The Knik Little League baseball team that won the Alaska state championship is at the Northwest Region tournament in San Bernardino, Calif. Now they cannot play.
The team, 10-12 year olds, has been eliminated due to one player testing positive for Covid. That player is asymptomatic, but the entire team, parents, and support staff, and volunteers are stuck in California for the duration.
The team arrived Thursday, a day ahead of other teams in the division. That day they all tested for Covid-19, as is the requirement for the tournament.
The other teams arrived Friday and were able to play through the weekend because their Covid-19 results did not come back. The Knik team’s tests, taken the day before, came back Friday, said the team’s coach Mike McNeil. Because of their lengthy travel time from Alaska, they got penalized, while other teams didn’t.
The Little League International sent out a statement Friday afternoon, telling the team they would have to forfeit. Their first game was to be Monday morning.
Such is the era of Covid-19 policies. The rules are the rules.
McNeil said the team’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for a chance to go to the Little League World Series has been dashed. There are no do-overs, no second chance. The kids were taking it pretty hard, he said.
“It’s beyond heartbreaking to see these kids work so hard and come down here with a chance to play on ESPN, and then have it literally ripped away from them,” McNeil said. “No matter where you live in Alaska, this is the team that represents our state. Youth baseball on national TV is a big deal.”
McNeil said the group is trying to make the best of it and has as of yet been given no guidance for when they can travel.