Canadian player can't travel with team to Little League World Series due to immigration problem

Ryan Young
Yahoo Sports Contributor
When Whalley heads to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, this week to represent Canada in the Little League World Series, it will do so without one of its best players — who has to stay in Canada due to an immigration issue. (AP).

When Whalley, British Columbia, beat Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, 11-0 on Saturday in the Canadian national Little League championship game, a massive celebration ensued on the diamond. Whalley was headed to Williamsport.

Yet when 13-year-old Dio Gama — who hit two triples and had four RBIs in the win — reached his father, the celebration quickly turned to sadness. Dio started crying.

When his team takes off to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania this week to represent Canada, Dio won’t be with them.

An immigration issue is keeping him back.

“He’s torn into 100 pieces,” Dio’s dad, Noe Gama told CBC Sports. “As soon as the game was over he came to me and started to cry. It’s so difficult for him and me.”

Dio, who was born in Las Vegas, has lived in Canada for three years. His parents, who were born in Mexico, have been seeking refugee status in Canada for more than a decade. Though, according to CBC Sports, the family’s case remains in “legal limbo,” complicated in part because Noe has previously been denied legal status in Canada.

Noe was convicted in 1997 on a drug charge in the United States. He reached a plea agreement, and agreed to serve a 60-month prison sentence and to be deported from the country. Noe was released from a Mexican prison, where he served his sentence, in 2001, and arrived in Canada in 2008 with a visitor visa claiming refugee protection.

A federal judge ordered a review of their case last month. But because their case has yet to be resolved, the Gama family attorney advised that Dio not leave Canada because he may not be let back in.

So the team had to leave without him.

“This has always been my dream, to play for Canada at the World Series,” Dio told CBC Sports. “I was playing the national championship like it was my last game with my team.”

Dio has known for quite some time that this was a possibility — and even knew that he wouldn’t be able to travel with the team to the Untied States heading into the Canadian championship game.

Yet he didn’t tell anyone on the team, not even his coach, until the celebration was over.

“We were devastated,” coach Mike Marino told CBC Sports. “Not only is he a leader of the team, but he’s a great kid. He was devastated. We all are.”

Because he’s 13, it’s Dio’s last chance to play in the Little League World Series.

Marino and the rest of the team haven’t given up hope. They have written a letter to prime minister Justin Trudeau and have contacted other politicians explaining the situation, hoping for a last-minute miracle that would either speed up his family’s case or grant him an exemption so he could return to Canada after the tournament.

If it works, Marino said they will fly in Dio immediately. If they can’t get an answer before Canada takes on Latin America in the opening round of the tournament Friday, though, Dio won’t be able to participate.

“I appreciate what everyone is doing right now,” Dio told CBC Sports. “This has always been my dream.”

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