<
>

Families of Australian team each pay $16,000 to support their kids, lose in two days, still in Williamsport

"We're not rich by any means, but all 42 parents are here," said Clint White, father of Matthew White of the Australia team. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- When the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself, parents of the Little League team from Queensland, Australia, didn't balk. They withdrew some serious money from their bank accounts along the way, in hopes of seeing their sons reach international glory.

Some four hours of play on the big stage at the Little League World Series, and two losses later, the dream was over. And a tab of approximately $16,000 for the parents of each player came along with it.

Participating in youth travel teams at the highest level seems to cost an arm and a leg these days, but the Little League World Series is different given it's a quest for a true world champion. For the teams from the farthest away, that comes with serious financial sacrifice.

"We're not rich by any means, but all 42 parents are here," said Clint White, father of Matthew White of the Australia team. "Maybe it means no vacation this year or no vacation next year, but you find a way to put aside the money it took to get here."

The trip to Williamsport was almost 10,000 miles in total one-way travel for the kids from the Gold Coast. That includes plane flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to New York. A three-hour bus ride to Williamsport followed.

But that travel wasn't the most expensive part of getting here. It was actually the Australian National Finals in early June that cost parents the most.

In order to qualify for the Little League World Series, the team first had to win states and prove it was the best of nine teams in Queensland, one of six states in Australia and the third-most-populous one. The states took place in Cairns, which required the boys and their families to take a two-hour flight and have a place to stay for five days. Queensland subsidized the entry fee for the boys, charging $750 a child, making the all-in overall cost, including food and board for families, around $5,000

"When we won states, that's when it really started to get expensive," said Ben Calver, whose son Jake played on the team.

While the travel costs were less for nationals -- the team competed against 17 other teams for the national title in a location where parents could drive to -- there was one problem. The entry fee wasn't subsidized. The price to play in nationals was $2,000 per player. The boys advanced to be Australia's best in a dramatic no-hit 11-0 victory over Adelaide in the first week of June. But it had cost each family another $6,500.

And off to Williamsport they went. With a snag. Due to a self-reported violation in which their manager Klae Calvert didn't bat every player -- leaving out his own son in a game -- he was suspended from being in the dugout.

Down from three coaches to two and their manager gone, they booked their trip to the United States. The Little League World Series pays for the costs of the Little Leaguers to get to the venue and live there, and there is no entry fee.

All that means is that the trip to Williamsport itself is relatively affordable. Parents from Australia projected they would each pay $4,500 for their food, lodging, entertainment and souvenir costs to be in Williamsport from Aug. 15 through Aug. 27.

The $16,000 is hard to get subsidized. The Little League World Series has rules against parents fundraising that one Australian parent said basically eliminates everything but bake sales, which can't raise much.

It's also hard to grasp how quickly that investment went "poof." On Aug. 16, the team lost on a walk-off to Mexico. Two days later, the team lost 6-0 to Canada. They were eliminated.

So the team was stuck in Williamsport for nine more days -- with a bill that would only go up -- having an experience that, years from now, could still be seen as priceless.