Tyler Rice, 28, was surprised when he got a response from a Honolulu minor league parent, giving him the chance to cut the team’s hair the day before the national championship.
He was even more surprised when they gave him tickets to watch them win the World Junior League Championship.
Rice moved from Honolulu to the province of Lebanon when he was four, and from a young age he instilled in him the idea of national pride. This was partly why he was willing to help the team from Hawaii that had been carving their way to glory all summer.
It was while attending Cedar Crest High School when Rice first started cutting his hair, and he would do it for his friends when they needed it. He said it came naturally to him at the time and was something he was getting better at with time. In the end, he was cutting hair for people around the school as a way to make a little money.
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After graduation, he briefly considered going to college and then joined the workforce in counseling services before enrolling at the American Beauty Academy in Lancaster, where he received his barbering license.
He worked in local stores for years, even becoming a manager at Lifestyle Barbershop before the pandemic left him without a steady income. During that time, he cut his house hair, because he needed to pay the bills, and people still needed a barber.
“Being a barber, it’s not just about the services I provide, it’s like the experience itself,” said Rice. “Talking to people, kind of like a therapist, do you know what I mean? We talk about people’s everyday things, some of their struggles, the good things that happen and the bad things.”
Since the pandemic, Rice has been working at Salon Element on Hauck Street in Lebanon, renting his own place, working his own hours, carrying clients and always taking in new ones.
“He lives it,” said Jared Murray, 32, a manager at Hemm’s Barber Shop on Walnut Street, Lebanon. “Some guys who cut hair don’t live it up. Tyler really does a great role with great clients. He created a community around him by cutting hair.”
Murray, who had known him for nearly a decade, took Rice under his care when he started cutting his hair professionally for the first time.
He said, “I’m like an older brother to him.”
The idea to serve the Little League team first came to Rice while he was watching them play during the Little League World Series on TV.
“I realize these kids have been on the road for about a month, they’re away from home, and I’m looking at their hair coming out of their hats,” he said. “I’m like yeah, they’re wolves, how cool would it be if I could (cut their hair)?”
His girlfriend encouraged him to reach out to one of the team’s coaches on social media, but he received no response from him.
Then he noticed that one of the player’s mom spoke frequently on ESPN about her son and decided to reach out to her.
“She was like, believe it or not, there are two kids here who wanted to get a haircut but didn’t know if the barbers here would know how to cut their hair.” He said, “I was like, ‘I’d love to go up. I didn’t even put a price on it. I just wanted to do it, because I felt like it was something I had to do.'”
Rice and his mother arranged for him to come to the team’s hotel in Williamsport for a haircut Friday, August 26, the day before the United States Championship when Hawaii plays Tennessee.
Murray said Rice asked him to come with him to Williamsport to help him, but it was too late during one of the busiest times of the year, and he wasn’t able to.
While it was a great experience for him, Murray said he knows it means something very special to Rice.
Rice has cut the hair of several players, some of their siblings, the three coaches, and even some of the parents.
“I’m in this room with little kids running around, and there’s a bunch of other kids, and there’s parents, and I’m a total stranger you know. But they took me like I was my family.”
The team gave Rice all sorts of gifts, things he could only get from Hawaii, team-branded clothing, and, to his surprise, four tickets to the game against Tennessee.
Rice returned the next day with his family to watch the Hawaiian Little League beat the Southeast Tennessee champions 5 to 1, cementing their place in the World Series.
After the match, the coaches asked the even more surprised Rice to return the next day with his family to watch Honolulu’s confrontation with Curacao on the World Series.
The team beat them 13-3, becoming the 2022 World Champions of the Junior League.
“I just saw how hard they worked, and being from Honolulu and I from Honolulu, we had this connection that I felt,” he said. “I know PA is very far away, very different from what they are used to. To give them that sense of comfort, that even though you are far from home, there are still people here of that kind, who have the same culture as you and have the same lifestyle.”
Rice said he would do it again, and the coaches have said they won’t be retiring anytime soon.