Athletes of the Week: Team Alaska surprises, inspires at Little League baseball tournament

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:24 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Young baseball players often dream of playing in the Little League World Series before they dream of playing in the Big Leagues, and Dimond West Little League was as close as any Alaskan team has to playing in the famed tournament.

For the first time since 2006, Team Alaska marched their way to the Little League Northwest Regional Championship Game in San Bernardino, California.

The 10-12-year-olds from Dimond West Little League defeated Team Idaho twice en route to the title game, ultimately falling to Team Washington.

“I think it was a dream come true to be able to compete on the local level here and advance and perform the way these boys did in California. I think Alaska gets undervalued a little bit in these though because we have some talented kids here and we don’t always perform the best we can when we travel that far but it is nice to get a little bit more respect in these type of situations,” Team Alaska manager Levi Robinson said.

As Alaska Little League District 1 champions, the team advanced to the Northwest Regionals in a four-team, double elimination bracket with Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Their only losses came to Washington, who will represent the Northwest Region at the 2023 Little League World Series, while they defeated Idaho twice. The tournament-opener was a convincing 10-2 win over Idaho that was highlighted by back-to-back home runs by Cole Seymour and James Darmrill. In their second victory, Cleto Brito garnered attention with a pitched a complete game, two-hit, nine-strikeout victory.

“I mean at first I was a little shy, but then I got through it and just played like no one was watching me on the cameras and stuff so I just played how I normally played,” Brito said.

He also garnered attention with his elite hair, which he has been growing out since birth.

“Everyone loved it,” Brito said after Team Alaska arrived at the airport late Saturday night. “It is just fun to look at and play with.”

“Cleto’s hair got a lot of attention for sure, got a lot of highlights,” Robinson added with a laugh. “But they deserved it, this team deserves some of that recognition because they really performed well on a big stage and it was really cool for these kids to get to come home, sit in the hotel, turn on SportsCenter and see highlights of their game for the day,”

While no Alaskan team has ever advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, this performance proves that it may just be a matter of time.

“Anytime you can see a small-town local community on a national stage like that, young children see that and get excited about being a part of that,” Robinson said. “I am impressed with the way these guys performed, I mean, I didn’t have to do much, I was just the coach who made the line up, these boys had to go out there and do the work.”