Mitchell: Jackie Robinson West will always remain the city’s champs
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There’s a big difference between breaking rules and cheating.
But stories about the controversy involving Jackie Robinson West Little League distort that difference by casting these black families in the worst possible light.
Indeed, the issue was whether the Jackie Robinson West Little League team violated Little League rules when it changed its boundaries.
Allegedly, the boundaries were “secretly” changed to create a super team that included players from the south suburbs — and without the approval of Rosemoor and Roseland league presidents.
But it was the coach of a team in Evergreen Park that was slaughtered by JRW who initially raised questions about the players’ residency.
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After DNAInfo.com published a series of articles about the complaints, Little League officials vowed to investigate the matter.
Maybe I’m missing the seriousness of the accusations, but is that all there is?
We’re not talking about corked bats, or a 14-year-old pretending to be 11?
We’re talking about officials making adjustments to ensure kids who have played together for most of their young lives got a shot at going to the Little League World Series — together.
We’re not even talking about the public wrath of league officials affected by JRW’s expansion.
“We have solidarity on this issue,” said LaVonte Stewart, executive director of Lost Boyz Inc., a social service program, and a coach for the Rosemoor Little League.
“We are supporting them to the end. They didn’t set out to deceive anyone. It’s not like they are 14 or 15 years old pretending to be 12,” Stewart said.
“When you take into consideration the mobility rate this community has, you understand why these kids want to stay in whatever program they are in,” he added.
If Little League officials want to discipline Jackie Robinson West, then by all means find a way to do that short of taking away the team’s title.
But the campaign to strip these kids of their national title is beginning to feel like a stoning — a stoning of kids who did everything right.
Even if Little League World Series officials were to snatch the team’s title, they can’t take back the good will JRW brought to Chicago and the rest of the nation.
It felt amazingly good to see this group of young black males working together to accomplish a goal when Chicago was going through a summer of gun violence and the nightly news was usually about a young black man either getting killed or being accused of killing another black man.
I don’t advocate that people break the rules, even when rules seem unnecessary or unfair. In fact, I’m the kind of person who waits for the light to turn green before crossing the street.
But too much effort is going into trying to drag down a group of kids who just wanted to play baseball.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why complainers won’t let this go. Why was it so important to make a case that these African-American families are unworthy of our accolades?
Over the years, the JRW families stuck together and supported a Little League program in a neighborhood that so many of us fled.
Given how unsafe some black neighborhoods continue to be, skirting residency rules is a risk a lot of black families are willing to take.
So if Little League World Series officials decide that a violation of residency rules should result in JRW being stripped of the title, it would sting.
But Jackie Robinson West will still be our champs.