In 2014, a Chicago baseball team actually won a championship — not the White Sox or Cubs — but Jackie Robinson West; they claimed the Little League World Series (LLWS) title. Unfortunately, last year’s Little League national champions have been recently stripped of their title after Little League International (LLI) held an investigation and found that the team had submitted a falsified boundary map. As a result, LLI found the team guilty of using players who lived outside the team’s original boundaries.
These kids have been praised for their achievement last July, from parading on a double-decker bus through the city they play for, to receiving front row seats at the Major League Baseball Worlds Series and even meeting President Barack Obama. After basking in the limelight of championship honors, this team has been hit with the harsh reality of being labeled as “cheaters.” To label these kids as cheaters for something they didn’t have total control over is cruel, and taking their title away isn’t completely justified to their crime. Therefore, Jackie Robinson West should have their LLWS title reinstated — and don’t call me crazy yet.
The outcome of this entire situation rooted from the adults’ mistakes and has the kids of the team taking all of the heat. Where’s the justice in that? There has been past cases of the Little League handling situations that caused unnecessary collateral damage.
For instance, in 1975, following Taiwan’s fourth consecutive championship in 1974, Little League banned foreign teams from participating in the LLWS. They banned them while the league worked to strengthen rules against year-round practices and out-of-district players. To ban the entire rest of the world besides the USA from being able to compete in the league can’t be taken lightly, especially since the purpose behind it revolves around mistakes made by the league itself.
It just simply does not make sense to punish someone for something they weren’t responsible for. In this current case, the adults who manage the JRW are the ones who deserve the consequences for their own actions. The kids may have known that they did not live within the team’s original boundaries, yet it was the decision of the coaches whether or not to recruit players and submit their altered boundary map. Would a 12 year-old kid really be concerned about “residency boundaries” when they get invited to a team that would have a chance to win the LLWS?
Then there comes a question being brought into play: is it really cheating? If you think about it, the only thing that the players did wrong was live on the other side of town. This brings us to the issue in Major League Baseball with Barry Bonds. Bonds was a former professional baseball player who currently holds the all-time record for home runs (762). In 2003, Bonds was investigated for steroid abuse and was eventually found guilty. You would think that the league would take away his home run accolade — and you thought wrong. Bonds was sentenced a pathetic 30 days of home confinement. Compared to the punishment for JRW, it just doesn’t make sense.
The members of the team didn’t use illegal PEDs to enhance their skills, nor were they violating the age requirements. There’s really no unfair advantage given to them just by picking up kids beyond their borders. Yes, you can say that they have more access to more skilled players, but in the end, they are just normal kids who want to play baseball.