By Rob Johnson
CHICAGO (CBS) — Last week, as Chicago’s newest heroes were being honored with a parade that brought out tens of thousands of people from Washington Heights to Millennium Park, I couldn’t help but think what baseball now means to the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, and what baseball has meant to millions, including me.READ MORE: 1 Person Dead, Another Injured In 4 Car Crash In Waukegan
As Erin Kennedy, Jim Williams, and I anchored CBS 2 Chicago’s nearly four-hour live coverage from a set with the Pritzker Pavilion as a backdrop on a sunny, chamber-of-commerce day, I felt pride for my city, and these coaches and boys who allowed us to cover a story with a happy, instead of a tragic, ending.
And then the memories began rushing back.
You see, in 1982 and 1983, a team of 14- and 15-year-olds who lived in Brussels, Belgium represented Europe in the Senior League World Series in Gary, Ind.
This was the age group older than the 11- and 12-year-olds who have made the Little League World Series and Williamsport, Pa., synonymous.
Like JRW, we had to win local and regional tournaments, traveling with our families at great expense, practicing for hours on a daily basis, to qualify for the big tournament.
Unlike JRW, we did not win a National Championship and come within a game of winning the World Championship.
Our team of mostly American boys representing Europe went 0-2 each year, losing by one run three times to the likes of Taiwan, Aruba, and Seaford, Del.READ MORE: Woman, 2 Children In Hospital After Building Fire In Homan Square
That Delaware team was led by a skinny kid with a rocket arm named Delino Deshields, who played 13 years in the Major Leagues.
Despite our lack of success, I have memories aplenty.
Not just the scoreless 10 innings I pitched against Delaware, only to lose in the 11th inning after I came out, but the friendships I made on my team, many which last to this day, and the people I met from all over America and the world.
Going to breakfast with my coach, Delino, and his coach the day we played them. Eating a meal with a coach and player from Taiwan, along with their interpreter.
When Derrick Blakley interviewed JRW stud Pierce Jones after getting off the plane back here in Chicago, he asked him what his favorite memory was.
Pierce easily could have pointed to his three home-run game which made him a household name.
Instead he talked about meeting people from all over the world, spending time with them, and learning more about them.
That is the Little League experience, those are the moments of which lifelong memories are made.MORE NEWS: Cook County Sheriff's Officer Fires Shots During Attempted Traffic Stop: Police
Thanks JRW for reminding me of mine.