Makule Dream Team Impresses

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - October 13, 2010
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In case you thought that Hawaii’s best championship ballplayers were all of the Major League, Little League or NCAAsoftball variety, consider the story of the Hawaii Dream Team. This past month, 13 of our islands’top senior softball players went to Japan and swept the competition - winning the Tokyo All Japan Cup, the Hinohara Cup, the Meya Makule Cup and the Grand Trophy.

“It was the first time that a team from the United States had played in the tournaments, which were three tournaments in one,” says Dream Team manager Les Lunasco, a 69-year-old retired firefighter from Waialua, who also doubles as the team’s catcher. He says his team featured 12 senior players from Oahu and one from Maui.

“My oldest player was Ken Souza, who is 73 years old. He plays first base,” Lunasco says. “My youngest player is James Akau, who is 61. He plays third base.”

All 13 members of the team are retired. Dennis Taga, the second baseman, recently retired as a colonel in the Army National Guard. Denny Mohiko was a chief in the fire department. Ron Matsuura and Elroy Stupplebean are retired police officers.

“Most all of us play in the Makule (Senior) League every Wednesday morning at Central Oahu Regional Park,” Lunasco says.

He says this dream trip happened almost by chance.

“We were in Japan playing exhibition games a couple of years ago when we played a team from Ota (just outside Tokyo). They asked if we would consider playing and went to the tournament committee, and the next thing you know we were invited,” he says. “The people of Japan were so cordial. They really appreciated us coming over. They were a little apprehensive because the previous U.S. team they invited had pulled out at the last minute last year.”

But the Dream Team had no intention of not going. “We had 10 great days in Japan. Our wives came, too, and we had a great time touring the countryside and going shopping. We rode the bullet train, we went to Mount Fuji, and we stayed at fabulous hotels and went shopping at great places in Osaka and Tokyo,” he says.

And then for two days on the softball field, they got down to the business of winning every Cup in sight - finishing every bracket of play undefeated. In the championship game they faced off against Ota, the team that had invited them in the first place.

“We won, 5-3, and it was a very competitive game,” Lunasco says.

The title game featured four double plays by the Dream Team, with Taga and shortstop Sonny Miller turning the twin-killings. Outfielders John Hirota and Mel Aoki also made big plays - Lunasco called Hirota’s play “spectacular.”

Taga and Miller also were the hitting stars for the Dream Team, as the Hawaii squad powered its way to six doubles on its way to the championship.

The Hawaii seniors also were introduced to a true role models for all the softball players in the tournament - whether they were from Japan or the U.S.

“The Hinohara Cup is named for Dr. Hinohara, who is 99 years old, and he was there,” Lunasco says. “He doesn’t play in the games anymore, but he’s out there playing catch and hitting the ball around before the game. He looks to be in pretty good shape!”

The Hawaii Dream Team is hoping to see Hinohara when he turns 100 years old next year.

“We can’t wait to get back there to defend. They say they’re looking forward to us defending our title next year, too,” Lunasco says. “It’s a friendship thing, but it’s also very competitive.”

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