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Positive COVID-19 test strikes out Alaska little league team from major tournament

The Knik Little League All Stars.
The Knik Little League All Stars.(Photo courtesy Michael McNeil)
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 3:42 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Instead of playing in a game that would be nationally streamed and televised, the Knik Little League All Stars in the Major Division were forced to pull out of the U.S. North West Regional tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test for one of their players.

After winning the Alaska state championship in the Major Division for the 10-12 age group, the Knik Little League All Stars qualified for the U.S. North West Regional Tournament in San Bernardino, California. The winner of that tournament advances to the Little League World Series.

The team flew down to California on Thursday, a day earlier than the other teams in the tournament. Its members were then tested for COVID-19 and went about their business before their first game, which was set for Monday morning. The positive test result came back on Friday and, according to Little League International’s COVID-19 guidelines, the team was forced to forfeit.

It is with great sorrow that we report... our LL Baseball team has had a positive Covid test and has, IAW LL policy, been removed from the LLWS regional tournament.

Posted by Knik Little League on Saturday, August 7, 2021

According to head coach Mike McNeil, that isn’t even the most frustrating part of the whole situation. McNeil said the teams that arrived on Friday are still waiting on their test results but are already playing games.

“I guess in hindsight, we should we should have showed up last, instead of first,” he said. “We’d at least get a game or two ... I mean, if we could at least get one game in, that would be an experience of a lifetime for these kids and coaches and players and family and friends from all over, for Alaskans to turn on ESPN and see, you know, their kids representing their state.”

McNeil said the kids obviously took the news hard, but he doesn’t think that the weight of the situation will fully set in until they get back to Alaska. That won’t be until Aug. 15, with the team having to stay in California for 10 days after the positive COVID-19 test. McNeil and the other coaches and parents are trying to keep the kids busy while in California, but when they turn the TV on and see the other little league teams playing, that’s when the disappointment really sets in.

“It’s not about me, it is about the families. It is about the kids,” McNeil said. “I mean, and I don’t mean to overdramatize what it means to kids, but I’m not sure you can overstate how important it was to these kids. I think they will really know, whether it’s a week, six months, a year, or five to 10 years down the road, where they really don’t understand what was taken away from them.”

The Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With how everything has worked out in the past week, the Knik Little League All Stars will never know how far they could have gone.

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