New Zealand, Guatemala SLWS teams persevere through travel challenges

Posted Aug. 12, 2012, at 7:08 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Teams from Auckland, New Zealand, and Guatemala City, Guatemala, spent an extra day in transit before arriving at Mansfield Stadium for the Senior League World Series, prompting a change in the tournament’s opening-day schedule Sunday.

The Pool B game between Bayside Westhaven Little League of Auckland, New Zealand, and U.S. Southwest champion West University Little League of Houston, Texas, originally scheduled for 2:30 p.m., was pushed back to 5:30 p.m. to allow for time for the Asia-Pacific champion’s team luggage — including gloves and bats — to arrive.

Another Pool B clash between U.S. Southeast champion South Beaches/Greater West Melbourne Little League of Brevard County, Fla., and U.S. West champion Lemon Grove, Calif., was moved up from 5:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The New Zealand contingent left home late Thursday, taking an initial 3½-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, and then a 14-hour flight to Los Angeles before boarding another plane bound for Chicago.

But the team’s next flight, bound for Portland, was canceled due to weather issues, ultimately forcing the team — which was due to arrive in Maine late Friday — to spend Friday evening in the Windy City.

The team couldn’t get another flight to Portland early Saturday, so it was rerouted to Newark, N.J. From there, the Asia-Pacific champions boarded a bus for the nine-hour ride to Bangor, arriving at approximately 11:30 p.m.

“It was the same for everybody, for all the tourists and all the passengers,” said New Zealand manager Cola Yeh of the extended Chicago layover. “I told the kids it’s just part of the experience, you can’t do anything about it.”

The New Zealand contingent was a little more concerned about having their equipment in time for their first-ever Senior League World Series game, but with the team’s luggage found and expected in Bangor by early afternoon Sunday, those fears abated when the game was rescheduled.

“We were worried because we were scheduled for a 2:30 game but we told Little League we couldn’t play without our gear, so they changed our game to 5:30 and it’s all good,” said Yeh.

The Latin American entry in this year’s SLWS, the Juvenil de Guatemala Little League of Guatemala City, also experienced a travel delay but it did not affect their pool-play schedule because it was not slated to make its tournament debut until 8 p.m. Monday against Canadian champion Notre-Dame-de-Grace Little League of Montreal, Quebec.

According to SLWS executive director Mike Brooker, the Guatemalan team flight was delayed by mechanical issues, forcing that party to remain in Washington, D.C., on Friday night.

Eight members of the squad subsequently left for Philadelphia at 8:45 a.m. Saturday while the other 10 members of the contingent left on a shuttle bus from Dulles International Airport to Reagan International Airport 10 minutes later.

The two groups then took separate flights to Portland, arriving two minutes apart shortly before 10:30 p.m. — with their luggage waiting there for them.

Brooker said the reunited contingent then bused to Bangor, arriving at 1:40 a.m. Sunday.

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