’re after, just doing the Saturday thing.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.


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