A little league baseball team comprised of Latino players from West Lawn were the subject of racial slurs and verbal abuse by players and coaches of a Kennedy Park league travel team, according to parents, coaches and players on Sunday.
Ray Salazar, a parent of one of the players on West Lawn’s Southwest Pride, posted this tweet after the game.
Salazar, a CPS high school English teacher told the Chicago Sun-Times that the incident was a learning experience for his son and his teammates.
“I’m at the point now where I’m balancing getting involved, and not getting involved and letting my son make sense out of situations. I heard it and it is a part of life and we have to move on,” Salazar said.
During the game, one of the Kennedy Park Cobras U11 shouted an expletive as he was hit by a pitch while swinging. The West Lawn players laughed at the expletive. The Cobra’s coach started yelling at the Pride’s bench, believing that the team was laughing because one of his players was getting hurt.
“Our kids were giggling because the player dropped the ‘f-bomb.’ The coach from the Kennedy team went off,” Salazar said. “He started swearing and saying they couldn’t laugh at a player getting hurt. It was completely inappropriate. It didn’t have to go that far.”
Before the game, Adrian, the younger Salazar said that the players from Kennedy Park shouted “Taco Boys” at the West Lawn team as their team was warming up in right field. They also alledge that in a second incident, one of the Cobras told his teammates during a pep talk that they were going to “build a wall around home plate.”
The West Lawn Southwest Pride went on to beat the Kennedy Park Cobras 10-7.
Salazar’s son Adrian, 12, said the team used the incidents as motivation.
“We went back to the dugout and told our coaches. We got mad and took that anger onto the field. We won,” Salazar said. “We discussed it. We wondered who would be that salty. We would never do that. We were angry, but then we calmed down.”
Salazar said he spoke to his son after the game about the history of racial tension in the Morgan Park/Beverly/Mount Greenwood area.
“I want my son to play and become a better baseball player, but he also needs to know how this city works,” Salazar said. “Today was a good example of an incident that can give him some insight to the city he lives in. Looking back at it, I’m glad we won, but it challenged me to think where I am going to draw the line where I’m advocating for my son and when I’m going to step back and let him make sense of certain situations. He’s going to be a teenager soon and this was something I had to confront.”
After the game, a shoving match between players and coaches from both teams took place, according to Pride coach Juan Delgadillo.
“Today was a little different. I’ve never seen so much disrespect towards my kids as they were warming up. The image that the coach portrays is the image the players are going to have on the field. I heard some of the comments they were making and I saw my players eyes well up,” Delgadillo said. “They took it to heart. We kept them composed. As the game went on, it was a tight game they took the lead and then we caught up.”
Delgadillo, who said that they played the Cobras at their field in West Lawn last season with no incidents, lost respect for the Kennedy Park team due to the incidents that took place before, during and after the game.
“My team lost respect for them and their coaches. They laughed because they overswung not because he got hurt. We’re talking 11 and 12-year-olds. Their coach started cursing and pointing his finger at my catcher,” Delgadillo said. “I told him after the game. You don’t talk to my kids. You talk to me. This is still little league baseball and we have rules to abide by.”
The players who allegedly yelled the slurs toward the team from West Lawn, along with their coach, should’ve been ejected from the game, according to park rules.
Kennedy Park’s code of conduct states that if coaches and/or players uses “foul or abusive language,” they are ejected from the game and suspended one game. A second infraction, which the team from West Lawn is also alledging took place, warrants a “suspension for the balance of the season and reinstatement at boards discretion.”
“I think they weren’t used to the way we play baseball. Bunting, squeeze plays and stealing bases. It got under their skin,” Delgadillo said.
Matt Winkler, president of the Kennedy Park Little League released a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times regarding the alleged incidents:
“The umpire nor the coaches were aware of the situation until it surfaced online. In the wake of the claims, me and the league started an investigation into the situation. So far we’ve been unable to validate that the incident occurred. In light of this, coaches will be instructed to speak with their teams. We pride ourselves on being welcoming to other teams. We have a code of conduct online that we stand by so we are not done investigating the situation and any of the allegations against the coach or his behavior.”