Moments before Honolulu took on Asia-Pacific to determine the champion of the Little League World Series, there was a special moment as the Sportsmanship award was given out.
Peachtree City and Honolulu, the two teams that played for the right to play Asia-Pacific, bonded throughout the nearly two-week tournament. Peachtree City parents and players even gathered money together to donate to the Salvation Army for hurricane relief for Honolulu.
The two teams were close throughout the tournament, and as both gathered on the field, it was obvious friendships had been made.
In an act that won’t be reported on nearly as much as their play on the field, Peachtree City American Little League, parents, players, and managers, donated to the Salvation Army for the hurricane relief in Hawaii.
“I have mad respect for Patrick (Gloriod) and his team,” Honolulu manager Gerald Oda said of the Peachtree City’s manager and players. “He’s a great guy. How he coaches his team with his coaches and how they play is actually a resemblance to our team. My coaches and I were talking before the U.S. Championship and said we are playing a team that looks just like us. It’s just a different part of the country.”
Prior to the U.S. Championship, Honolulu gave the Peachtree City team leis in a show of appreciation.
“My kids and the parents have been amazing,” Peachtree City manager Patrick Gloriod said. “I’m really proud of the way they’ve handled themselves through this whole tournament. They’ve really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Bonds will always be created when teams are housed together for nearly two weeks, but the ones shared by the West and Peachtree City seemed to run a little deeper.
“Hats off to Georgia,” Oda said. “We just have a lot of respect for them and their parents. We found out they donated to the Salvation Army to the hurricane relief for Hawaii. That’s just a reflection of those coaches and those kids and their parents. It really touched our hearts when we found out about it. What a class act.”
Whether its lucky rosin bags or hating his new found fame, Peachtree City’s Tai Peete has been one of the most memorable players throughout the entire tournament. He has grown close with players from all over the world and left an impact that plenty will be talking about after the Series.
Peete is a special player. Despite not enjoying the fame that comes with being one of the top Little League players in the world, Peete has thrown balls out to kids, signed autographs, and created friendships with players that will seemly last a lifetime.
“It has nothing to do with his athletic ability, he’s just a super nice kid,” Gloriod said. “I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger. He’s a great kid.”
Even the kids from Honolulu couldn’t hide how much getting to know Peete has meant to them.
Immediate after the game the against Peachtree City, Honolulu players reached out to Peete, as the Peachtree City team was stung by the bittersweet emotions of getting to watch their new friends progress one step further.
The Honolulu kids comforted the Peachtree City team. A special moment happened when Aukai Kea, the game-winning pitcher, hugged Peete and slapped him on the back. Not many words looked to be exchanged, but the act of kindness was enough as a slight smile crept across Peete’s face.
“We wanted to tell Georgia thank you, because they did such a selfless act by making a donation for the hurricane relief,” Oda said. “At the same time we were competitors, but we wanted them to know it’s just a game. We want these kids to remember that when they leave the field, we want it to be a positive experience.”
Honolulu and Peachtree City will depart Williamsport having fully understood the true meaning of what the tournament was all about. They each will also leave with a team full of new friends to always have a reminder of a special time in their lives.
“It was all driven by the parents back at the hotel,” Gloriod said. “They put that together. It was a very cool gesture.”
The parents raised $500 for the fund but passed a hat around during the U.S. Championship in an effort to raise even more money.