(CBS) — The success of the national champion Jackie Robinson West Little League All-Stars has resulted in a windfall for the league.
A representative from Dick’s Sporting Goods presented League President Bill Haley, All-Stars Manager Darold Butler and Butler’s son, All-Star D.J. Butler, a check for $164,481.17, representing the profits from the sale of 12,000 limited-edition T-shirts celebrating both the team’s Great Lakes regional championship and the Little League national title.
“Yeah. That’s big money,” the younger Butler said.
The Dick’s store at 1100 S. Canal St. originally printed 300 T-shirts. When those were snapped up within hours, more were made. Again and again. League President Bill Haley said when he heard from Dick’s that 7,000 shirts had been sold in one morning, he thought it was a mistake.
The team’s success has also gotten the word out. Haley said fall baseball registration — always difficult because of all of the other competing sports activities — is already off to a fast start with 20 players the first day, most of them new players.
Haley said he expects an overall 20 to 30 percent increase in registrations next spring. This past spring, he said, 310 players were registered, all from the south side Washington Heights, Englewood, Roseland and Morgan Park neighborhoods.
That’s the area in which Jackie Robinson West operates, under agreement with Little League Baseball. And while the league cannot expand its reach, Haley said he hopes to be able to “go deeper” in recruiting players.
He expects the money to be spent over a period of four to five years, although there are some more creative potential uses, such as leveraging it to help build an indoor, all-weather baseball facility — something rare at the Little League level.
D.J. said he hopes it will be used to improve the league’s four existing fields. No matter how it is spent, Haley said the money is a “game changer” for a league that his mother, Ann Haley, said for many years considered $20 or $30 profit on food sales a good day.
Bill Haley said the city of Chicago has been through tough times recently, but said the T-shirt sales, watch parties and parade — all peaceful — show Chicagoans can be united and that activities such as Little League baseball can make it possible.