4 enshrined to NMSA Hall of Fame

Posted on Apr 22 2022

For their lifelong contributions to sports in the CNMI, Bob Coldeen, Keith Nabors, Jester Garcia, and Hermina Pua were inducted into the Northern Marianas Sports Association Hall of Fame during the 2021 NMSA Annual Sports Banquet Tuesday evening at the Kensington Hall of Kensington Hotel Saipan.

Of the four, Coldeen and Nabors were able to personally accept their NMSA Hall of Fame plaques, while Garcia and Pua were in the U.S. mainland and sent video messages thanking NMSA and their respective sports federations for the honor.

Coldeen was inducted in the Hall of Fame following a distinguished 28-year career as sports director of KSPN/MCV. For nearly three decades the University of Florida alumnus documented local sports and brought them into the lives and the homes of nearly everyone in the CNMI.

The now 70-year-old former Peace Corp volunteer, Rota High School teacher, and PSS federal programs coordinator did so by shooting his own video, writing all his own scripts, and diligently putting all his creativity into each sports newscast.

When not busy being the CNMI’s answer to Howard Cosell, Coldeen wrote books and poems, presided, volunteered, cheered, coached, and managed in all manner of sports events. The latter saw him manage many Little League teams to victory in regional tournaments that punched their tickets to the World Series in the U.S. mainland.

To be honest, Coldeen said he never dreamt of being part of the NMSA Hall of Fame and even remembered the time he first reported the genesis of the honor back in the ’90s.

Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee makes a short speech after accepting his NMSA Administrator of the Year award during the 2021 NMSA Annual Sports Banquet Tuesday evening at the Kensington Hall of Kensington Hotel Saipan. (MARK RABAGO)

“Funny, when I first did a story on the idea of creating this Hall of Fame decades ago, I never thought about joining. To get something you were not trying to get, frankly, blows my mind. All I ever thought about was making the next show as good as I could. This is the highest honor I’ve received, heartfelt. This award is like an official NMI lifetime stamp of approval. I feel blessed beyond. Truth is, I was just having fun doing what I enjoyed doing,” he said.

Coldeen also thanked a handful of people for helping him get the much-deserved honor, first and foremost being Mrs. Coldeen.

“I thank my wife Martha for her bottomless tolerance and understanding. Major credit goes to Mike Grandinetti and Peter Sinclair for asking me to be MCV’s first sportscaster, a dream come true, a life-changing move. Thanks to Tony Rogolifoi and Rose Igitol, baseball was a blast, the CNMI’s finest moments in my opinion. James Ada and Mike Borja made Little League something to look forward to every year. And the list goes on and on.”

All in all, he said he’s just happy to have done something he loved and enjoyed and the NMSA Hall of Fame induction was the cherry on top.

“Bigger than any individual even: this community, it’s vibe, cool, casual, with a sense of humor that meshes with mine. In 28 years, about 7,000 shows, and I cannot remember a bad experience. It was all fun and games. That’s what the Northern Marianas gave me, a happy and rewarding life for which I am forever grateful,” he said.

Nabors, meanwhile, got the nod for enshrinement for his more than 20 years of involvement in every aspect of sports on Tinian. He has mentored players in basketball, Little League, softball, baseball, American football, track, and slinging. Nabors also coached the Tinian Junior Senior High School that recently won the interscholastic boys high school basketball league championship for the second straight year.

“Thank you to my family, my sisters, my brothers, my kids—KJ, JD, who is in Delaware, my two younger boys, and especially my wife. Thank you for sticking with me through the hard nights and the late nights. Thank you!” he said after accepting his NMSA Hall of Fame plaque.

Pua used to play for the fabled Oleai softball team that captured multiple championships in the women’s league from the 1960s to 1970s. She played catcher for Oleai and is acknowledged as an outstanding hitter with a batting average of .600. She won the batting title in the 1975 season with an average of .680. Those feats were more than enough to assure her induction to the NMSA Hall of Fame.

