More than 500 Chicagoans rooted for the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars team at a viewing party Thursday at the Jackie Robinson Field. They watched as the youth won their first game of the Little League World Series in five innings, 12-2.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago White Sox hosted the event at the field, 10700 S. Aberdeen. Fans were able to watch the team of 11 and 12-year-olds play against a team from Lynwood, Wash. Attendees were able to view the game on a large screen.
“The boys are winners and the community is a winner,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said as he watched the game among the crowd. “This a true representation of the City of Chicago, good parents, faith leaders, parents, neighbors, everybody, this is what Chicago is all about.”
The South Side team of all African Americans became the first Chicago team to qualify for the Little League Baseball World Series since 1983 when they beat New Albany, Indiana for the Great Lakes Region Champions title Aug. 9.
Shawn Hammock was apart of the 1983 team and he came out to support the young players in spirit.
“I’m so excited, it has been a long time and I’m really happy for these guys,” Shawn Hammock said.
He said he and other former players have mentored the players and prepared them for what’s ahead.
“We told them what they’re going to go through, kept them calm, so now they know what to expect,” Hammock said.
Gina Raiford’s two sons, Andre and Alexander used to play for the team and her husband was a former coach. The family attended the viewing party to show their support.
Raiford said that people always hear about the violence in Chicago, but now this is an opportunity for them to see something good.
“I think this is just what we needed to show that our young African American males are doing something positive,” she said. “
“I’m glad to see the community is coming together in a positive way,” Raiford said.
Not everyone knew the players personally, but they still attended. Kercy Brown said he hadn’t been to a baseball game in more than 30 years, but wanted to support the team.
“You look at the effort and the support they’ve had and that they’re getting right now, you can see how they’ve come to this point and I believe last year they were pretty close to making it, but this year it looks like they might go all the way,” Brown said.
This is the 15th time that an Illinois team has made it to the Little League Baseball World Series. For the Jackie Robinson West, it’s the second time. The team also made it to the finals in the 2013 Great Lakes Region.