Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The All-Stars of Jackie Robinson West make history in Chicago

Pictures ESPN Chicago
Chicago has one more reason to be proud right now, thanks to a group of 11- and twelve-year-old children from Morgan Park, a neighborhood in the South Side of the city.  During the last couple of weeks,  the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars team has captured headlines, praise and admiration from people here and all over the United States.  After becoming  Great Lakes champions in the little league of baseball they are now in Williamsport, PA, where they have made it to the semifinals of the Little League World Series.

At first you didn't hear about Jackie Robinson West in the media too much in this area, but that changed when they beat the New Albany, Indiana team on August 9th in the Great Lakes Region Championship final . The Chi-towners made history that day because the team had not won the tournament for 31 years. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized watched parties for the Little League World Series at Jackie Robinson Park. Donors poured in, and some people paid for the airfare of many of the parents who could not afford to travel to Pennsylvania. Governor Pat Quinn even helped the coach, Darold Butler, so he could keep his job as a railroad worker while he mentored the students.  Governor Quinn called the CEO of his company and they were happy to comply. Players from the White Sox and their mascot have attended the watch parties, bringing light to an area of the city that has seen too much crime in recent history.

Jack Robinson West, an all African American team, has won fans all over the United States. Children and parents from the East Coast are wearing their t-shirts, and the television ratings of the Little League games have surpassed those of the Cubs and the White Sox. 

If there is one thing that strikes you about this team, it is the humility of the players.  Pierce Jones, who scored  three home runs in one game , was asked by an ABC 7 News reporter, "What was the magic to your game today?," and Jones answered: "That we play as a team. That's what we like. We like to play as a team, and get everybody involved. That's how we've been winning, and that's how we want to continue playing."

Picture by Chicago Tribune

"It's just a thrill. It's just overjoy,  said Annie Haley, wife of Bill Haley, the director of the team. It has been tremendous for our children, for our parents. We just love it."

Now that the Chicago champions have  made it to the semifinals, the competition has become the main event in sports in Chicago. Jackie Robinson West will face either Pennsylvania or Nevada tomorrow. They have the day off today.

"Well, the competition gets tougher now," said Paul Meincke, from ABC 7 Eyewitness News. "It would be of course fabulous if they could win the title. But even if they don't, the all stars of Jackie Robinson West have already demonstrated what determination and teamwork can do. "

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