Saturday, August 23, 2014

EXTRA: Jackie Robinson baseball now far bigger than Defender sports pages

It was earlier this past week that I happened to be in the Pullman neighborhood when 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale got a crowd of 400-plus people all excited by merely uttering three initials.


AS IN THE Jackie Robinson West baseball league that consists of a couple dozen teams from predominantly-black neighborhoods such as Roseland, Pullman and Morgan Park on the far Sout’ Side (and a few surrounding suburbs that have developed sizable African-American communities).

It’s a league that usually only gets public attention from the Chicago Defender, which often uses pictures of young African-Americans in action on their sports pages.

But now, that league is something far much bigger. They’ve been partaking in the Little League World Series tournament this past week, and became the best youth team in the United States when they defeated a Las Vegas, Nev.-area team Saturday by 7-5.

Which was particularly pleasurable because the one negative for the Jackie Robinson West all-star ball club during the past week was a 13-2 loss to that same Las Vegas team.

IT WAS PAYBACK of the finest kind for those of us with a Chicago interest and enjoy seeing one of our youth teams show it can compete with the best of the rest of the nation.

And considering how in recent years baseball has become so overwhelmingly pale in complexion while lacking in much interest amongst more urban communities, the sight of an all-black ball club takes on a certain other significance.

Particularly since they’re now going to represent this country when they take on the winner of the Japan/South Korea game played Saturday night.

I can’t think of a better ball club to represent what this country is about than the kids from the South Side. Particularly since way too many people tend to think the only things of significance in Chicago come from select neighborhoods on the north lakefront.

IT’S THE ENTIRETY of Chicago that makes it amongst the most interesting places in this country (and quite possibly on Planet Earth) to be. A small piece of that South Side existence is now getting national attention.

It’s a good thing that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already committed city officials to having some sort of city-wide celebration when the team returns to Chicago in coming days.

Memories of that 2005 post-World Series parade the White Sox made through Bridgeport and Chinatown on their way to downtown come to mind. Although is a Grant Park-type rally also possible.

Let’s only hope that these kids go on to be inspired to achieve greater success in life (and not necessarily just in the world of athletics). Because the sad thing would be if this moment at age 12 became the highlight of their lives.

IT OUGHT TO be a moment that inspires all people to want to strive for greater things and higher levels than we already have achieved. That could be the real-life lesson we all learn.

So as we relish this moment of a Chicago-area ball club (even one of 12- and 13-year-olds) actually winning something (as opposed to seeing the White Sox blow a couple of ballgames to the New York Yankees in recent days or watching the Cubs’ ground crew show its ineptitude at laying down a tarp to avoid a rainy day), keep this thought in mind.

The next time Beale rattles off “J-R-W,” it won’t be just a room full of Pullman people cheering.

It ought to be the nearly 9-million of the metropolitan area  expressing its joy.


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