CHICAGO (CBS) — The Jackie Robinson West All-Stars came out swinging in their Little League World Series opener, as they beat the Lynnwood Pacific team from Washington state 12-2 in five innings.
Hundreds of people filled the team’s home field in Washington Heights to watch a live cable feed of the game on a screen that was set up on the far side of the stadium’s center field fence, and was half again as large as its scoreboard.
Most brought blankets, chairs or both. A number wore the coveted yellow T-shirts that proclaim the team the Great Lakes regional Little League champions, and many of those with friends or family members on the team customized the shirts.
They didn’t stay in their seats for long. They jumped to their feet and cheered lustily when right fielder Pierce Jones opened the game with a home run — the first of three he would hit.
The Lynnwood team tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the first, but Chicago’s Little League champions responded with 10 unanswered runs, prompting umpires to enforce the 10-run “mercy rule” after five innings.
One group of fans wore special T-shirts that proclaimed the wearers to be “legends.” They were members of the 1983 Jackie Robinson West team, the last to represent Chicago in the Little League World Series.
Several of the former players, now in their 40s, said they counseled this year’s team before they left for Williamsport, Pa., not to let the media attention distract them, and to play hard to the final out.
Ronell Coleman still responds to questions about the 1983 team by answering, “We…” and said with a broad smile that it’s clear they took the advice to heart.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand for much of the game. He beamed as he looked out on the field filled with fans, new and old, and said even more important than the score was the sense of community he saw.
The Jackie Robinson West team plays again Sunday, and many of those present said they expect an even larger crowd in the park, near 106th and Aberdeen Streets.