December 18, 2014
Win or lose, Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, you’ve already made Chicago proud.
The 13 boys, drawing from an array of South and Southwest side neighborhoods, play their first game in the Little League World Series tournament Thursday afternoon in Williamsport, Pa. The series runs through Aug. 24.
Chicago will be watching and rooting for its hometown boys, the city’s first showing at the 16-team tournament in 31 years. For anyone who knows anything about the caliber of play in this Washington Heights-based league, it comes as no surprise that Jackie Robinson West also fielded the last local team to make the World Series, in 1983.
In other words, the Jackie Robinson West league, founded in 1971, has a long history of excellence — in playing ball, in giving kids a great outlet, of strong parental and community involvement.
The team takes its place among the very best in the both U.S. and the world, competing against teams from Lynnwood, Washington, as well as Seoul, South Korea, with Chicagoans enjoying every minute of it.
Why the love?
Let’s face it, everyone loves a winner, especially charming 11- and 12-year-old boys. And given how our professional teams are faring, a real winner has the stage all to itself.
Finally, there’s no denying race is a factor with this African-American team. We’re hoping the boys aren’t thinking about their place as role models or symbols (we’re hoping they’re just thinking about playing ball), but many in Chicago and across the nation view them through that lens. In a summer where much of the news out of the South Side is deadly and heartbreaking, when too many good-news stories go untold, it’s a joy to root for these dedicated and accomplished boys, to revel in their achievements.
Before the series even begins, the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars have given Chicago a gift — a tremendous team to root for, a grand sense of pride and good, old-fashioned fun.
Good luck Jackie Robinson West. Chicago thinks the world of you.