Rival Wants Jackie Robinson West Stripped Of Title, Claiming Team Recruited Ringers

CHICAGO (CBS) — A rival Little League team wants the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars stripped of their national title, claiming the team blatantly violated residency rules to recruit “ringers” who don’t live within the team’s established boundaries.

The Evergreen Park Athletic Association asked the international Little League to investigate JRW for residency violations, and EPAA Vice President Chris Janes said he wasn’t satisfied with the league’s finding no wrongdoing by Jackie Robinson West.

Janes claimed at least three JRW players were ineligible, because they lived in the suburbs, outside the Jackie Robinson boundaries. He said the Little League investigation did not answer specific allegations about specific players living in the suburbs.

Janes said, if JRW leaders recruited players from outside the team boundaries, the team should forfeit its national title.

“If the team’s comprised of players that shouldn’t have been on there in the first place, then absolutely,” he said. “Little League has very specific rules. Those rules need to be followed. If they’re not, there’s consequences, and Little League outlines those in their rules. If Jackie Robinson broke these rules, they need to be held accountable.”

The allegations were first reported by DNAinfo Chicago, which noted U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly congratulated JRW players who live in suburbs within her Congressional district. DNAinfo also reported South Holland village officials congratulated two players as “alumni” and Sports Illustrated reported one player attended school in Homewood, among other apparent evidence that some players lived outside the Jackie Robinson boundaries.

Jackie Robinson West has insisted it did not recruit players, and did not break the league’s residency rules.

Little League International issued a statement that says in part: “Little League International is confident that the documentation provided to the organization from Jackie Robinson West Little League meets the residency regulations for the 2014 Little League Baseball tournament season.”

After two reviews, Little League International says they consider the issue closed.

JRW crushed the EPAA Little League team 43-2 when they played in the sectional playoffs. JRW went on to win the U.S. championship in the Little League World Series.

Janes said Little League officials depend on the volunteers who run the teams to be honest about where players live, but he believes that wasn’t the case with Jackie Robinson West.

“If you’ve been found to have broken the rules after the fact, then you have to undo it. Our problem is, what does that do for the teams that Jackie Robinson beat to get there? How many teams lost the opportunity to play on TV, to get a chance at the World Series, because they were beat by a team who didn’t follow the rules?” Janes said.

Janes said, if a team is not held accountable for violating residency rules to recruit ringers, other teams will follow suit.

“The cascading effect that has on little organizations like mine – or ours, EPAA – it could be really detrimental,” he said. “Less and less kids will be participating in the league they should be, because in their minds, they’ll be able to go wherever they’d like to, because you’re not following the rules relative to boundaries.”

He said it’s clearly not the JRW players who are at fault if the rules were broken.

“I cannot in any circumstance imagine a group of … 11- or 12-year-old kids sitting in a room, saying, ‘Let’s come up with a plan to create our own team. This was obviously done by the parents; the parents, the coaches, and members of that organization.”

Venisa Green, the mother of Jackie Robinson West player, Brandon Green, questions why a story alleging the team broke residency rules, is surfacing now.

“Why would Mr. Janes, if it was not class and race, want to taint something that has been good for the entire nation,” she said. “We had to provide birth certificates, proof of schools, light bills, so we had to prove our residency in order to join the team.”

“This is a Little League issue,” Janes said. “Shame on anybody that tries to mix race and that card, with what we’re talking about today.”

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