On Wednesday, Little League's Jackie Robinson West were stripped of their US title and forced to vacate their 2014 victories thanks to an investigation that proved they had cheated in order to construct a super team. The reason that Little League found out is thanks to a neighboring Chicago-area league, Evergreen Park, which gathered information on Jackie Robinson West's recruiting of ineligible players from outside of their district.
It turns out that Evergreen Park is guilty of the same rule breaking, and not all that long ago, either: the mother of a player from their 2011 team admitted as much when she saw the hypocrisy of their snitching.
In 2011, she says her son Jacoby was recruited to play in Evergreen Park's Little League, despite living on Chicago's South Side.
"The paperwork was filled out for me," Cannon-Young said. "I was told that although he was not a resident of Evergreen Park, they were going to fix that so that he could play. Just use another address, and he would be able to play."
Cannon-Young says she thought nothing of it -- it was just baseball -- until Evergreen Park raised suspicions about JRW.
Remember, Evergreen Park lost to Jackie Robinson West in a 43-2 drubbing during the sectional portion of the 2014 Little League season -- there was every reason to believe that at least part of why Evergreen Park's coach went all private investigator on his former opponents is because of that game, and this news does nothing to discourage that idea. You could assume that Evergreen Park was just trying to do the right thing, to make sure that the rules of Little League were enforced, but this is at best an optimistic point of view, and at worst a naive one.
Once all these tournaments start, Little League goes from recreational spring fun to competitive, with trips and trophies and TV time at stake. Consider that this kind of cheating occurs all over the game -- not because of the kids, but because of the adults organizing the whole thing -- thanks to the desire for all that competitive play can bring. The CEO and president of Little League International even admits that this is widespread at the local level, and former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder was quoted in the same story as saying Jackie Robinson West specifically has been pulling this stunt since he was a kid in Little League.
Jackie Robinson West wasn't the first to cheat (and neither was Evergreen Park), and they won't be the last, either. Little League, like any other competitive sport, is going to have cheating. Just because kids are involved doesn't make the game pure and innocent: they aren't signing themselves up, organizing international tournaments, setting up interviews with ESPN personalities or booking flights to Williamsport. Adults are doing all that, and when adults are involved, cheating is going to occur. That doesn't make it right, but that is how competitive sports work.