There were so many people who back in August were eager to let it be known that some of the kids had ties to suburbs such as Dolton, Homewood, Lansing, Lynwood and South Holland (instead of neighborhoods such as Roseland and Morgan Park where the league is based).
SO TO NOW hear complaints from officials with the Evergreen Park Athletic Association that the Jackie Robinson West team that represented the Great Lakes Region at the Little League World Series comes across as little more than whining.
It was a relief to learn that Little League International this week issued a statement saying the league’s team that advanced in the Little League World Series to be U.S. champions (before losing to a team from South Korea) was legitimate when it comes to residency issues.
I don’t doubt that the ball playing kids received so much hype that the reality can’t live up.
But this amounts to petty jealousy from a suburban Little League program that happens to border to Jackie Robinson West program on the city’s Far South Side that was created back in the early 1970s to spur interest in youth baseball in a community whose racial composition had changed radically.
UNTIL RECENTLY, I had a “day job” of sorts in writing stories for one of the daily newspapers in the suburbs that covered the communities where some of these kids lived and went to school.
Which local school and government officials were more than eager to reveal. I personally remember one suburban mayor saying he wanted some credit for the player who lived in his community, saying, “We’re not going to let Rahm Emanuel steal everything.”
Although I personally think Gov. Pat Quinn and the Cook County Board did more to latch their names onto the Jackie Robinson kids for his own self-promotion than Emanuel ever did.
But back to the residency issue. It was known that the kids didn’t strictly live within the city neighborhoods. But the fact that there were split residency facts merely reflect our modern-day reality in society.
I remember specifically one ballplayer had a father who lived in Dolton, but a mother who lived in the Morgan Park neighborhood. Does anybody think that means the kid is supposed to never stay with his father just because he plays baseball?
THAT WOULD BE stupid.
In other cases, there were players whose families used to live in Chicago proper, but in recent years had moved to the nearby south suburbs. It appears that Little League rules permit such players to continue to play in their old home communities if they wish, rather than being forced to shift to Little League programs in their new homes.
The reality is that many of those suburban Little League programs are run by people who are interested in protecting their own little fiefdoms and aren’t exactly accepting of newcomers.
So the idea that these kids would prefer to keep playing ball in the Jackie Robinson West league – which is unique in the fact that it is composed entirely of African-American people – seems to be an obvious choice.
PERHAPS THE SOUTH suburban Little League programs ought to be giving more thought to how to make themselves more welcoming, rather than being among the forces trying (but failing) to keep the population in their home communities the same as it was four decades ago.
Reading the Chicago Sun-Times, I see that the head of the Evergreen Park program is complaining about people who are calling him an “idiot” and are saying he is a bigot.
I’m willing to give his racial attitudes a break and say what really bothers him is the fact that when a team from his Little League program played a Jackie Robinson West team this year, the end result was a 42-3 loss.
That still has to smart, something fierce!