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A Lesson Learned by Mark Hollis


by Mark Hollis

mark hollisIn January of this year the famed Jackie Robinson West Little League Champions, from Chicago’s South Side, was stripped of their title by its Governing Board of Play, Little League international.  The infraction stems from illegally recruiting players outside of their jurisdiction. In essence they were stacking the deck against all the teams they competed against.  JRW’s Team Manager, Donald Butler, District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly, and League President Bill Haley have all been suspended.  The biggest losers in all of this are the team of 11 and 12 year olds who actually signed up to play on a team.  They didn’t concern themselves with boundary restrictions, because that’s not what children do at that age.  They wanted to play baseball and represent the team that reflects one of the greatest players to play the game, Jackie Robinson.  An icon that mandated consistency in fair play, especially in a game he so greatly embraced.

In recent weeks there’s been a great deal of finger-pointing. Chris Janes, the vice president of a competing league, is allegedly the one that spilled the beans regarding the violation.  Could this be an instance of sour grapes because JRW dominated Janes’s team with a score of 45 to 2?  But, the reality of it all is that the adults in charge of Jackie Robinson West failed their team, their community, and their country.  During the championship games that aired on ESPN, the world became enamored with JRW.  Having the kids experience the celebration of the parade and the recognition they received at the White House ceremony with President Barak Obama was memorable.  The lessons that these young players had learned about integrity and hard work are now tainted.  They are now devastated having been stripped of the title and embellished with feelings of embarrassment.

The management team of JRW is now seeking legal counsel—why is anybody’s guess.  If you cheat and get caught there are consequences.  If you take a test and steal somebody’s notes and get caught you can’t blame the person whose notes you stole. What the team management did is lay blame on the opposing teams for snitching on the illegal recruiting.  People like this need not to be suspended, but banished from the game of baseball.  What they did is horrible and shameful to these kids.  On the flip side, these players learned a valuable lesson that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Integrity is singularly the most important component as a life skill; just ask those who knew and played with Jackie Robinson.