By Kevin Luo
I wouldn’t call myself a baseball fan, but I find myself watching, or at least following, the Little League World Series every year. It brings out the best that sports have to offer — groups of young kids make lifelong friends from the same area playing a game they love. It brings all sports fans back to the days where they were playing youth sports with kids from their town.
Most of these kids aren’t going to become professional athletes. Most of them will never be on television or part of the national news after this tournament. That adds to the intrigue surrounding the LLWS scandal. Obviously, the greatest individual storyline from this past LLWS was the rise of Mo’ne Davis, but the biggest team storyline was the Jackie Robinson West team, which came from the South Side of Chicago to win the hearts of America, as well as the United States title.
During the tournament, Jackie Robinson West embodied everything good about youth sports. However, this past week, the worst aspects of it were put on display when Jackie Robinson West got stripped of their national title by the Little League International.
A formal investigation showed that the adults who ran the team decided to bend the rules. It was discovered that they had falsified documents relating to the team’s boundary map and used players from outside their district to put together a South Side all-star team.
It really is a shame when things like this happen. Those kids worked so hard and still have every right to be proud of themselves, but greedy adults took advantage of these kids, and now they’re paying the price. An accomplishment and the experience that these kids could’ve cherished for the rest of their lives is now tainted.
This isn’t the adults running the Bronx Baby Bombers using 14-year-old Danny Almonte over a decade ago. Some of the ineligible kids that were used by Jackie Robinson West lived only a couple miles outside the proper boundary map, but these adults knew what they were doing. The league manager, league president and district administrator have all been suspended and/or removed from their positions.
All in all, when we hear about scandal in sport, it makes for a good talking point and peaks the interest of the sports world. However, there really isn’t any good coming out of this situation. When an event that should be as pure and innocent as the Little League World Series is marred by this kind of controversy, no one wins.
As someone who used to love playing and coaching youth sports, I’m just sad for those kids. The job of the adults running these programs is to teach the kids the game alongside valuable life lessons that will shape them into better adolescents and adults. The adults in this case failed their young players. I just hope these kids can keep their heads held high, because they deserve to be proud of what they accomplished.