The Truth Of Youth Sports Including Jackie Robinson West Little League

The Truth Of Youth Sports Including Jackie Robinson West Little League

It was reported this morning by DNAinfo Chicago on Tuesday morning that a complaint had been registered against the Jackie Robinson West (JRW), on their residency and eligibility.

Now later in the afternoon Little League stated that the JRW team "meets residency regulations."

Now I understand "The Spirit" of Little League is that the teams are local with neighborhood kids and that some of the JRW kids went to schools outside of the area.

But as I mentioned in my articles during JRW's Little League World Series run in August, this is no ordinary team and hasn't been. JRW consists of 28 teams that play at nine different sites, including their beautiful home park at 105th & Morgan. They are a powerhouse team and were over 30 years ago when I was coming up. My area (to the south of JRW), had the Calumet Park Little League which paled in comparison to JRW, we all knew they were the big dog.

And in the years since there are more and more youth sports organizations like JRW, I know here in Will County many towns have great baseball facilities (up to six or seven baseball field alone), and on any given Saturday you can watch games all day (I have), and players and parents come and go as practices and games start and finish. Many teams have several levels, there are traveling teams (the best teams), tournaments and its all serious business and a lot of time and money is invested.

The beautiful Bo Jackson & John Cangelosi training dome is right on 355 just past 159th Street on the edge of Lockport and many teams (including JRW), come there for advanced baseball training, practices and they also have their own leagues which play on a high level. The purpose for all of this is the development of players for high school and beyond.

The Chicago Bulls and White Sox run their own training called Bulls/Sox academies and they have a great facility in Lisle and then come out to many parks and baseball facilities, working on fundamentals of the game with younger players, conditioning, coaching (even from staff of the Bulls and White Sox), and they host  travel leagues too.

Its very much like the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), system for youth basketball (which I had former co-workers involved in two different teams), and its intense but scholarships and player advancement is the focus here. Players often come from all over to play for a team that might not be their local team. Its like the world prep basketball, its not always about the kids in the neighborhood.

I've been around prep sports for almost 25 years and I know sometimes it can seem shady and its not as clean cut as maybe things were in the past and its definitely more competitive than in decades past. But when you see the advancement of the games, incredible development of players and the statistics that are kept, you understand what is at stake here. Not to mention money in the pro ranks.

Yes its truly "Moneyball", no doubt about that but the other teams that were at the Little League World Series (especially that Las Vegas team), were so well conditioned and sizable for their age. These are powerhouse teams getting kids ready for the next level.

I have watched some of the better local teams and they had kids 10-12 years old that were ahead of the freshman high school players I knew 25 years ago and this is nothing against them, its how much the game, coaching & development has changed. I spent everyday with the Brother Rice freshman team as their equipment manager and that was a good team that won 18 games and these kids coming up now are simply better developed and playing a more advanced game.

The only team that really handled the freshman Crusaders that year were the Mount Carmel freshmen but they too were a powerhouse. They like these traveling teams had an "A" & "B" team and were simply on another level and that's the goal of these teams. It may not seem fair (especially when you getting beat), or how it used to be but look at the pro sports and how much more advanced every sport is. The players are bigger, faster, better. The numbers from the game are better, and many more numbers are kept ("Saber metrics"), and all of that has come down through the youth leagues.

Its as simple as this, those leagues that can get the talent, develop it and win games will be victorious and everyone wants their kid to have an edge.

Now as a soon to be parent, I wonder about all of that and if my kid would want to do that, fine but I'm not going to be a Richard Williams (Venus & Serena's dad), or the late Earl Woods (Tiger's old man), that's just too much.

But look around and you will see (especially in the spring when youth baseball is underway again), and some teams in your own backyard are impressive organizations, looking to be the next JRW.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email

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