Carl Crawford watched them play last year, and they struck a chord. He was taken back to his own Little League playing days back in Houston.
The Jackie Robinson West team was an all-black team from Chicago. During a time when the participation of blacks in the majors and Little League is down, they are hard to miss.
That team came one game short of reaching the Little League World Series last year, but in 2014 they took the next step. And when they earned the right to advance to South Williamsport, Pa., this year, Crawford knew he wanted to help.
“They just reminded me so much of the Little League team I played on, being all black and everything,” Crawford said. “I called up my brother [Cory], who helps me with a lot of this stuff and I told him, ‘Can you reach out to this team and see what they’ve got going on, if they need any help or whatever?’ I didn’t really know what their situation was, I just reached out to them on my own.”
Turns out they needed plenty of help, so the Dodgers’ left fielder is paying for the travel, hotel and meals of the 13 boys’ parents.
Crawford’s never met the players, only seen the team on TV. He’s never met the parents, either. But he’s making a contribution directly to the team, so there’s no worry about how some charitable arm will actually use his donation.
“It’s cool, man,” Crawford said. “It goes straight to the source right now, and you want to see them play good. Maybe that team can inspire other young black kids.”
Jackie Robinson West, making its first appearance at the World Series in 31 years, won its opener 12-2 over the Pacific Little League team of Lynnwood, Wash.
According to the Associated Press, the number of African Americans in the majors has dwindled steadily since the mid-1980s when they made up 19% of rosters; the number stood at 8.1% on opening day this year.
Crawford said he’s watched every game available on TV and plans to meet the team when the Dodgers are in Chicago in September.
“The bill don’t matter, that’s the thing,” he said. “As long as it gives them a chance to play.”