*The kids on Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West team will have to give up their hard-fought Little League U.S. championship title because of shenanigans pulled by their manager, Darold Butler.
Little League Baseball ruled that the team used players from outside its local area by recruiting players from neighboring districts, which is against the rules.
The league found that the team used a falsified boundary map, and that team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.
In addition to stripping Jackie Robinson West of its title, team manager Darold Butler has been suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position, according to ESPN.com.
Jackie Robinson West must vacate wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament — including its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships, reports ESPN.
As a result, the United States championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.
“Quite honestly, we had to do this,” Little League International president/CEO Stephen D. Keener told ESPN on Wednesday. “We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … As painful as this is, it’s a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm.
Jackie Robinson West captivated the nation as it advanced to the tournament’s title game, where it fell to Seoul, South Korea. In a sport that increasingly struggles to attract African-Americans, the team representing Chicago’s South Side emerged as a force, beating Las Vegas 7-5 in the U.S. title game.
The Chicago players were lauded for not just their play on the field but also for their sportsmanship, and they later were honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
“This is a heartbreaking decision,” Keenan said in a statement. “What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome. …
“As painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.”