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On The Fence

Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 4/7/2015, 9:30 p.m.
With the youth baseball season right around the corner, I cannot help but be brought back to the breaking story ...
Bobby Leach

With the youth baseball season right around the corner, I cannot help but be brought back to the breaking story of the off season when the Little League World Series title was stripped from a group of South Chicago kids known as the Jackie Robinson West team in February. That entire episode regardless of fault has put a bad taste in my mouth for the sport at the younger levels as a fan and in fact has me questioning if the sport can survive the drama especially in economically challenged communities.

I have been a Chicago Cub fan since I can remember and hit had little to due with their win total season in and season out. The Wrigley Ville atmosphere for me has always been intoxicating and my memories of attending games with a warm sun on my face surrounded by friends is among my most cherished memories. That said, if the Cubs won the World Series I am pretty sure that Cubbie blue jerseys would be the hottest fashion trend not only in Chicago but the nation. Everyone seems to want to pull for the underdog but what would happen to professional baseball if the Cubs were stripped of their title afterwards for an error not on the field of play but in the board room or coaches office? How would that story line effect Major League Baseball?

The Jackie Robinson West fiasco has created a similar reaction to the scenario I spelled out above for me personally. I absolutely feel for the players of that team and their fans while not condoning any wrong doing but in my opinion the hardest hit in the sanctions handed down were the kids who wore the jersey and played the game. Such a great story line and such a great lift for a sport that is simply drying up in urban communities across the country with participation levels falling according to several reports online. I can't believe being embarrassed on a national stage is very appealing to a youngster in a competitive league already dogged by economic realities that make the daily grind more challenging.

While new teams are being formed as we speak, I sure hope there is a stern warning to any adults governing these players that any stretching of the rules will be dealt with just as harshly as the consequences the players of the Jackie Robinson West endured last year. To me it's frankly sad to see a kids game turned into a national spectacle and with any luck the sting felt only a couple of months ago will begin to fade with the coming of a new season.