So after ten days, six games and two losses the last coming today at the hands of the Little League World Series Champions from South Korea, Jackie Robinson West’s post season is over. But I don’t think any of us (especially from the south side), will forget any of this anytime soon.
This final game was one to be proud of, excellent defense, especially two great plays at the outfield wall, more great infield defense, a strong pitching effort and more baseball intelligence put icing on the cake of baseball excellence that has captivated all of us these last two weeks.
I know there have been those who have said and think that the televising & promoting of the Little League World Series is exploitation but you have to see it, feel it and really see how well the games are, how the sportsmanship is greater than anything on the major league level, how the fundamentals of the game are for everyone to see. And the excitement of the games is as good as any other sport, even the pros. This last game reminded me of the 2005 Major League World Series with the Chicago White Sox.
This is baseball at its absolute purest, its not just some Norman Rockwell type of symbolism. This is what baseball is all about summer, fun, kids and playing the game the right way. Jackie Robinson West did that and so much more, they are not just a little team from the hood, this is a vibrant organization that does things the right way, on and off the field. With great coaches, parents and kids. Their trip to Williamsport was not a fluke nor will it be in vain, this is what the south side is. I know, I’m a son of the southside, its what so many people strive for everyday, its why so many of us cheered loudly, bought and wore shirts, watched every game with loyalty and pride.
Now with all due credit that South Korean team was no joke, past Little League Word Series Champions back to back in 1984 & 1985 and now again this year, all three years never lost a game and this was their first trip back since 1985 and they take the trophy back with them again. They hit so well, not always for power but with accuracy, not pitching through you with heat but past you with intelligence. Defense up and down the field including that great diving right field play in the middle of Jackie Robinson’s West bottom of the sixth inning rally.
South Korea prior to this game didn’t have one pitcher go over 3 innings pitched per game, keeping them fresh and eligible. We saw other teams go through pitchers like water and you have to concerned about these young arms. Our bodies aren’t made to pitch and throwing 85 pitches (the max allowed per game in Little League), is a lot for a grown man. So the South Korean coaching was smart in that aspect and they have never lost a Little League World series game.
Not to be outdone, the Jackie Robinson West coaching staff never got down on the players and always let them know they were in every game, always encouraging maybe not as dramatic as the Rhode Island coach ESPN loved so much but they got their message across and the Morgan Park boys played with poise, professionalism and pride every minute of every game.
Something else to be aware of this last Little League World Series game was the past champion teams that were there, none more relevant to Jackie Robinson West than the 1955 team from the South Carolina Cannon Street YMCA team of all African American boys that none of the other 61 white teams in the state of South Carolina would play for their state tournament. But Little League found out about them and invited them to Williamsport to be a part of the Little League World Series. Granted they hadn’t played so could not take the field but got to take part in every other aspect of being a participant in the Little League World Series that year. Astounding that Little League in 1955 would do that only one year after the groundbreaking civil rights Supreme Court ruling for Brown vs The Board of Education.
Also not to be lost is the legacy of the name of the man for who this team and their south side league is named for. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 and is surviving widow Rachel wrote a letter to every player on the Jackie Robinson West little league team this weekend to give them encouragement.
Lastly Little league is always aware of safety, from the top of the line equipment, especially when one South Korean batter was hit by a pitch in the head (and as always the Jackie Robinson West pitcher came to shake his hand), and also when there was a contentious play at third in which reply showed the South Korean runner was out. The official also mentioned the risk of head first slides, I’ve seen hand injuries, even a player have his glasses break and eye cut over a head first slide.
You have to be in awe of Little League for being ahead of the game for how they handle the rules, this was no ordinary baseball tournament and Jackie Robinson West was no ordinary baseball team. Congrats young brothas on a job well done, your parade is on Wednesday.
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