For the first time in 31 years the south side of Chicago is being represent in the Little League World Series and it’s from none other than Morgan Park’s Jackie Robinson West team from 105th & Morgan.
Having been raised directly south of them in West Pullman (I grew up on Morgan Street just 2 miles south), I know how integral baseball is to growing up on the south side. If you go around to the various parks on a summer day, kids still play baseball, some even in the streets (from personal experience there is nothing like playing baseball on a cul-de-sac or dead end street), and they root on the White Sox (and some the Cubs), and little league is the summer sport of choice.
Nationally and even in Major League Baseball there has been a trend of less involvement in baseball by African Americans but I like to think the south side and south suburbs are exempt from that (I’ve been to a number of White Sox games this year and support my local minor league team the Joliet Slammers and there is always a good representation of minorities at & in the games), because there is still love for baseball in the community.
This little league team is proof, they were a game away from making the trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to the Little League World Series a year ago and they were the last team from the south side to make that trip to the World Series in 1983.
I know in my native West Pullman and neighboring Calumet Park, baseball was king coming up, we had Father Dennehy Field on 124th & Ada and there was always a game there (and sometimes we’d play in the parking lot when the field was taken), and going west into Blue Island Father Sylvester Field at 128th & Wood, was even better facilities with even better games. Further east at West Pullman Park on 123rd & Harvard there were competitive games there too, as well as my home park at 125th & Morgan, we lived, ate, slept and dreamed baseball.
But we all knew the premier team in the area was the Jackie Robinson West team over in Morgan Park. They had the coaches, passion and always did well, just in the last year or two they have had coaching clinics both at UIC with New York Mets all star Curtis Granderson and have been out to former White Sox great Bo Jackson’s sprawling indoor facility in south suburban Lockport adjacent to I-355.
I see that the Jackie Robinson West team has a local celebrity following (including some local radio personalities from WSCR 670 The Score, Jason Goff & Laurence Holmes), not to mention the south side star of movies, TV and hip hop music Common. This team is all about social media too with their own pages (and following), on Facebook and Instagram (which I follow the team on the latter), so they are tech savvy as they are good on the field.
They also have their shirts for sale in the Dicks Sporting Goods location at 11th & Canal in the south loop (its what’s pictured in the top of this blog and thanks to my wife for picking that up for me), the $ 20 cost (all 100%), goes to the team which is a federally chartered 501 (c), charitable organization.
And the only time the team solicit donations was prior to their last trip going to the regionals for the playoffs in Indiana. Their current World Series trip to Williamsport is paid for by Little League.
This is a first class organization that even last year had their own private showing of the wonderful Jackie Robinson biography movie “42” at the Chatham movie theater.
And as for the Little League World Series, which is a 16 team (8 USA teams, 8 from the world), double elimination tournament. Which is identical to the NCAA College Baseball World Series each June in Omaha, Nebraska.
The boys from Morgan Park next take the field in the second game of the Little League World Series (vs Lynwood Washington), this Thursday at 2 P.M. on ESPN and the City of Chicago along with the Chicago White Sox are planning a viewing party at the Jackie Robinson Park 10540 S. Morgan. The viewing party starts at 1:30 and former players and one of the White Sox mascots will make an appearance.
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