While I was reading what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri, I was watching the 2014 Little League World Series from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I noticed a couple of things. Many of these 12 and 13-year-olds are big. Some are over six-feet tall.
I noticed something else. There’s an all-black team named Jackie Robinson West from Chicago. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947. Today, only about 8 percent of MLB players are black. Little League is hoping to change the downward trend with its Urban Initiative program that began in 1999 in Harlem and Los Angeles and now operates more than 200 leagues in nearly 85 cities in the United States with the participation of approximately 51,000 players.
The crowd, made up of more than 32,000 over the weekend, loves it. There are decent people in America who love to see people succeed and will acknowledge the effort:
“Paul Graziano, an LLWS press box announcer since 1980, has never seen this level of excitement so early in the tournament.
“‘We always got good crowds on championship weekends, but I’ve seen more growth and more people coming now for early games,’ Graziano said. ‘You’ve got two girls and a team from the inner city … I think it will just bolster’ Little League, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.”
Watching these kids play was a stark contrast from what we’re seeing unfold in Ferguson, Missouri.