First Family Of Hawaii Baseball
Babe Ruth once said, “Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world.” It’s a sentiment shared by the Eldredge ohana, in many ways “the first family of Hawaii baseball,” who have been pitching and batting for some three-quarters of a century. More than 10,000 young baseball players have been touched by an Eldredge during this time period.
Taking the name Eldredge comes with deeply rooted responsibilities and commitment. Baseball fever runs through their veins, and the family has learned that you can expect the high or curve balls in life, and no matter what happens, you must keep on swinging until you hit a home run. It all began with the late David Pinkham Kaiana Eldredge II aka “Pop,” who started the passion back in Lahaina in the 1920s.
“Grandpa was a young kid who enjoyed playing baseball with the older generation. As an adult, he began what was known today as the Manoa Little League,” says Duane P. K. Eldredge of Pop, who was the sole coach for all the teams in Manoa during the ’50s, and was known to have put in blood, sweat and tears to build the Manoa Valley District Park all by himself. The elder Eldredge also was affectionately called the “Mayor of Manoa.” He passed away a few days short of his 90th birthday back in April 1997, the same year that the district’s City Councilman Andy Mirikatani and
I introduced a resolution naming the facilities at the park in honor of Duane’s grandfather.
Today, young athletes and Hawaii sports fans enjoy a 30-acre recreational facility that has one baseball field and three softball fields.
Believe it or not, my family and the Eldredge ohana were neighbors in Manoa back then, and Pop had my parents convinced that the two youngest Hannemann boys should consider joining his sons and go down the street and become Buffanblu. As fate would have it, we moved to Kalihi and lost contact, and my brother Nephi donned the maroon and white of Farrington, and I became an Iolani Red Raider.
The family’s baseball athletic bloodline includes Pop’s sons Dave Eldredge III and Pal (a perennial Yankees fan like me), and grandsons Boy and Duane Eldredge. They were recognized as Hawaii’s Youth Baseball Family of the Year by USA Baseball in 1992. The men have and continue to serve as coaches, teachers, cheerleaders and mentors to generations of youths in Manoa, Moiliili, McCully, Mililani, Ewa Beach, Lahaina and other towns statewide, and collectively have garnered numerous awards and prep championships through the years. Boy, a star athlete at Punahou and BYU, recently was named athletic director at St. Francis School.
Duane Eldredge perpetuates his grandfather’s legacy by overseeing Hawaii Baseball, an organization, through its all-star squad Team Hawaii, which provides high school ballplayers special opportunities to advance to the next level. His grandpa, dad and uncle all led Team Hawaii ball squads at one time or another, and Duane is taking his turn now. For his outstanding efforts during the past 14 years, he has just received the 2014 Chuck Leahey Award for his significant contributions to the sport of baseball. As all 808 sports fans know, the Leaheys are another talented “first family of sports” — immortal sportscaster Chuck (the author of “the half a manapua short of the end zone” phrase), his son Jim and grandson Kanoa.
“What I was taught was that no matter what we do, it is always about life. And sports in general is a great teacher of life. You learn how to work hard. You have to take the ups and the downs, the wins and the losses and learn how to battle around the bad times so that you can become better,” says Duane.
Duane’s recognition stems from the exposure he has been giving to hundreds of baseball student-athletes eager to be discovered by pro scouts and college recruits. Two of his players who made the major league are Kurt Suzuki, who now plays for the Minnesota Twins, and Kirby Yates, who is with the Tampa Bay Rays. Currently, Duane is prepping players for the Arizona Fall Classic, an international showcase for high school juniors and seniors, in October in Peoria, Ariz.
“Hawaii boys are talented and they can compete against the very best. My brother Boy once asked me in 2000 if I could gather a good enough team to play with some of the most competitive baseball athletes on the Mainland,” says Duane. So he rounded up 24 boys and took them to the Classic, where they got to impress scouts. The rest is history.
“Kurt Suzuki was on that team. Year after year, the boys who travel with me to Arizona get better and better. Today, more and more scouts are looking to me to produce the next Shane Victorino,” he says.
And somehow you feel that because he stands by his grandpa Pop’s motto of “Live, love and pitch,” he is going to come through — after all, he has the Eldredge name to live up to.