“I would just like to thank my coach Kurt Barnes for nominating me and the board for choosing me for this very special award. I’m very thankful and honored. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart,” she said in a video recording shown during the 2021 NMSA Annual Sports Banquet.

Garcia distinguished himself with numerous outstanding achievements in the late 1990s to the early 2000s with baseball as well as basketball. From 1999 to 2006, he played in the Saipan Major League for the Brewers which was managed by fellow Hall of Famer Tony Rogolifoi. He won the SML In-field of the Year award in 2006; the playoff and championship MVPs in 2006; was an SML All-Star selection in 2006; played in the 2002 Micronesian Games in Pohnpei where the NMI won a silver medal; in the 2005 Mini South Pacific Games, Palau; in the 2006 Micronesian Games where the NMI won gold; and in 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau where the team took silver. From 2001 to 2006, he coached in the Saipan Little League program and was named coach of the year for the Junior League and coached the Senior League All-Stars.

“I just want to thank NMSA for electing me to the Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Unfortunately, I can’t be there personally but I’m humbled and honored for receiving this award. To my fellow inductees congratulations but this award wasn’t something I accomplished by myself,” he said in a video message from his Las Vegas home.

Garcia added there are a few people he wanted to thank and share his NMSA Hall of Fame award with.

“To my family and friends, to my wife who’s always been supportive of me, to my children they keep me young. To my mentors, Tony Satur, Tony Rogolifoi, Rufino Aguon, and the late Jess Wabol, they mentored me growing up and I’ve always looked up to them. And to my idols who I kind of molded my game after I watched them growing up and observed what they’re doing and took some pieces of their game and put them into mine, Tony Camacho, Phil Celis Jr., just to name a few…I was never the biggest, the fastest, and strongest kid but I worked my butt off to get better in what I do. I think if you put your mind to it, you work hard, and you do good. I just wanna be remembered as someone who had passion for the game and more than willing to give back to the younger generation to help them improve their game,” he said.

of the Year

Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee also took home the coveted NMSA Administrator of the Year award during the 2021 NMSA Annual Sports Banquet.

Under his leadership, the CNMI’s basketball federation made significant strides in 2021, which includes securing a corporate sponsorship for the first time for the five divisions of the PSS interscholastic basketball league, the establishment of “Bola” or the Mini Basketball Village Outreach Program, and securing multiple grants from FIBA Oceania for equipment and the growth of various programs such as “Bola,” Elite Women’s Program, and “Her World, Her Rules” Youth Girls Camp.

Lee was also selected as a representative for the FIBA Rising Coach Program and helped establish the first ever NMI senior and junior national basketball programs. He also introduced the Educational Tax Credit program to assist NMSA and other federations in gaining more funding sources for operations and competitions. To add to his numerous roles of leadership, he is also the strength and conditioning coach for all NMIBF national athletes and a member of the NMI National Outrigger Canoe Team.

In accepting the award, the MARPAC sales manager said his long list of achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the help of NMIBF’s board of directors and coaches.

“I wasn’t really expecting this so thank you so much. Everything that the basketball federation has accomplished within a year wasn’t just by me alone. It took teamwork and I’d really want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank them. My starting five Dave (Apatang), Marlene (Lumabi), Roselyn (Monroyo), Lia (Rangamar), Ethan (Kwon), Keith (Nabors), and of course Clint (Albert). Our sixth man national coach Joe Diaz, coach Cathy Toves, our athletes who have been there since Day 1 and giving me all they got from training in the morning to helping out with all the programs. Team managers all our supporters and guidance from them, to my mentors Jerry Tan and Tan Siu Lin Foundation, coach Eli (Rangamar), players’ parents as well, and last and not the least my wife, my personal MVP…thank you for always being there,” he said.

Each NMSA Hall of Fame inductee and the NMSA Administrator of the Year winner received a $100 shopping spree at I-Shop courtesy of the Tan Siu Lin Foundation.

The winner of the 2021 NMSA Team of the Year will be published in next week’s issue of Saipan Tribune.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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