Jackie Robinson West Little League came within one game of winning the 2014 Little League World Series. But the kids made it to the championship game because they were the United States World Series champs. That’s a huge accomplishment on its own, and yesterday their hometown of Chicago celebrated the team with an epic parade.
The victory lap lasted almost four hours and wound through nearly 100 blocks of the city. The route began at Jackie Robinson West’s home field, Morgan Park, in Chicago’s South Side, made a stop at US Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox, and ended at Millennium Park. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn were among the thousands of people who turned out to cheer on the team. Also in attendance: Chance the Rapper, White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson, and Cubs general manager Theo Epstein. Harrelson called Jackie Robinson West “America’s Team,” while Epstein said the baseball world can learn a lot from the kids.
"People ask me all the time: 'How do we get kids playing baseball again? There aren't enough kids playing baseball. How do we get kids in the city playing baseball?’” Epstein said. “Well we just need to go to school on everything that Jackie Robinson West stands for and start duplicating that all around our city — and every big city in the country."
For the kids on the team, though, their run to the LLWS championship game was about more than baseball. It was a chance to redeem their neighborhood. They live and play on Chicago’s South Side, a part of the city with a reputation for violence. Their success shows that greatness come from the rough part of town, too.
"I think because we're African-American boys from the South Side," pitcher Marquis Jackson said. "There's so many people from the South Side, [and] it's just not about bad things. Something good can come from the South Side of Chicago. Period."
You can catch up with the United States Little League champs’ big day in Second City with this great video recap of the parade:
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo