Saturday, March 31, 2012

Smalltown news is major league coverage in Maui

KIHEI, Hawaii – One thing that amazes me about Maui – other than its beauty, weather and spirit – is the pride the island takes in its professional athletes. It’s like superhero status.

For example, when the Oakland A’s opened their 2012 regular season in Japan, the cover story for the sports section of the Maui Times the next morning featured a huge Associated Press photograph of Maui native Kurt Suzuki hitting a pitch for a double and an AP game story that included a graphic box entitled “From Maui to the Majors” with a headshot of the A’s catcher and a brief summary of his line in the box score from the game.

This is old school scrapbook material for the Suzuki family, the likes few newspapers offer these days, especially one that is the daily paper for an island of 150,000 residents.

Inside the same sports section that day was a similar “From Maui To The Majors” graphic box featuring another Maui native, Phillies’ centerfielder Shane Victorino. It listed his spring training statistics.

Who says exhibition games are meaningless? In Maui, they are front page news. If Victorino gets a hit in the last inning of a lopsided spring game against a pitcher with a number in the 80s on his back, well, it’s chronicled and highlighted in significance in Maui as the five-day weather forecast.

Some cynics may think this is a small-town news approach to journalism where the big events come off the police blotter. A-cat-stuck-in-a-tree-rescued-by-local-firemen breaking news story.

I think it’s refreshing. It goes back to the old days when local-boy-does-good stories were relished and wound up Scotch taped or pasted inside giant scrapbooks for generations to read. Now those stories get lost, buried or completely overlooked and ignored while celebrity news or negative, sickening, cable-TV-host-emotion-evoking news hogs the headlines.

The Maui News’ coverage of Suzuki and Victorino is welcomed news. Like the island itself, it takes us back to a time and place to the simple pleasures in life.


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