Chicago-based Little League program Jackie Robinson West has reportedly been forced to vacate its wins from the 2014 Little League World Series due to the use of players from outside its designated region.
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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Attempted to Restore Wins
Thursday, Feb. 12
Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Emanuel made an attempt to get Jackie Robinson Little League its wins back:
Sneed has learned that Emanuel has personally gone to bat to reverse Little League International’s decision to strip the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars baseball team of their 2014 national championship.
Sneed is told Emanuel pulled out his battering ram during a 10-minute conversation Wednesday with Little League International President and CEO Stephen Keener in hopes he would rescind the league’s decision based on findings the team falsified boundaries to field ineligible players.
The mayor, a huge JRW fan, said: “Every home run was real. Every great catch was real. The passion they brought from Chicago to Williamsport was real. And the character they showed on and off the field was real.”
While the mayor agreed that someone should be punished, it should be the adults — not the children. Instead, the league could have considered alternatives, such as banning the team from playing for a certain number of years.
“You have turned them into the perpetrators when they are the victims,” Emanuel told Keener. “You know what they have done for Chicago, and let’s face it, you know what they’ve done for your tournament.”
Jackie Robinson West Little League Stripped of 2014 LLWS Wins
Wednesday, Feb. 11
SportsCenter passed along word of the decision:
It also notes the title will be handed to Mountain Ridge Little League as a result:
ESPN's Wayne Drehs reported all of Jackie Robinson West's information has been removed from the LLWS website:
Jackie Robinson West had defeated Mountain Ridge (Las Vegas) in the U.S. finals before losing to South Korea in the championship.
ESPN adds that team manager Darold Butler is suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly is no longer in that position:
The organization found that the Jackie Robinson team used a falsified boundary map, and that team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.
Little League International CEO Stephen Keener released a statement on the verdict, according to ESPN:
For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses. This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.
As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.
According to Mark Konkol of DNAinfo, "Evergreen Park Athletic Association Vice President Chris Janes, who first called for an investigation into Jackie Robinson West's boundary changes, says he has received several threatening phone calls, including death threats, since the team was stripped of its U.S. title Wednesday."
Paul Skrbina and Steven Goldstein of the Chicago Tribune previously reported Little League International was taking another look at the information surrounding the team. The program was said to have expanded its boundaries before the 2014 season to bring in outside players.
Carlton Hondras, the father of a player from the Little League World Series team, told the outlet it was an unfortunate turn of events.
"If I had to sum up everything in one word: disappointed. The handful of adults tearing some kids down is the way it is," he said. "The kids understand but they're not paying any attention to it. This is not about kids. This is about adults."
Former major league pitcher Mark Mulder weighed in on the news and his own history with the team:
Unfortunately, these types of stories pop up too frequently. The most prominent one from past years was the Danny Almonte scandal, where Almonte lied about his age to play in the 2001 Little League World Series. Sadly, kids get caught up in these situations through no fault of their own due to decisions made by others/adults.
Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports was quick to point out that many of the teams taking part in the Little League World Series may not have passed a close inspection:
It's important to keep a level playing field for every team trying to qualify for the spotlight event, so these decisions are necessary to maintain competitive balance. Mountain Ridge LL deserves the U.S. title if it handed everything properly.