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Jackie Robinson West falls to South Korea 8-4 in title game

Updated: August 24, 2014 11:41PM

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Jackie Robinson West lost a game Sunday but won over a country.

The South Siders fell 8-4 to South Korea in the Little League World Series championship. Shortly after, they were reminded of what they had accomplished during their 11-day stay in South Williamsport.

Manager Darold Butler and the U.S. champs got a call from President Barack Obama.

“It was real cool and exciting because you’re meeting like the best person in the world, basically,” first baseman Trey Hondras said. “And to hear him talk to us and say, ‘Great job,’ it’s a real big thing.”

How important has this Little League team become?

It couldn’t take its first call from the president’s assistant because the players had just walked onto ESPN’s “SportsCenter” set.

“We were going on stage right then, going live on ESPN, and his assistant asked was it a good time, and I said, ‘We’re going live now,’ ” Butler said.

“I’m still shocked by everything. This whole journey has been a big shock for me. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I hung out with the best coaches, the best kids you could be around.”

Jackie Robinson West started out playing for its community in Morgan Park. Then its state, its region and its country.

That was evident as chants of “U-S-A” rained down on the 13 South Siders as they tried to rally from an 8-1 deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The players rewarded the estimated crowd of 28,671 with the same never-quit attitude that helped them stave off elimination in three consecutive games to reach the U.S. championship Saturday.

Jackie Robinson West scored three times and had the potential game-tying run on deck when the final out was made.

“That’s a big thing for people to chant ‘U-S-A,’ ” Hondras said. “We did win the [national] championship. That’s really a big thing for us because we’re some champions.”

The Little League World Series is over. Some of these players might never again play on a stage as big.

They’ll have their memories, though. And the memories they provided the city of Chicago.

Their performance and determination forever will be noted in Chicago’s rich history. They might even go down as the city’s most accomplished underdog.

“We came out of the loser’s bracket to fight all the way back and get to this championship game, and I couldn’t be more proud,” Butler said.

Jackie Robinson West’s run was a rarity for Chicago. It never had been united under one baseball banner, rooting for its own born and bred representing the city on a national stage.

“They felt the support,” Butler said. “They heard the crowd.

“They fight all the time. It was a real good game, and it came all the way down to the end.”


Twitter: @SethGruen

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