Chicago Greets Little League National Champs As Returning Heroes
Chicago has gathered for a parade to celebrate the Jackie Robinson West baseball team, which won the U.S. championship at the Little League World Series. Chicago Public Radio's Natalie Moore reports that this all-black team has helped to unify a city reeling from North and South Side segregation, as well as renewed attention on the city's violence.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Today Chicago is celebrating a Little League team.
Cheers there for Jackie Robinson West, the U.S. Little League champions from the South Side of Chicago. Last Sunday they lost the World Series title to South Korea. Today a parade and other events were held in Chicago to honor the team. Natalie Moore of member station WBEZ sent this story.
NATALIE MOORE, BYLINE: Jackie Robinson West players received a grand welcome in the park where the team practices. Thousands of supporters flocked to Jackie Robinson Park as an MC called out their names one by one.
(SOUNDBITE OF CELEBRATION)
UNIDENTIFIED MC: Lawrence Hugh Noble. Get over here, Hugh.
MOORE: JRW's national win has been a unifying moment for many here. The 11 and 12-year-old boys captured the city's heart during the series.
Michael Harris is the barber for one of the players.
MICHAEL HARRIS: It's just something that the city needs. And any way that I can support some young youth in our community, I'm willing to do that. So for me taking the day off work, which I don't mind doing for these young men, I will do.
MOORE: A city that sometimes seems increasingly divided cheered on Jackie Robinson West the past few weeks. The all-black team flourished under the weight of race in a city that gets unwelcome attention, mostly for shooting deaths.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed the team, wearing a yellow JRW T-shirt.
(SOUNDBITE OF CELEBRATION)
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: Brought Chicago to its feet, tears to our eyes and pride to our heart.
MOORE: Contrary to popular belief, the neighborhoods where most of the boys live are middle class and not impoverished. The homes here around Jackie Robinson Park are sturdy Georgians and bungalows.
Coach Darold Butler says, while on the road, players had no idea that Chicago residents were rallying behind them.
DAROLD BUTLER: We were kind of living in a bubble. No TV, no cable. We got a chance to watch a clip of a watch party and it was bananas. After seeing that, we all knew it man, let's go ahead and win this whole thing for the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois.
MOORE: After this morning's rally, trolley buses carried the team through the South Side to where the White Sox play and then downtown. Tonight a fireworks display will erupt over Lake Michigan in the team's honor.
And of course, with a nod to the Chicago Cubs - there's a joke circulating that once again, another Chicago baseball team beat it to the national championship.
For NPR News, I'm Natalie Moore in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.