by John Kass | August 27, 2014 12:02 am
To the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars: Boys, I’m hoping you can forgive us grown-ups for some of the nonsense coming out of our mouths after the Little League World Series.  Some of us are gushing sympathy and tenderness at you, and that’s the last thing a good ballplayer wants to hear. You’re champions. You’re the pride of Chicago and the heart of the South Side. You are the best Little League baseball team in the United States. Like your coach says, you get out on that field and you go to work. And, you’re top athletes, so you’re tireless about finding weak spots among opponents; this one can’t hit an inside pitch, that one has a weak arm in the outfield. You use such knowledge to win. Boys are like this, I know. And what champion wants to hear anything that remotely sounds like sympathy? Sure, that last game against South Korea didn’t turn out the way you wanted (or the way we wanted it for you), and sympathy is about the last thing you want to hear. But you’ll hear it plenty. So please, indulge us. Most grown-ups sadly stopped being kids long ago. Some were never kids. Some of us never had kids of our own. Also, just about all of us never did what you just accomplished. We can’t put our minds around it. We can’t even dream of showing the poise and grace that you showed the world during this amazing run. It wasn’t merely that you won game after game. That didn’t bring America to your side. It was the way you won. Yes, you could hit, and turn double plays when you needed them. You applied that base-running pressure and pitching and in that final game, down in that last inning, you came up to the plate swinging. You didn’t cringe. You didn’t shrug and give up. You went after it. But there was more to it than that. You respected the game and yourselves, something big-league ballplayers don’t always do. And when a little showboat inevitably came out, you walked to the opposing dugout and apologized to the Rhode Island manager, who was astonished as the rest of the world. When I saw that, and other moments like it, when your self-respect lit up the sporting world, you guys had me. Because then I knew then it wasn’t only good baseball we’d been watching. It was years of your parents’ hard work with you that I’d seen. And the nation saw it, too. That means moms and dads and grandparents and uncles and aunts, all of them pulling together, off camera, teaching you the right and the wrong of things. You want to know about parents? Just watch their children. That will tell you everything you need to know. We watched you play under pressure, watching you refuse to give up or to crack or act foolish. And each and every one of you showed the world what you and your parents are made of. This is what made us proud of you. Not just the winning. But that your families had given you the proper foundation to grow and become men. Since you’re champions, which means you’re highly competitive, some of you will wake up with a nightmare about that last game. And some of you will cringe when an adult says something positive about the loss, saying it kindly, in one of those singsong voices as if we were talking to a baby. But you’re not babies. You’re ballplayers. And if any of you think you let Chicago and the rest of the country down, think again. You were exactly what the rest of us needed. You lifted us up. Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, and your moms and dads, your grandparents, your coaches, everyone associated with the program: Thank you. You make us proud. (John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM. His e-mail address is: [email protected], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.) Also see, Chicago’s Little League team worth watching
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