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Don Rosenthal had a positive impact on generations of West Siders

By Staff | Mar 22, 2018

He is a man that has been perhaps our greatest impact player in creating a healthy growth pathway for the youth of the West Side.

For some 35 years or more, Don Rosenthal has led the effort to provide keiki here sports activities to nurture an active lifestyle in their most important child development years.

So as Dandy Don and faithful wife Phyllis leave on a jet plane next week to retire in Oregon, the West Side community extends its most heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for all they have done to malama pono – to nurture in a motherly way that which is good and righteous – our children.

A native of Minnesota, Rosenthal came to Maui some 45 years ago after a shoulder injury curtailed a semi-pro baseball pitching career and a stint in the United States Marine Corps, where, he said, “I felt like Gomer Pyle.”

“We were looking for a new adventure,” he said today, and indeed they found one. They started a family and worked tirelessly at nighttime jobs at resorts while Don fed his sports addiction as a pioneer with the West Maui Youth Athletic Association that began in 1983.

His work with WMYAA included groundbreaking advances with West Maui Little League Baseball, West Maui AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization’s first commissioner in Lahaina), Lahaina Flag Football League, Lahaina Junior Golf and, perhaps most notably, with West Maui Youth Basketball Association.

“Da Commish” established WMYBA in 1983 to meet the ever-increasing need to fulfill the hoop dreams of the West Side youngsters who wanted to play basketball.

At the time, there was only the Maui Menehune League team – the traveling middle school program – coached by the godfather of youth basketball in Lahaina, Al Dasugo.

Rosenthal worked for the West Maui Parks and Recreation Department at the Lahaina Civic Center, and it worked in a natural progression for him to start a youth basketball league.

He recruited supporters, sponsors, coaches and staff to start the program; and today, after 35 years of joyful action, the West Maui Youth Basketball Association stands as Maui’s outstanding kids’ hoops program and a model for other districts to follow.

Throughout those 35 years, the league has grown from two divisions to the present four, made up of the preschoolers’ Termite, kindergarten to second grade Tiny Mite, third to fifth grade Peewee, and sixth to eighth grade Midget divisions that provide an always fun atmosphere for over 400 kids every winter.

Rosenthal’s life work in this area has paved the way for many of these children to gain a love for sports and team ethics, and pave the way to collegiate careers and education.

It has been a priceless contribution to the integrity of the West Side community as a whole, and we send our heartfelt mahalo and aloha to Don and Phyllis in their new adventure in the Northwest.