Kids on the South Side of Chicago have dreams like anybody else. They want to be popular. They want to be successful and famous; respected. Many kids from crime-ridden areas look to the drug dealer, pimp, thug, gang OG or gangsta rapper as the leaders of the community. The guys they want to be around because it seems they demand the kind of respect from others and have the images of wealth that any person desires; seeks.
Like rapper Common, Jackie Robinson West chooses to ignore negative perceptions of their hometown and utilize the positives that being from that city has awarded them.
JRW had already done enough by blooming this baseball flower from concrete, crack viles and wild project lifestyles in the 80s. Winning the LLWS U.S. championship on Saturday in front of 30,000 people in Williamsport, Pa., ensured that they would return home as proud champions, which is a rarity for an area whose reputation continuously takes it on the chin.
In theory, a larger accomplishment would probably have been winning the LLWS Championship against South Korea (5-0), who beat Japan to win the International Championship on Saturday . Jae Yeong Hwang drove in two runs and Hae Chan Choi weathered a late Chicago rally to lead South Korea to an 8-4 win. On their road to riches and diamond rings, Chicago, the Great Lakes Region champions, came back from 3-0 and 5-4 deficits to beat favored West champ Las Vegas Mountain Ridge 7-5 in the U.S. title game on Saturday.
A Sunday afternoon victory was unlikely, as U.S. teams are just 15-34 all-time in these games and Korea outscored its last four opponents by a 34-13 margin. But Chicago’s entire existence in this tournament has defied common philosophy and normal protocol, so anything was possible. The dark knights from Chicago’s Southside were obviously still exhausted and overwhelmed by a frenzied and surreal 24 hours that saw them make history, gut out a tough win, have their faces plastered all over media outlets, become the toast of the town and receive streams of support and accolades from celebrities, politicians and anyone else with a massive Twitter following. There’s only so much adult junk a little kid can take before his mental limits are exceeded.
They are the pride of Chicago,'' said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "This team has electrified our city and rallied people from every neighborhood to support these great kids. …They are great ambassadors for the city — and for the world.''
Hard to focus with the world patting you on the back, the real prize already in pocket and an undefeated South Korean team looking to grab its record-tying third LLWS C’hip.
Maybe JRW hasn’t taken over the Planet of Baseball yet, but until this time next season, they certainly own youth baseball in America. For a league that has been around three decades already, this is the true “beginning.” JRW has more history to handle. They proved that black baseball is back in America, and more significantly, at an age where the game tends to lose kids to other sports. Jackie Robinson’s 92-year-old widow, Rachel Robinson even got hooked into the craze and delivered a note to every JRW player and manager, Darold Butler:
"To have an African-American squad from Chicago, the first from the city to qualify for the series since 1983, succeed and inspire other young men and women is so meaningful,'' Rachel Robinson wrote in a letter obtained by the Tribune. "Thank you for upholding my husband Jack's, your namesake's, legacy through your hard work, dedication and excellent teamwork.''
Now, as they capitalize on the attention and popularity this LLWS has brought them, the future is even brighter for JRW and recruiting new talent should be a piece of cake. The icing on that cake was when President Barack Obama, a shining product of that same Chicago South Side, called Butler after the game and offered his condolences on the loss, but also gave him props for how the team so magnificently represented the state of Illinois.
A parade ending at Millennium Park is scheduled for Wednesday. It’s a fitting celebration for a group of elite baseball warriors. Defying odds on a daily basis on and off the field.
"They only play the game in Chicago for a few months a year because of the weather so to win the U.S. title is priceless,'' former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas said in a text message.”Congratulations to JRW.''
It's a new day in Chi-Town. JRW has captured the city and become celebrities and respected superstars without toting a gun, slinging a rock, popping a top, spitting a sick 16, or dropping it like it's hot. If you want to become a star in The Windy City, crime isn't it.
Just play baseball.