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May 1, 2012
PLAYING IN PARADISE: TEAMS SAVOR ISLAND HOSPITALITY - AND COMPETITION
KAHULUI, MAUI – The Pride of America cruise ship loomed somewhere in the background, hidden by a few miles of hills decked with exotic palms and old sugar plantations.
But in the middle of the green, green field of a ball stadium, the towering modern ship seemed inconsequential as a centuries-old tradition of welcome unfolded for the two Senior Softball USA teams from the Mainland.
Eight musicians blew giant conch shells an eerie tune of welcome, followed by a prayer of goodwill recited in the original Hawaiian tongue. As the prayer concluded, wives of the competing Hawaiian teams appeared and draped the SSUSA players and their wives with beautiful handmade leis.
In a move that tied ancient to modern times, Mayor Alan M. Arakawa of the Island of Maui – decked out in his senior softball uniform – presented SSUSA officials with a ceremonial wooden bowl to commemorate the games and the occasion.
Later in the day, the mayor would smack the game-winning hit to beat the USA-White team in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Maui was the second stop in the 2012 SSUSA Hawaiian tour of four islands. The two SSUSA teams played Hawaiian teams on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai from March 21-31. The SSUSA teams were made up of players aged 58 to 83 from throughout the mainland states.
“On each stop, Hawaiian teams provided not only great competition, but wonderful hospitality,” said Susan Ruth, director of SSUSA’s International Sports Holidays. “After each set of games, we enjoyed a feast provided by the teams – and even more memorable, were the friends we made on each island.”
“We would like to thank Ed Schell for setting up the games and events in all of the islands and creating a magnificent experience,” said Ruth.
The tour began in Oahu, where the USA White and USA Red teams played the Hawaiians and Hawaii Masters in Honolulu before boarding the cruise ship “Pride of America.”
The two SSUSA teams and their families enjoyed the cruise ship amenities until they docked at each of the islands, when they played ball and enjoyed the hospitality of their Hawaiian hosts.
After the first stop in Maui, where the SSUSA teams played Maui Braves and the Hailamas, they docked at Hilo to play the Poomaikai and Honomu Rockets (and enjoy traditional live music throughout the games).
The second stop at the Big Island (Hawaii), was Kona, where the SSUSA teams played the Kona Gold and Rays and were treated to a feast on a beautiful beach after the games with a welcome by the mayor of Kona.
And the final port was Nawiliwili, Kauai – the Garden Island – where the SSUSA teams played Lihue A’s and East Kauai.
“The last games ended with another great feast at the field – and wonderful hospitality and friendship,” said Terry Hennessy, SSUSA chief executive officer and manager of the USA Red team.
The overall records reflected the close competition of the games, with the USA White team (managed by SSUSA President Bill Ruth) finishing 3-3 and USA Red finishing 2-4.
Most Inspirational Player for USA White was Rich Shiliro, Best Offense was Jack Aronson, and Most Valuable Player was Dan Vasquez.
Most Valuable Player for USA Red was Mel Colwell, Best Offense Bobby Davis, Best Defense Dave Weinman.
Three 80+ players were honored for inspirational play. They included Moon Mullen of California, John Gratzek of Minnesota and Al Murray of Florida.