The Evergreen Park coach who alleged Jackie Robinson West violated Little League residency rules by stacking its U.S. Championship team with ringers from the suburbs took a beating on social media Tuesday.
But Chris Janes says he won’t apologize for “doing the right thing” and holds on to hope that Little League International will investigate new information made public in a DNAinfo.com Chicago report.
“I’ve gotten several messages telling me that I’m an idiot. Telling me that it’s sour grapes. Telling me I should resign,” Janes said. “But I have no regrets. I feel like we’re doing the right thing and we just have to keep moving forward. … I don’t think this is over.”
The controversy began in late October when Janes sent an email on behalf of his south suburban league asking Little League International to investigate whether Jackie Robinson West engaged in “manipulating, bending and blatantly breaking the rules for the sole purpose of winning at all costs” by recruiting All-Star players from outside their league boundaries to put together the “super team” that became U.S. champs.
Jackie Robinson West league president Bill Haley and head coach Darold Butler — and some parents — denied violating league residency rules that require players to either reside or attend school within a league’s boundaries with very few exceptions, and specifically state it is unacceptable for a parent to establish residency to qualify for tournament play.
“Oh my goodness, we did not cheat. We did not recruit these guys,” Haley told DNAinfo.com. “Nothing was done to put these kids together. We absolutely did not cheat.”
Neither Haley nor Jackie Robinson West coach Darold Butler returned calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Little League International issued a statement Tuesday saying that officials investigated Evergreen Park’s claims and are “confident that the documentation provided to the organization from Jackie Robinson West Little League meets the residency regulations for the 2014 Little League Baseball tournament season … [and] considers the issue closed at this time.”
But after issuing that statement, Little League spokesman Brian McClintock told DNAinfo.com in an email sent Tuesday afternoon that the door remains open to additional investigation.
“Should we receive additional official documentation, we would review it,” McClintock wrote. He declined further comment.
The crux of Evergreen Park’s allegations came to light during Jackie Robinson West’s Little League World Series run that ended with a U.S. championship, including online posts from a congresswoman, a suburban mayor, an elite traveling baseball league, a village newsletter and a Sports Illustrated post that detailed the players' suburban roots.
Additional details reported by DNAinfo.com — including the Jackie Robinson West boundary map that was previously not public and public records that showed the parents of some players both resided and sent their kids to public schools in the suburbs — further show that Evergreen Park’s allegations deserve a closer look, Janes said.
“I don’t know what additional official documentation Little League is looking for,” he said. “I feel like the information put forth already is more than compelling for [Little League International] to look into this further than they have. Now that we have the official map that adds to the kids on our list that don’t live in the boundaries. The league can see the map, too. I don’t know why they’re waiting for me to send it to them … when they have the information in front of them.”
Janes said he also received emails and calls backing his league’s decision to speak out, including a letter from a former west suburban Little League official.
“I wanted to reach out to you to thank and encourage you to continue to speak out against border-jumping families. While the story told of the JRW program was inspiring and the players deserve the admiration, it is my opinion that the choices of the adults deserve scorn,” the email states.
“What they fail to see [as do most of the commenters] is that for every accolade they have received, they have stolen those magical moments from kids and families who have followed the rules and deserve the attention. … It takes a great deal of courage and clearly demonstrates the responsibility you must feel to speak out against the injustice of deception.”
Janes says he appreciated the support.
“It’s great to hear but it’s odd when people commend you for being courageous,” he said. “What kind of world do we live in when this is what’s considered courageous? When you see something that’s wrong you report it. More people should step forward.”
Janes said that he’s hoping now that the Evergreen Park league he represents has spoken out and provided “as many facts as we could” that more people with “first-hand knowledge of Jackie Robinson West players living outside league boundaries will speak up as well.
“Maybe the more voices that are heard the more likely something will be done about it,” said Janes, who believes Jackie Robinson West should be stripped of its title if an investigation finds the team violated residency rules.
The Mountain Ridge Little League coach whose Las Vegas-based team lost to Jackie Robinson West in the U.S. title game said he believes Little League International officials will do the right thing to “protect the integrity of the league” as they have in past cases involving questions about player eligibility.
“I’m gonna leave that up to them,” Mountain Ridge manager Ashton Cave said. “I’m sure Little League [officials] would — now that there’s some controversy being stirred up — want to keep the integrity of Little League … because it will affect a lot of baseball players and a lot of families if it becomes tainted and tarnished.
“That’s the last thing that any coach or league would want to do — to ruin something because you want to win. You don’t tarnish an entire league worldwide. That would be very unfortunate. And I’m not accusing anybody. I’m just making observations."
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