How Little League World Series trip presents COVID-19 concerns for Louisiana state champs

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

It’s supposed to be the best time of their young lives, full of more fun than fret.

But for the Lafayette team opening play Friday at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, COVID-19 is a constant concern.

“To know you know you were able to win this and you can play at this level, and you (can) get kicked out because of COVID – it’s kind of stressful,” 12-year-old outfielder Dylan Menard said.

Three teams at the Southwest Regional had positive COVID-19 tests and, according to a statement, were notified “they will no longer be able to participate in the tournament” that Louisiana won.

The LLWS has no international teams this year because of COVID-19 and the tournament is closed to general-admission spectators.

Teams with positive tests risk forfeit, and interaction with outsiders is limited or banned.

“I wish I could just open the door and say, ‘Go,’” Steven Menard, Lafayette’s manager and Dylan’s dad, said two days after his team arrived. “We just can’t do that yet, but we’re making the best of it.”

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Trying times

During regional play, players were separated from parents and other relatives.

It was trying for the pre-teens.

“We get to some moments where we’ve got to do a little bit of work,” Steven Menard said, “but, for the most part, they’re doing well.”

Amid trying times in the COVID-19 era, the Lafayette Little League team lines up before a game earlier this season. The Louisiana state champs have made it to the Little League World Series.

Players and coaches took regular COVID-19 tests at the regional tournament.

“It’s not a fun process. But it worked,” Steven Menard said. “The kids, I hate to say, are getting used to it. They’re becoming pros at it.”

'A little scary'

Before flying Friday from Lafayette to Houston, then to Newark, New Jersey, players and coaches underwent medical screenings, including temperatures checks.

They left at 8 a.m. and didn’t bus into Williamsport until 10:30 p.m., then had to take tests before going to sleep.

“Every other day we have to wake up early in the morning, and we have to go take a COVID test,” centerfielder Cooper Hawkins said.

“We’re kind of rolling with it. We got past the first one. Hopefully we can get past it again.”

Every time they take a test, though, players are hit by the weight of what’s at stake.

Lafayette opens Friday against South Dakota on ESPN (4 p.m. CSTcentral). 

“It’s a little scary,” Dylan Menard said, “but … hopefully we can get past the next couple ones … and we go out of this place winning and not getting sick from some virus.”