Little League strips Chicago of U.S. title

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CHICAGO – Little League Baseball has stripped the U.S. championship from the Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West team.

The coach of the team has been suspended for violating a rule prohibiting the use of players who live outside the geographic area the team represents.

The Jackie Robinson West team was the first all-African-American team to win the championship. All its wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament will be vacated. This includes its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships.

The team’s manager, Darold Butler, has been suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position.

The organization discovered the Jackie Robinson team essentially gerrymandered the district, falsifying a boundary map that enabled them to recruit players outside the proper borders.

“For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses,” Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement.

“This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.

“As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.”

Jackie Robinson West ultimately lost to Seoul, South Korea after beating Las Vegas 7-5 in the U.S. title game. The championship has now been awarded to the Mountain Ridge Little League team from Las Vegas.

This comes after the team was honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.

“Little League takes these matters very seriously and has spent countless hours gathering information about the many issues facing Jackie Robinson West Little League and Illinois District 4,” Keener said. “During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.”

The national organization said it was Kelly’s responsibility to verify player eligibility based on player information.

The information about the illegal moves made by the team were unknown until well after the tournament ended.

 

 

Brodie Hart

Assignment Editor

FOX 5 San Diego

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brhart@fox5sandiego.com