A top Rosemoor Little League official said changes made to expand Jackie Robinson West boundaries that encrouched on his league were made without getting required permission or even notifying his organization.
Ricardo Coleman, the vice president of Rosemoor, the league immediately east of Jackie Robinson West, told DNAinfo.com he was informed that his league neither knew about nor approved the boundary change. The change was signed off on by Michael Kelley, administrator for the District 4 umbrella group of six leagues that included Rosemoor and Jackie Robinson West.
Coleman also called on Little League International to investigate, becoming the first member of a District 4 league to do so publicly.
“I can tell you 200 percent that we didn’t sign off on that map,” Coleman said.
Expanding the boundaries contrary to Little League rules allowed Jackie Robinson West to add players who helped the team win the U.S. championship.
Little League International has refused to release the maps it used to certify the Jackie Robinson West team. But Coleman said, "If Little League International doesn't have anything to hide, they can show us the map. They can show everybody the map."
Little League International officials on Tuesday said they will not further probe cheating allegations and refused to answer questions about how Jackie Robinson West’s boundaries were expanded without permission of affected leagues, a requirement of its bylaws.
In an email, Little League International spokesman Brian McClintock said the Pennsylvania-based organization would not release any documents or discuss the “proprietary, in-depth” private conversations that “helped us to affirm our current position.”
Coleman said his public criticism and call for an investigation into Jackie Robinson West "isn't about the championship team."
"I know most of those kids and I know their parents. Those kids played and deserve it. It's the adults who should be ashamed," Coleman said.
Last week, Little League International officials said its investigation that determined Jackie Robinson West players were eligible for last summer's Little League World Series, and that JRW's expanded boundary map was valid, included conversations with Kelley and district secretary Jackie Lindsey, who also is president of South Side Little League, another of the members of District 4.
Little League International officials also spoke with the president of District 4's Roseland Little League, which lost territory to Jackie Robinson West when the boundary map was expanded this year. Little League officials did not contact Rosemoor Little League as part of its investigation.
Ultimately, Little League International determined that Kelley properly signed off on changes to the map and sent it to the Regional Office before the 2014 season.
That affirmation of Kelley's actions was made after DNAinfo.com began asking questions in response to complaints about Jackie Robinson West. A week after the Little League International action, DNAinfo.com reported that sources said league presidents within District 4 did not give permission for Jackie Robinson West's boundaries to be expanded, and were unaware of the changes.
By redrawing the map, Jackie Robinson West officials laid claim to territory already used by chartered leagues within District 4 — a move that requires the OK by the president of each impacted league, according to Little League rules and veteran volunteers familiar with re-mapping district boundaries.
The rules also state: "A league’s boundaries must not overlap or encroach on another chartered Little League's boundaries."
McClintock stressed Little League International took the allegations seriously and spent "considerable time and effort looking into this situation."
"We have not looked the other way simply to avoid the situation or come up with a particular conclusion," McClintock wrote.
"Given the information made available to us, understanding that not one complaint or dispute from any league arose in Illinois District 4 during the height of the 2014 season or during the tournament season, coupled with the fact that all players have been deemed eligible by 2014 residency or school enrollment requirements, Little League still considers this matter closed," he said.
Little League International officials are, however, “more than willing to meet” with District 4 officials and league presidents to address concerns before the 2015 season, McClintock wrote.
But when it comes to the allegations against Jackie Robinson West, he wrote, “We will not address any further questions.”
McClintock did not respond to questions about why Jackie Robinson West changed its map and why the league was permitted to expand its boundary in a land-locked district without getting permission from the presidents of leagues affected by the changes as required by Little League rules.
McClintock's statement did say Little League International relies on local volunteers to handle the "vast majority of operational issues" based on its guidelines rules and regulations.
"Little League relies on the dedication of its volunteers to ensure our rules and regulations are followed at the local level, and, in cases where there is a misunderstanding or an issue needs to be clarified, our operations staff works with local volunteers to ensure all proper steps are followed and issues are resolved," he said.
District 4 sources told DNAinfo.com they look forward to such a meeting with Little League International officials to get their questions answered. Two sources said it's unlikely Jackie Robinson West’s expanded boundaries will remain the same for the 2015 season.
Since DNAinfo.com first reported Jackie Robinson West officials faced cheating allegations, Kelley and the presidents of all six District 4 leagues, including JRW president Bill Haley, have either declined to comment or have not responded to repeated interview requests.
Coleman, the Rosemoor official, said he isn’t afraid to speak out for the good of thousands of kids playing Little League baseball in other leagues on the South Side.
“We should not be focusing on JRW. We should be focusing on Little League International because they accepted that type of behavior and they continue to accept it," he said. "Just because we're leagues in the inner city, we shouldn't be used as pawns. They’re just not going to do anything because nobody is investigating them."
Little League not ‘interested in the truth’
Chris Janes, an Evergreen Park Athletic Association vice president who filed a formal complaint alleging the Jackie Robinson West included ringers from the suburbs, said he remains frustrated by Little League International’s “vague and ambiguous” responses.
“This leaves me with the impression that, in this case, Little League International may not be interested in the truth,” Janes said.
It’s a concern echoed by league presidents, parents and coaches from the Chicago area and across the country who called and wrote to Janes to support a more thorough investigation to preserve the innocence of Little League baseball, an organization worth more than $80 million.
If Little League does nothing now, “there is more incentive for teams and leagues to bend the rules in order to play in the World Series than ever before. Televised games, huge donations, sponsorships, commercial deals, parades ... all make it easy for adults to try and rationalize foul play," Janes said.
"If the rewards for success in the World Series tournament continue to be this rich, Little League really needs to reconsider how they manage the rules that are already in place. As it stands today, local Little League organizations are pretty much responsible for policing themselves. … But now, with all the incentive to cheat, I am not sure self-policed leagues work any more.”
Last week, Janes posted an online petition calling for a “full and independent investigation into these matters,” saying it’s time for “Little League International to step up and protect the integrity of the game!”
“I set up the petition because it is important to me that Little League International understands this issue is far more reaching than one league,” he said. “I am hopeful that if enough voices share the same concerns Little League will be more responsive to our collective voice and act accordingly.”
Janes praised Coleman for speaking out, saying he hopes other league presidents in District 4 follow suit and Little League International won’t turn a blind eye.
“I absolutely commend him. I know how tough it is to come forward on this stuff, especially because [Coleman] lives in the community,” Janes said. “Why the hell Little League won’t listen is beyond me. It’s so frustrating. Now, there’s someone on record in that district. How Little League can turn their back on that is a problem. It’s crazy.”
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: