Tyler Rice, 28, was surprised when he got a response from a Honolulu Little League parent, giving him the opportunity to cut the team’s hair the day before the national championship.
He was even more surprised when they gifted him tickets to watch them win the Little League World Series.
Moving from Honolulu to Lebanon County when he was 4 years old, Rice had ingrained in him from a young age the idea of native pride. It was partly that reason why he was so readily willing to help the team from Hawaii that had been carving its way to glory all summer long.
It was while he attended Cedar Crest High School when Rice first began cutting hair, doing it for his friends when they needed it. He said it just came naturally to him at the time and was something that he got better at as time went on. Eventually, he was cutting hair for people around the school as a way to make a little money.
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 earned his barbers license.
He worked at local shops for years, even becoming a manager at Lifestyle Barbershop before the pandemic left him without a consistent income. During that period, he cut hair from his home, as he needed to pay bills, and people still needed a barber.
“Being a barber, it’s not just the services that I provide, it’s also like the experience itself,” Rice said. “Talking to people, kinda like a therapist, you know what I mean? Talking about people’s day-by-day stuff, 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, where he rents his own space, works his own hours, holds his own clientele and is always taking new clients.
“He lives it,” said Jarred Murray, 32, a manager at Himmey’s Barber Shop on Walnut Street in Lebanon. “Some of the guys that cut don’t live it. Tyler’s really a class act with a great clientele. He created a community around him by cutting hair.”
Murray, who has known him nearly a decade, took Rice under his wing when he first started cutting hair professionally.
“I’m like a big brother to him,” he said.
The idea to offer his services to the Little League team first came to Rice while he was watching them play during the Little League World Series tournament on TV.
“I realized that these kids had been on the road for like a month, they’re far from home, and I’m looking at their hair coming out of their hats,” he said. “I’m like yeah, they’re wolfin’ it, how cool would it be if I was able to (cut their hair)?”
His girlfriend motivated him to reach out to one of the team’s coaches on social media, but he didn’t hear back from him.
He then noticed that one of the player’s moms frequently spoke on ESPN about her son and decided to reach out to her.
“She was like, believe or not there’s a couple kids here that wanted to get haircuts but didn’t know if the barbers out here would know how to cut their kind of hair.” He said, “I was like, I’d love to come up. I didn’t even put a price on it. I just wanted to do it, because I felt like it was something I should do.”
Rice and the mother coordinated for him to come to the team’s hotel in Williamsport to cut hair on Friday, Aug. 26, the day before the United States championship when Hawaii would face off against Tennessee.
Murray said that Rice asked him to come up to Williamsport with him to help out, however it was too late notice during one of the busiest times of the year, and he was not able to.
While it would have been a cool experience for him to go, Murray said that he knew it meant something very special for Rice.
Rice cut hair for several of the players, some of their siblings, all three coaches and even some of the parents.
“I’m in this room with little kids running around, there’s a bunch of other kids, there’s parents, and I’m a complete stranger you know. But they took me in like I was family.”
The team gave Rice all sorts of gifts, things that he could have only gotten from Hawaii, team-branded clothing, and to his surprise, four tickets for the game against Tennessee.
Rice drove back up the next day with his family to watch the Hawaiian Little League team beat out the south east champion from Tennessee 5 to 1, cementing their spot in the world series.
After the game, the coaches asked an even more surprised Rice to return the next day with his family to watch Honolulu face off with Curacao in the world series
The team beat them 13-3, becoming the 2022 Little League world champions.
“I just saw how hard-working they were, and them being from Honolulu and me being from Honolulu, we just had that connection I felt like,” he said. “I know that PA is so far, and so different from what they’re used to. To give them that sense of comfort, that even though you’re far from home there are still people out here that kind of, have the same culture as you and have that same lifestyle.”
Rice said he would absolutely do this again, and that the coaches said they wouldn’t be retiring any time soon.