Theo Epstein says MLB should take note of JRW’s method
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 27, 2014 10:00PM
Updated: August 28, 2014 9:57AM
CINCINNATI — Cubs president Theo Epstein, who joined other dignitaries and city officials at a rally honoring the Jackie Robinson West Little League team at Millennium Park on Wednesday, sounded as caught up in the grip of their story as the rest of the city — and called it an “important moment” for professional baseball to heed.
“Probably the best thing to happen to the whole city of Chicago this summer — clearly from a baseball standpoint — was put together by 13-, 12-year-old kids from the South Side of Chicago,” he said during a conference call with reporters.
Epstein hopes that’s not lost on MLB officials who have spent years debating and brainstorming ways to reverse a generations-long trend of declining interest and participation in the sport among American kids, particularly African-Americans.
“[MLB officials] ask the question how we can get young kids playing baseball again, especially in cities, especially in the inner city,” Epstein said. “And there’s nothing that a bunch of suits in a boardroom can do that will be as powerful as what those 12-year-old kids did to demonstrate how compelling the game of baseball can be, to make baseball cool again for young kids.”
MLB should take notice of what he called a “model organization,” he said.
“We really have to support them and capitalize on this moment and learn from what the Jackie Robinson West Little League has been doing effectively for four decades now — plus,” Epstein said. “Which is proactively go out to schools, find kids and sell them on the game of baseball, get them off the streets, get them learning from great mentors, playing together, learning about sportsmanship and competition and hard work and discipline and make them better people.
“We can all go to school on how they built their program.”
Anthony Rizzo was out of the lineup Wednesday because of the back tightness that caused his him to leave Tuesday’s game in the eighth. He’s expected to return Thursday.
◆ Outfielders Ryan Sweeney (hamstring) and Justin Ruggiano (ankle) were placed on the disabled list Wednesday. In addition to the anticipated call-up of Jorge Soler, the Cubs brought back infielder Logan Watkins from AAA Iowa.