Kauai Boy Fights For His Right To Play Ball

Pono Tokioka
Pono Tokioka
Jimmy Tokioka
Jimmy Tokioka

(KHNL) - A deaf Kauai boy who was denied a sign language interpreter during a pony baseball tournament last year on the Big Island, won a settlement brokered by the Department of Justice.

A victory not just for eleven year old Pono Tokioka, but possibly for millions of youth athletes nationwide.

Make no mistake about it, Pono Tokioka is an all-star.

"Were very proud of Pono and his accomplishments in baseball to get to that level," Jimmy Tokioka, Pono's father.

Pono is at the center of a benchmark ruling stemming from an all star tournament in July of last year.

Pono was denied the use of an interpreter in the dugout by league officials. Today his father announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice on Pono's behalf.

As part of the settlement, pony baseball must now allow interpreters in dugouts. It must also make modifications for all players with disabilites, and put all league officials through sensitivity training.

"After a while it became not about Pono anymore but about many other kids with many disabilities and not only hearing impairments but many many other disabilities that people said please continue this fight," Jimmy Tokioka.

And the fight paid off.

Last month Pono made the all star team again. And this time his interpreter, his mother Beth, was right there by his side, "At this year's tournament I had an interpreter in the dugout and it was good it helped me to understand what the coaches were saying" says Pono.

And now other young atheletes will be afforded the same privlige. Something that makes Pono and his family extremely proud.

Nearly a half million childern play pony league baseball in the U.S. But this settlement could ultimately create a level playing field for millions of young athletes, as it sets precedent for other youth sports leagues across the country.