Joyous Whalley team awaits Dio Gama's arrival at Little League World Series
Whalley, B.C.'s Little League team is thrilled at the news their top slugger will be joining them after all at the Little League World Series.
The team found out Wednesday night that 13-year-old Dio Gama would be allowed to compete with them in Williamsport, Pa., and their coach said it was an explosion of emotion.
"We were just finding out he could come when we were walking in the parade," Mike Marino said. "So we took the players into the team bus immediately after and told them the news. I wish you could have seen the look in their faces and the celebration. Just pure joy."
When the boys found out that Dio is coming: <a href="https://t.co/X7ozu3VBZN">pic.twitter.com/X7ozu3VBZN</a>—@WLLBALL
Dio Gama, 13, is the team's leader. He had two triples and four RBIs in the team's national championship win over Glace Bay, N.S., to send them to the prestigious baseball tournament. However, the celebration for Gama was bittersweet — he knew that there was a good chance he wouldn't be joining his team in the United States because of immigration issues.
Gama was born in Las Vegas and has American citizenship. His parents are Mexican and are seeking refugee status in Canada. But because their latest application is under review, their lawyer advised the family that Dio shouldn't leave the country for fear he wouldn't be let back in.
But on Wednesday evening, the family received a letter saying Dio would be able to go after all. Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen granted Dio a temporary resident permit that allows him re-entry into Canada.
<a href="https://twitter.com/Devin_Heroux?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Devin_Heroux</a> we look forward to welcoming Dio and having him join his teammates <a href="https://twitter.com/LittleLeague?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LittleLeague</a> World Series soon..and are very happy this young boy won’t be denied this wonderful experience... <a href="https://t.co/AqdxIKMTUE">https://t.co/AqdxIKMTUE</a>—@littleleagueceo
Marino said the team and coaching staff never stopped believing Gama would be there to compete with them, and even rejected the idea of flying in another player to take Gama's spot on the roster, all in the belief that things would work out.
"We talked about (replacing him.) But we have been planning this entire week as if Dio was going to be in our lineup," Marino said. "We were only going to address him not being there if it came to an hour before the game. We just kept it positive."
Team Canada takes on Panama in their first game at the Little League World Series Friday night at 6 p.m. ET. Canada has never won a Little League title — the closest the country has ever come to winning it all was in 1965 when Stoney Creek lost in the championship game.
Marino said the team is feeling confident and excited for this opportunity.
"It's a great vibe right now and Dio coming adds an extra spark," he said.
For Dio, the past week has been a mix of emotions. From winning the championship, to having to tell his team and coaches he wouldn't be able to come, to finally finding out he would get to go, Dio said it's been a roller-coaster.
"I feel amazing. I am really blessed and so thankful for everyone who helped make this happen," Dio said from his home in Surrey, B.C., Wednesday night.
"I can't believe it. I can't wait to be with my team."
The family is hoping to put Dio on an overnight flight Thursday, which would get him to Williamsport in time for the team's first game.