Ear Hustle

Jackie Robinson West Little League Team’s Fate Still Hanging In The Balance

jackie robinson west

The controversy over whether Jackie Robinson West officials broke Little League residency rules to create a super-team that won the U.S. title at the Little League World Series has reignited after new information was presented to Little League International officials last week.

If you recall, the team from Jackie Robinson West in Chicago captured the nation’s attention last summer by becoming the first team composed entirely of black players to win the U.S. championship. The team was lauded throughout the country despite its loss to a South Korean team in the World Series finale, earning a trip to the White House to meet President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

But since then, a number of groups from neighboring areas have accused Jackie Robinson West officials of poaching standout players from their districts, in violation of Little League rules.

In December, Little League International officials announced they had found no evidence of wrongdoing and considered the issue “closed at this time.” However, the officials told Mark Konkol of DNAInfo.com in Chicago that they would reopen their investigation if new evidence was presented.

That information apparently has come to light. Konkol reported last week that Little League officials met via conference call with the presidents of the leagues in Chicago’s District 4 — home to Jackie Robinson West — at a Chicago hotel. During the meeting, Konkol further reports, Little League International officials learned that:

• All of the presidents in Chicago’s District 4 league, which included the Jackie Robinson West organization, agreed on “clearly defined” boundaries in 2013 — the season before Jackie Robinson West leaders secretly expanded their territory to overlap existing leagues.

• In District 4, the presidents of the South Side, Rosemoor and Roseland league did not approve any changes made to Jackie Robinson West’s 2014 boundaries that infringed on their territory, protected under charter agreements with Little League International.

• After winning the U.S. championship, Jackie Robinson West officials, with help from District 4 administrator Mike Kelley, made a failed attempt to ask sister leagues to agree to boundary changes that already had been filed with Little League International without their permission.

Per Little League rules, any boundary changes must be approved by all of the league presidents in a district before they are submitted to Little League International. The neighboring organizations are saying that Jackie Robinson West leaders “secretly expanded their league boundaries — overtaking sections of three sister leagues — in a move to pick up All-Star players that helped the team win the 2014 U.S. title,” Konkol reports.

Officials from the Las Vegas Little League team that lost to Jackie Robinson West in the U.S. final told Konkol they want Jackie Robinson West to be stripped of its title:

Las Vegas coach Ashton Cave said that if Jackie Robinson West changed its boundaries against Little League rules to create a super team “it can’t be something that’s swept under the rug.” He challenged Little League officials to live up to the organization’s motto, “Character, Courage and Loyalty” that was sewn into the World Series uniforms this year.

“I’m a firm believer in integrity and that’s something we teach our kids … and that’s what Little League is designed to do. If we’re going to live by it’s motto, we need to make things right … and everybody needs to be aware of it,” he said. “We need to stand up for what’s right even if we’re standing alone.”

Nina Johnson-Pitt, the Little League Central Region director, has told the District 4 league presidents that a final decision from Little League International is expected soon.

Source: Washington Post

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