* You can bet that years from now none of the members of the Canadian Junior National Team will be naming any of their children Odile after Hurricane Odile stranded teams in La Paz, Mex. ….
OTTAWA – Baseball Canada is pleased to report that all Junior National Team players and staff have returned home safely after being stranded in Mexico as a result of Hurricane Odile.
After wrapping up a bronze medal win over host Mexico last Sunday at the 18U Pan American Championship in La Paz, Mexico, players and staff were scheduled to fly out of San Jose Del Cabo Airport early Monday morning to return to their final destinations.
Hurricane Odile had other plans, however.
“We knew that the hurricane was coming,” said Baseball Canada Media/PR Coordinator, Adam Morissette. “But I don’t think our group realized the impact that the storm would have on our travel plans.”
The storm hit late Sunday evening causing the gold medal game between the United States and Cuba to be cancelled and when the team woke up on Monday, the power was out and the town of La Paz had been turned upside down.
“It was something you see out of a movie,” said Morissette. “There were power lines down, light posts knocked into the ocean and trees down all over.
“Your heart really went out to the local people as it’s going to take a lot of time for businesses to get back up and running and life to return to normal.
The storm, that was considered a category three, was so severe that it blew the roof off Arturo C. Nahl Stadium, leaving it in the street, where Team Canada celebrated a bronze medal win just hours earlier.
Once the storm went through the immediate focus turned to trying to come up with a way to exit the country and return home safely. But when cell phone service went down Monday evening, the task became more difficult.
“The toughest part was not being able to communicate with people back home including our head office (in Ottawa), our travel agent and most important, families and parents back home wanting to know what was going on,” said Morissette. “We were using social media to let parents know that everyone was safe and that we were trying to get home, but once cell service went down (Monday night) we had no options.”
With no power, air conditioning, cell phone service or running water, Team Canada was forced to get creative in doing some of the things in life that we take for granted.
“We had drinking water and the hotel supplied food, but simple things like taking a shower or using the washroom saw hotel guests filling up buckets of water from the hotel pool or simply going for a swim in the ocean to escape the heat,” added Morissette. “The circumstances were starting to wear people down, but I commend our entire group for not letting the situation get the best of us. Everyone showed great resolve.”
Team Canada staff and players kept on using the statement “don’t let it beat you” throughout the ordeal as a means to keep focused and not unravel mentally.”
“There were a lot of card games (played) to pass the time and I think our entire group became a lot closer as a result of the situation we were dealing with,” said Morissette. “A lot of times we would just look at each other and laugh like “ can you believe this right now!”
With rumours swirling about the state of roadways and airports, and with the potential of another storm hitting the area, the question of when would they leave the country was on everyone’s minds when word circulated that Mexican military received orders to remove the nine participating teams out of the country.
“The communication and language barrier was difficult to deal with as there was no phone service and no definitive answers from tournament organizers as to when we would leave,” explained Morissette. “We just hoped that something would be happening soon as the situation was taking its toll a little bit.”
Finally on Tuesday afternoon, business manager Larry Pearson and coach Greg Hamilton received word that a Military flight out of La Paz would transport Team Canada to Tijuana later that evening.
“We literally had five minutes to pack our bags and get on the bus,’ said Morissette. “It was scramble mode, but everyone was excited at the thought of leaving the country.”
The story don’t end there, however as when Team Canada arrived at the Military base, along with Team USA, they were both told that the flight would be even later in the evening and to come back in two hours.
“We went to a Wal-Mart that happened to be open and got some food with the plan of leaving later that evening still on our minds,” added Morissette.
But when they returned to the airport, they were told that the since the group (of Canadians and Americans) was so large, a plane would have to be called in from Mexico City to transport everyone and that wouldn’t happen until 6am. “
“The fun was just getting started at this point,” said Morissette. “This was around 9pm once the new information came out, our guys were just sitting on the bus waiting.”
Both teams were then transported to a community centre where they had bunk beds for people to sleep until a 5am return to the Military base.
When it came time to leave, the news became even worse as both teams were informed that the plane wasn’t coming and there would be no flight out for the foreseeable future.
“We were on the bus and everyone was sleeping, but we decided to head back to the airport anyway,” said Morissette. “At this point it became a situation where both teams said “we aren’t leaving this airport until we get a flight out of here.”
With almost the entire team sleeping on the bus and no word of a possible flight leaving, people became to grow frustrated looking for answers. Most of the players hadn’t eaten in over twelve hours before officials from both teams were able to supply some food.
With power and cell phone service still out, both teams were able to use a satellite phone at the base to make calls to travel agents and respective national offices to let everyone know what the situation was.
Finally around Noon, the Mexican Military was able to confirm that two flights would depart the base in the early afternoon to transport players and staff to Tijuana.
“It was a sense of relief once we saw that first plane land,” explained Morissette. “Not everyone got on that first plane, but we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Within two hours of each other, both planes landed in Tijuana where two buses met them at the border and transported players and staff to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Some players were able to get flights out last night, while the rest of the group began their respective journeys to their final destinations this morning.
“Once we landed in Tijuana everything came together with flights being booked and hotels reserved for others staying overnight,” added Morissette. “We’re very fortunate to have some great people on our staff and with our travel agency that executed a plan to get everyone home relatively quick.”
“In the end, this was an experience that none of us will ever forget,” said Morissette. “We’re just pleased that our entire group was able to return home, safely.”
Baseball Canada would like to thank the fine folks at Boulevard Travel along with Administrative Coordinator, Denise Thomas for their tremendous efforts in making sure that our Junior National Team players and staff retuned home, safely.