The Whalley Major Allstars made their way to Williamsport on Sunday without one of their baseball brothers.
Immigration issues prevented Dio Gama from joining his teammates for the eight-hour bus trip from Mirabel, Quebec, to Pennsylvania, where the Little League World Series will be played starting this week.
Instead, Gama flew home following Whalley’s Canadian Little League Championship win on Saturday (Aug. 11).
“We’re doing our best to get him there, and we have a few days to make that happen,” coach Mike Marino said Saturday, before the bus trip. “We want him there, he deserves to be there, he’s a big part of our team, and it’s totally unfair.”
The Gama family, originally from Mexico, moved from Las Vegas to Canada a few years ago.
“They’re still waiting to get citizenship,” Marino explained. “Before we went, we asked about all that, and we were hoping it’d all be done by now, but it’s not sorted out. Lawyers were involved, and they’ve been told that they could go to the U.S. but won’t be allowed back into Canada after that. We’re not sure what his status will be.”
The family met with their MP on Monday and remain hopeful the issue can be resolved, according to Mark Deshane, a vice-president with the baseball association.
With or without Gama in the lineup, Whalley is aiming to win in Williamsport after dominating the national tournament in Quebec.
The Surrey-based team of preteens went undefeated in eight games, including Saturday’s 11-0 victory over Team Atlantic (Glace Bay).
Through the round-robin stage of the tournament in Mirabel, Whalley earned six wins and zero losses. In Friday’s semifinal, Team B.C. topped Team Ontario by a score of 8-2.
Whalley won the championship in a game called after four innings, due to the “mercy” rule of scoring 10 runs more than the competition.
It was Whalley’s sixth national Little League title in the organization’s long baseball history.
Marino said the players “are ecstatic” and excited about their trip to Williamsport, but they’re not yet sure what to make of it all.
“I think they don’t really know what they’ve done yet, to be honest,” he said. “They played a baseball game, right — just another game, another tournament, and that’s kind of how we’ve kept it. Just go out, play our game and do what we do. There’s no added pressure that way.”
The team has adopted a “family first” motto that seems to be working for them this summer, which included winning the provincial title in Trail on July 28 in a 6-1 victory over Lynn Valley.
“We do everything together, and we stick to that,” Marino said. “We do that on the field and we do that off the field, too. Like, when we were in Trail we rented three houses and all the families stayed in those – 13 families living in three houses, and we did everything together. It was cool. The families are great, the kids are great, and they all play for each other. If one has a bad game it doesn’t matter because another player will step up, give a hug and say, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re going to get these guys.’
“It’s pretty cool actually.”
Players and coaches live across Surrey and Delta, including Cloverdale, South Surrey, North Delta, Fraser Heights and elsewhere.
First up for Team Canada is a game against Latin America — represented by a squad from Arraijan, Panama — on Friday, starting at 3 p.m. PDT.
“We’re super happy to go there, but we’re not going there to lay down, either, we’re going there to win some games,” Marino said.
“We’re going there with the intention of winning, and we’ll see what happens, you never know.”