ROSELAND — Sandra Murphy, 31, watched as the Jesse White Tumblers kicked off opening day for Jackie Robinson West baseball season at the team's home field in Roseland Sunday.
Murphy came out to cheer on her 4-year-old son Quintin at his first baseball game. "He's been enjoying practice, and he's really excited to play his first game," Murphy said.
"This is just a wonderful beginning for great things to come," Murphy said through loud cheers from players, parents and family members as they watched the tumblers flip through a series of intricate tumbling routines.
Sunday's opening games were the first since Jackie Robinson West team's Little League championship was stripped earlier this year after DNAinfo Chicago reported league officials, including JRW leader Bill Haley, plucked players from ineligible neighborhood boundaries in a violation of Little League's rules.
Starting this season, JRW will play in the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken League — a move parents said has been positive so far.
Despite the controversy earlier this year, coaches and parents, like Kineatra Thomas, 41, who came to support JRW, remain optimistic for the new season.
"It's a new year. We are focused on the kids and this new season," Thomas said.
Antjuan Mitchell, 36, who has been coaching for JRW for the last three years and volunteering for more than 10 years, was excited for optimistic for the new season.
"This is baseball in its most pure form, you have players as young as four years old learning how to play the sport, throwing their first pitches, batting for the first time and developing relationships outside of school environment," Murphy said. "We are here focusing on baseball and the positive influence it has on this community."
Brittany Shepard, 26, parent of six-year-old player Denaldo Smith, echoed Mitchell's sentiment. "It's all about the game," Shepard said. "We are here to teach our kids about teamwork, discipline, leadership and commitment."
John Rayburn, 18, who was a back-to-back Jackie Robinson West All-Star player in 2007 and 2008, was excited to come out for the opening games. "Watching these games bring back so many great memories," Rayburn said. "There's a lot of possibilities with baseball," Rayburn said. "These kids have a lot to look forward to."
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