The CNMI Little League Major All-Stars and their parents can now heave a sigh of relief after the government approved their funding request, allowing them to take part in this year's Asia-Pacific Regional Championship in Tauchung, Taipei.
The team received official word that its trip to Taipei is pushing through during a last-minute meeting held by the Saipan Little League Baseball Inc. board of directors around 5:30pm yesterday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
About half of the team left at 4:20am this morning with the rest scheduled to depart the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport at 8:45am.
“We were getting nervous that the kids would not make it, but thanks to Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson, and the entire Legislative Delegation, the group will get to represent us in the 2012 regional tournament,” said SLLBI vice president Ray Yumul in a phone interview yesterday.
The team is made up of Kier Agda, Ryan Aguon, Richard Atalig, Ethan Babauta, Erik Cruz, Austin Hocog, Benen Iguel, Jay Kalen, Matt Kapileo, Aurel Mendiola, Brandon Pua, Joaquin Saralu, Virgil Secharmidal, and Nathaniel Torres.
Team manager Antonio Camacho leads the group with head coach Kent Kalen and assistant coach Peter Tomokane.
All 14 players are expected to make the trip.
The tourney features players ranging from ages 11 to 12 and starts on Monday and runs through Sunday, July 8.
In related news, new developments surfaced about CNMI Juniors All-Stars' James Kintaro Jr. who did not get to join the rest of the squad when they left for Vietnam Wednesday night.
According to his father, James Kintaro Sr., James' passport information was submitted on June 21 and he was not the last person to do so.
According to the Little League board, everyone's passport information was supposed to be submitted by June 15 because that is when the initial travel arrangement requests were supposed to be submitted, however Kintaro Sr. claims that June 21 was the deadline for everyone to submit their passports. On that date, Kintaro Sr. said his son's passport was signed and approved and was submitted to the board.
Needless to say, Kintaro Sr. was not pleased with the way everything unraveled.
“The SLL board members are a bunch of liars,” claimed Kintaro Sr. “They did not even have the decency to inform me that my son was not included with the group until 4:30pm on the day they left.”
Kintaro Sr. also claimed that the fundraising money was not divided evenly among the players.
Notably, there was apparently a discrepancy in regards to who the signing authority was for the travel arrangements during the time of limbo from June 15 to June 27 as they waited for their government funding to show up.
Kintaro's situation may involve problems with both his passport and funding.
“We are very sorry that James did not make the trip, but everyone was told to have their documents turned in on time,” said SLL board member Annie Deleon Guerrero-Flores over the phone yesterday.
Flores added, ”We don't want to buy the kids tickets and send them off-island without a passport. (James) could have still made the flight if he were able to come up with the extra funds like the other players' family did.”
The team was supposed to travel as a 15-person party under a group rate with Century Travel.
K.J. Deleon Guerrero was the other player that turned in late documents; he received independent funds to join the squad.
Assistant coach Henry Lizama was also left behind as a result because, by rule, only three coaches are allowed to manage teams of 13 players or more.
Kintaro Jr., Deleon Guerrero, and Lizama were listed as stand-by passengers before the final cuts were made Wednesday evening.