Alakai Aglipay built a name for himself at a very young age as one of the players on the Little League World Series championship team from Ewa Beach in 2005.
He has continued to contribute to Hawaii’s baseball community and now he has the chance to make his mark as a high school baseball head coach. Last week, Aglipay was promoted from an assistant to Maryknoll’s head coach to replace Eric Kadooka, who unexpectedly stepped down.
The Spartans were 4-9 at the time of the coaching change and are 4-11 now, with the ILH tournament awaiting. What can the infusion of a new coach do now that it’s crunch time? Aglipay is going to find out.
The Spartans open the tournament on April 20 at No. 7 ‘Iolani (10-5).
“I feel like this is a great opportunity,” Aglipay said Friday. “I’ve been coaching for a while in important roles, in multiple sports and for different schools. I’ve learned from a lot of different coaches that I believe has helped make this transition easier. I’ve had so many people reach out to me in the last few days and congratulate and even offer to help me out. From people I’ve played against, to my old teammates from high school and college, I feel very blessed for this opportunity. I know it won’t be easy, but I have the right support system around me in place for me to be successful in guiding the team.
“There are always challenges in a season. That’s what makes our job as coaches fun. We have an opportunity to make a positive impact on a kid’s life. We have a young crop of kids, which is a positive, but that can also bring along a few challenges. A challenge because of the experience they possess as ballplayers, but positive because they have room to grow and become the best that they can moving forward. So, what my coaching staff and I are trying to accomplish as the season hits the tail end is establishing a belief that they can do it and compete among the best in the state. From there, we have been harping on and reinforcing what we’ve done this season — doing the little things right. We can’t go from Step 1 to Step 4 and skip 2 and 3 and expect positive results. We have high expectations from discipline to execution, and these kids have shown growth already in the last week, so I really believe we are continuing in the right direction.”
Aglipay — who is a football assistant at Punahou under Kale Ane — was hired as an interim coach for baseball at Maryknoll, but will be applying for the job next season.
“We have a solid foundation for this program to compete at the D-I level,” he said. “I, along with the entire coaching staff, want to continue making an impact as coaches while we have this opportunity to do so.”
Aglipay, a 2010 Punahou graduate, played for Kadooka during the latter’s run of seven state Division I championships with the Buffanblu.
“As former player and coach under him, I have a lot of respect for him and what he has done for baseball in the state of Hawaii,” Aglipay said about Kadooka. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have won at the high school level under him, but even more grateful for the opportunity to serve the Maryknoll baseball program in this role.
“I believe the responsibility is now on me to help instill a sense of pride, morale and character into the team and program. As interim coach, it’s my hope that the team and the entire program understands that we are headed in a positive direction that will in turn lead to success both on and off the field.”
From 2013 to 2015, the Spartans won state Division II championships under coach Randy Yamashiro.
Agilpay thinks the right staff is in place for success at the higher level.
“Right now, we have youth and flexibility,” he said. “We have brought up a lot of underclassman and most are in starting roles. We have been competing in most of our games and with time, this team will gain the experience to finish the games. The seniors now have set an example for the younger players and the standard of how the game should be played. What we need to improve in is our physical strength to last the entire game or season. With time, discipline, and hard work, I’m more than confident that we’ll get there.”
Three Spartans have been the team’s catalysts, according to the coach.
“Justice Yamashita has been a workhorse for us all season,” Aglipay said. “He’s the first to show up and last to leave type of player. He works out after games and practices, and his hard work has been showing all season. He’s a pitcher and every game he’s kept us in it with an opportunity to win.
“Payton Grant is our starting first baseman. He is coming off his senior basketball campaign, winning a state title for the school. His transition into baseball was slow in the beginning, understandably due to basketball, but at this point of the season he has proven to be a leader of this team. He works hard at practice and keeps the boys focused every game. He goes hard on every play that he is involved in and communicates very well among the boys. His brother is a freshman on our squad and he loves to make sure he’s doing his part as well.
“Tyler Quinn is our starting catcher. He’s another player for us that has kept the team loose. He’s a good kid with a solid attitude. He must be one of the better defensive catchers in the state. In practices, he’s been helpful by working hard at his craft and giving his best effort.”
Agipay has a lot of great memories from that Little League World Championship team.
“There are way too many funny stories or moments from that year,” he said. “People don’t realize how close we were as a team. We were family. To this very day I still hang out with a bunch of my World Series teammates. The day of the world championship game against Curacao, a player was being shown on TV before the game icing his elbow and he looked like he was in pain, but the reason why he was icing was because earlier in the day most of us were playing around in our dorms and wrestling with each other for some reason. Most of us also played football together, so we were being pretty rough with each other. I don’t know if our head coach knew what was going on, but we were there when our teammate hurt his elbow and we all looked at each other in silence. On the flip side, we were also all teasing him for hurting his elbow because he was the instigator of why we were playing around. We were thinking, ‘There’s a good chance that Curacao isn’t messing around in the dorms on the day of the world championship game’ like we were. Typical local boys from Hawaii. There are so many stories. We really were extremely close.”