ROSELAND — Ald. Anthony Beale wants Little League International to give black youth baseball leagues on the South Side their disbanded district back.
Last week, Little League dissolved the six-team district that included Jackie Robinson West, which was stripped of the U.S. Championship last month after the parent league ruled ringers were brought in from outside approved boundaries.
Beale, who has a long history of supporting South Side youth baseball, said JRW’s five sister leagues were unfairly punished by the move, which he described as a blatant attempt to dilute the influence of African-American-run leagues.
“They’re punishing the entire district, and I think that’s unfair to do. And in doing so they diluted the power base of leagues in the African-American leagues in the community,” the 9th Ward alderman said. “Instead of trying to fix the problem, they’re throwing out the baby with the bath water. And I think that was strategic.”
When Little League International officials stripped JRW’s U.S. title in February, they also removed District 4 administrator Mike Kelley for his part in the cheating scandal. That left the district without a leader.
At the time, Little League CEO Stephen Keener issued a a statement that his operations staff would appoint a “special advisor” who would work with District 4 league officials to “ensure all operations and boundary issues fully comply” with rules an regulations.
Beale, who has been a Roseland Little League coach and secured more than $300,000 in grants to improve that league’s fields over the last 10 years, said he’s disappointed Keener didn’t follow through on that directive.
Instead, District 4 league presidents were told last week their leagues would be assigned to two existing districts. Voting for a new district administrator was not an option, Roseland League President Maurice Johnson told DNAinfo.com.
“They need to rethink this. This is a bad decision. They didn’t consult with the district before making this move. They didn’t give the district a chance to fix the problem,” Beale said. “We’re not going to stand by and let Little League baseball dictate to us in our community without consulting our community on what we think is best.”
Beale declined to comment about the decision to strip JRW of the title.
“I don’t want to get into what happened. I’m looking at moving forward,” he said. “Splitting up the district is not the correct decision for our community. Because Little League baseball has done this blatant dismantling of an African-American district, now I am engaged. We need to have some conversations about this … and we will have those conversations.”
On Monday, Little League did not immediately respond to questions seeking comment.
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