No less than Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association president Michael White led the Class of 2014 enshrined to the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame last night at the NMASA Annual Sports Banquet at the Seaside Hall of the Kanoa Resort.
White was inducted to the elite group along with Melvin Sakisat, Bertha Chong, and Maggie Taitano-Olopai, joining the select circle of Jean and Bill Sakovich, Kurt Barnes, Mike Villagomez, Jeff Race, Frank Castro, Tony Rogolifoi, Tony Satur, Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios, Cecilia Lisua, Jose Tenorio Sablan, Ricardo Duenas, Antonio Benavente, Tino Olopai, and the late Jess Wabol and Irene Alpet.
“What a great honor to be recognized by the people you worked with. I was surprised with this award,” said White, who was asked to leave his hosting chores in the event for a while, as Race talked about his accomplishments and contributions to CNMI sports.
White was one of the founders of the basketball association on Saipan and has been officiating games for more than 30 years. He has served as NMASA president since 2002 and was instrumental in the association’s successful bid to take over the management and operation of the newly improved Oleai Sports Complex.
Meanwhile, Sakisat was also surprised with his selection.
“I did not expect to get this honor early. It’s a privilege and honor to be in the company of the great athletes and officials in the CNMI,” said Sakisat.
Sakisat was enshrined to the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame for his outstanding performance in both baseball and fastpitch and slow-pitch softball for the past three decades. In the fast-pitch softball, he was named MVP for six times, dominated every statistics in the league, and played multiple positions at the pitch. The San Roque resident, who helped the CNMI won a gold medal in the 1998 Micronesian Games in Palau, is also admired by his peers for his sportsmanship on and off the field.
Sakisat also took individual awards in baseball, winning the triples title (2008) and home runs (2005) and was named Pitcher of the Year (2007) and Golden Glove awardee (2003) in the Saipan Major League (now Saipan Baseball League). He also gained sportsmanship award in SML.
Based on the statistics gather by Barnes, chair of the NMASA’s Selection of Hall of Fame Committee, Sakisat has a batting average of .405, which is fourth all-time in the SML and he also made it to the Top 10 in the triples, home runs, and slug percentage.
The two women enshrined to the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame did not make to the awards ceremony, as both are off-island. However, Lisua, who was Olopai’s teammate in fast-pitch softball, accepted the award on behalf of the latter, while Barnes received Chong’s trophy.
Chong was considered as one of the top volleyball and basketball players in the CNMI for two decades. She was the first-ever recipient of the NMASA Female Athlete of the Year award, getting the recognition in 1982. Chong was among the best players in interscholastic volleyball and basketball leagues on Saipan, leading Mount Carmel School to championships in both sport from three straight seasons (1975 to 1977).
She also represented the CNMI in the Micronesian Games (both basketball and volleyball) in three occasions (1990, 1994, and 1998) and suited up for the Commonwealth team that participated in the South Pacific Games in Western Samoa in 1983 and in New Caledonia in 1987.
As for Olopai, she was recognized as among the Top 3 pitchers in the CNMI during the late 60s to 70s. Barnes described her as an unhittable pitcher because of her smooth motion and speed. Olopai led the girls fast-pitch league in ERA and strikeouts.