Jackie Robinson West has 'energized' Cubs, city of Chicago

Jackie Robinson West has 'energized' Cubs, city of Chicago
August 24, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Who would have guessed a Little League team would carry the entire city of Chicago on its shoulders?

Jackie Robinson West has been the biggest baseball story in the Windy City this month.

[RELATED - Jackie Robinson West wins LLWS U.S. Championship]

As the kids from the South Side try to capture the Little League World Series international championship Sunday afternoon, they've left a lasting mark on their city, which has been compared to a war zone with all the shootings and violence this summer.

"This is definitely a positive outlook on the city," Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson said. "Instead of a headline on something negative, you can have a bright spot on a city where there's a lot of negative things going around.

"It's definitely something energizing to pick up the paper and see a positive headline. It's fun for the city. It's motivation for the kids at home watching, as well."

The Cubs were able to watch Jackie Robinson West capture the national championship Saturday afternoon as their game at Wrigley Field was in a rain delay. That also meant the fans at the Friendly Confines were able to watch, too, and their cheers could be heard throughout Chicago's North Side when the final out was recorded.

[RELATED - Cubs fans react to Jackie Robinson West at Wrigley Field]

"They're definitely in a big spotlight," Jackson said. "The world is watching. They have us watching, they have other athletes watching, they have celebrities watching. It's a lot of fun watching those kids at such a young age."

Professional athletes like Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, and Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins have supported JRW since Day 1, helping to fly the parents and families out to Williamsport, Penn., for the experience.

"It's great for the parents to be there," Jackson said. "They can look on social media and watch all the people watching back home, watching the city go ecstatic about winning the game. I'm sure that's a lot of motivation for them to want to bring the championship home."

Like most big leaguers, Jackson played Little League growing up, but he said his team only made it to regionals and never to the World Series.

Recently, the trends have shown that baseball is not as popular with kids growing up in today's world, especially in the African-American community.

But Jackie Robinson West has helped turn that around in Chicago, at least. The Chicago program has said they are already receiving calls for next year's league.

[MORE - Cubs rooting for Jackie Robinson West]

Jackson said the JRW squad has opened the door for other kids to follow in their same path.

"This is where it starts," Jackson said. "We can come talk to them as African-American players in the Major Leagues, but when you have teams with the age group that they can really relate to, [it means more]. When they come back home, they'll be like celebrities all around the city. You have everyone wanting to enjoy that spotlight and be successful.

"It's just going to encourage more kids that want to play and the more you are in activities, the more you stay out of trouble. It just keeps you occupied and you have something to do with your time.

"It's great for the city and it's great for baseball."