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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pearl City Juniors finish fourth

 •  Hilo rolls into Ripken title game

By James Briggs
Special to The Advertiser

TAYLOR, Mich. Scott Sato never thought he would walk across the white rightfield chalk of this ballpark again.

The last time Sato, 35, stood in Heritage Park, he was throwing a baseball to the sky after recording the final out in the 1984 Junior League World Series. He played first base for the only Pearl City team to win the World Series.

But here he was again, watching his son, Keanu Sato, who has been playing here all week for Pearl City, which lost 7-0 to Venezuela yesterday in the third-place game of the Junior League World Series.

In the process, the Satos became the first father-and-son combination ever to play in this World Series.

"This is awesome. I never thought I'd be back here, especially for my son," Scott said.

Pearl City came within one game of the championship, but lost 4-0 to El Campo, Texas, on Friday in the semifinals. Still, it has been a special week that the Sato family including Dennis Sato, 59, Scott's father who couldn't come here in 1984 always will remember.

"It feels good knowing I made it here, and so did my dad," Keanu said. "Even though we didn't win, it still feels good. I'll remember every part of this place. The team, these players, everything we did."

His father can attest to that. Scott hit a home run during the 1984 World Series and still has the ball. Keanu laid down a bunt-single on Thursday that drove in the winning run against South Bend, Ind.

"He's having a blast," Scott said, adding he and his teammates from the 1984 team are "still all good friends. Every time we see each other, we tell stories."

One of Scott's old teammates, Ron Nakamura, is here as an assistant coach for Pearl City. Nakamura, who also homered during the World Series, said he can still remember exactly where he hit it.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be back," Nakamura said.

Playing in the World Series is a life-changing experience, Nakamura said. It was true for him, he said, and also will be true for the players who are here now.

"I've seen it from both sides, in the dugout and on the field," he said. "(The players are) learning they can achieve something like this by sticking together as a team. Even the losses teach character."

Before starting play this week, the players all touched the sign honoring Pearl City's 1984 championship. Since Pearl City continues to build a strong baseball tradition, reaching the Junior League World Series for the third straight year and fifth time overall, this year's tournament run might prove to be the first of many bridges between past and present teams.

"Hopefully when (Keanu) has his kids ..." Scott said, pausing for a moment and looking out at the field. "Wouldn't it be great if I could come back as a grandfather?"