Chicago’s Beloved Jackie Robinson West Little League Team Stripped Of U.S. Title Due To Cheating Coach, Administrators
The first African American Little League team to win the National Championship has had their title stripped over rule violations. Sadly, rules were violated by the adults, and the kids are paying the price for it.
According to ESPN, Little League Baseball has suspended the coach of the Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West team because he recruited ineligible players who lived outside of the appropriate geographical area (the Washington Heights neighborhood) that the team represents. It was found that a falsified boundary map was used to find players, and that the coach, and others, worked together to bring players from neighboring areas and teams to Jackie Robinson West.
Because of his decision, the boys of Jackie Robinson West have lost the U.S. Championship title they worked so hard for, and it has been given to the team they beat–the Mountain Ridge Little League team from Las Vegas.
The Little League President and CEO, Stephen D. Keener, said it was a heartbreaking decision, but after investigating, it was one that had to be made.
“Quite honestly, we had to do this. We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … As painful as this is, it’s a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm.
The real troubling part of this is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved with this. Certainly, no one should cast any blame, any aspersions on the children who participated on this team. To the best of our knowledge, they had no knowledge that they were doing anything wrong. They were just kids out playing baseball, which is the way it should be. They were celebrated for that by many, many organizations, many people. What we’re most concerned about today is that it’s going to be hard on these kids. And that’s the part that breaks your heart.”
Watching this team skyrocket, beat Mountain Ridge, win the U.S. Championship, make it to the Little League World Series and come so close to winning that (they lost to South Korea in the Championships), it definitely sucks that things turned out like this. These boys were the darlings (as well as Mo’ne Davis) of the whole World Series, as they were the first African American team to compete in the tournament in many years, let alone get to the Championships. Afterwards, they were invited to the White House and met both President Obama and Michelle.
But after all that, including the parade upon their return to Chicago and being seen as heroes, this is how it all ends. The team will be stripped of their wins from last year’s Little League Baseball International Tournament, including their regional and finals wins. And not only has the coach been suspended, so has the manager, Darold Butler. And Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly was fired, as he was supposed to verify the eligibility of the players. According to Keener:
“During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.”