Exceptional coaching lifted team to victory
By Lee Cataluna
For every working man who ever finished a shift at Hawaiian Airlines and raced off to the ball field ...
For every dad who spent his one day off flipping barbeque chicken in a hot parking lot to raise money for uniforms ...
For every guy who has taken the angry phone calls from tita moms about "How come my keed is on da bench?," who saved up vacation time just in case the team got into the Neighbor Island tournament, who owns five times more shorts than long pants and will never get the skin below his sock line the same color as the rest of his legs ...
For every one of them and more, there is Layton Aliviado, the quintessential local coach who had a vision and determination and the ability to convince 12 boys from the scruffy part of town that they could be the best in the world.
The boys from 'Ewa Beach distinguished themselves with exceptional baseball in winning the Little League World Series yesterday, but what made them champions, what carried them through the low points, was truly exceptional coaching.
While other teams let momentary disappointment take root, turning bright eyes dark and making victory seem hopeless, Aliviado was able to snap his boys to attention at crucial moments, to get them past mistakes made and opportunities lost, and keep them focused on the job at hand.
And he did it without fussing and fuming and carrying on.
In the Saturday game for the U.S. championship, California's coach wasn't able to bring his boys back off the emotional cliff. When they started staring down the valley of defeat, all of the coach's pep talks and platitudes couldn't keep his players' hearts from swan-diving off the pali.
Aliviado's boys faced a similar predicament more than once in yesterday's game, but the difference in the outcome may be directly related to how they responded: They kept their cool and they fought back. Quietly.
The most daunting valley they climbed out of together came in the third inning, when a tag at the plate was missed by the home-plate umpire, allowing Curacao to take the lead.
What happened next showed the character of the team and its coach. There was no arguing in vain. No yelling at the umpire. Instead, Aliviado ordered his boys to shake it off. He kept the kids from pouting, kept them focused on what they needed to do next, kept them thinking like winners.
When the inning ended, there was no spillover in the dugout, no big speeches, no lengthy "I believe in you. You can do this. All of Hawai'i is watching" monologues on the mound.
Aliviado's message to his players was simple: "C'mon. Let's go."
He had installed the microchip of faith in each one of them long, long before that moment, strengthened that connection in countless sweaty hours on an 'Ewa-side ballfield, so that when he looked those kids in the eyes and said, "Let's go," they simply did.
And isn't that what makes all the difference, in baseball and in life? Shaking off the bad calls and setbacks and focusing on what needs to be done next. What an amazing lesson for a 12-year-old. What an amazing lesson for all of us.
I mua, Layton Aliviado, and the legions of true-believers just like you, with your chewing gum going, your blue-tint mirror sunglasses, and, wait, was that a gold rope chain peeking out of that shirt? You, with pidgin so heavy that the sportscasters didn't even try to translate. You, with few words but heavy meaning. You, with the best hours of your days and the best days of your life given up on some dusty field for the love of the sport and the aloha for the kids.
I mua, Layton Aliviado.
You da man.
Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.