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Mitchell: Open letter to Bill Haley of Jackie Robinson West

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Dear Bill,

I get that your pride is on the line.

After all, you are more than the director of the storied Jackie Robinson West league. As the son of its founder, Joseph Haley, the cheating scandal must have made you feel like you’ve tarnished your family’s legacy.

But what about the thousands of supporters who contributed their time and resources to support this league — not only last year, but over many years?

How do you think they felt?

Everyone who cheered on Jackie Robinson West has carried the heavy weight of disappointment.

Chicagoans not only opened hearts to this team, they opened their wallets.

OPINION

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Jackie Robinson West took in at least $324,000 in donations before it was stripped of the 2014 U.S. title, the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported.

Despite allegations that the league knowingly cheated its way to the Little League championship game, not one reader asked me for a dime of their money back.

Not one.

Still, that doesn’t mean it is OK for JRW to keep all of those contributions — especially when you know there are other teams on the South Side struggling to provide quality sports programs.

For instance, last Saturday, I attended the Rosemoor league’s awards ceremony that marked the end of their season.

The event was held in the Chicago Park District’s Rainbow Beach gym.

This Far South Side league comprises 23 teams. Although players are only charged a fee of $25, about 90 percent of the kids can’t afford to pay.

“I subsidize it out of my own pocket and from donors and sponsors,” said Ralph Peterson, Rosemoor’s president and a team coach.

Parents pitched in to provide all the food and beverages. Peterson said he had stayed up all night putting together the 270 trophies that were handed out. He was proud to say that the park district’s director had donated the use of the gym for four hours.

“It’s hard working with a minuscule budget. But we try to give every kid an opportunity. We don’t turn anybody away,” he told me.

After writing about Rosemoor’s challenges getting players to games earlier in the season, several readers responded by agreeing to volunteer as coaches.

One stay-at-home mom agreed to help transport kids to games. And the Illinois School Bus Co. donated a large-size bus and offered to train some of the parents as bus drivers. St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on the North Side donated 12 cases of water.

Because of the JRW cheating scandal, Little League International split up District 4 teams. The Rosemoor team opted to play in the Cal Ripken-Babe Ruth Baseball League this year.

“We have been part of baseball in this community for 39 years and part of the Little League since 1986. It didn’t feel the same with our district being split up,” Peterson told me.

Youth baseball teams like Rosemoor could certainly use some of the money that supporters heaped on Jackie Robinson West.

Yet you haven’t said a word about what you intend to do with the money.

We’ve heard from your lawyers and your public relations team. Apparently, expecting you to apologize for the cheating controversy was asking too much.

But this is something only you can do.

Be as generous to others as others have been to you.

In an email statement, JRW’s attorney Vic Henderson said he has advised JRW to “limit the uses of its funds to activities solely relating to JRW.”

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