WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (CBS) — It’s almost time to play ball as a team from Chicago is in the Little League World Series for the first time in decades.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the festivities are already underway in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“Like baseball Christmas, they are extra excited,” says Darold Butler, the manager of Jackie Robinson West.
Consider Butler Santa Claus, and he’s very proud of his team.
“I might be a little bit biased. Kid-wise, they’re great kids. Team-wise, the combo of power and strength,” said Butler.
While crews work to prep the fields in Williamsport, just as meticulous as grounds crews in the major leagues, the kids are getting ready for Thursday’s big game with national TV crews looking on.
Kids like DJ Butler, son of the manager, know what they want everyone to see.
“Show good sportsmanship to other people and be very respectful,” said DJ.
DJ says he’s very confident and does not hesitate when asked why.
“Because I have them (gestures to others)…as a team.”
These kids know they’re a long way from Jackie Robinson Park in the Washington Heights neighborhood and many of their families have been touched by violence. They know it’s no accident they’ve made it to the world series because they’ve made the right choices.
“We’re doing the right thing to make it,” said player Marquis Jackson. “South Side of Chicago is not all about shootings, it’s kids coming to play baseball, African-American kids that are doing the right thing,” said Marquis Jackson.
Tammy King, whose son Eddie plays left field for Jackie Robinson West, told CBS 2 Williamsport has rolled out the red carpet for these Chicago kids.
“You feel it everywhere you go, no matter if you’re in the store or you are actually on the campus,” she said. “We’ve made so many friends. ‘Go JRW’ that’s all they’re saying.”
The team is also getting plenty of support back in Chicago, with one store selling out of Jackie Robinson West T-shirts.
The kids themselves are low key, almost major league relaxed.
“I think we’re the best competition out here,” said Jackson.
“To me it is fun and it’s very competitive,” said DJ Butler.
It is experience of a lifetime: representing their hometown breaking bread and making friends with kids from all over the world.
A watch party sponsored by the city and the White Sox will take place at Jackie Robinson Park at 107th and Aberdeen in the Washington Heights neighborhood at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.