Win or lose from here on out, the Jackie Robinson West youth baseball team will get a parade when they return to Chicago from the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania.
The city announced Friday that the parade will take place Wednesday, with details on the time and route to come next week.
Jackie Robinson West plays Saturday afternoon in the U.S. finals against the Las Vegas team that defeated them 13-2 earlier in the tournament. If the Chicago squad wins that game, they’ll play Sunday afternoon in the world championship against the winner of the South Korea-Japan game. If Jackie Robinson West loses Saturday, they’ll play in the third-place game Sunday.
There will be two watch parties for the 2:30 p.m. Saturday game, one at the Salvation Army community center at 1250 W. 119th Street, and the other in front of the Chicago Theatre on a closed-off State Street between Randolph and Lake streets.
The hometown Little League team’s popularity has risen as they continue to advance in the tournament. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made the most of the attention locals are paying to the youngsters, holding a series of official “watch parties” for their games, tweeting out photos of himself celebrating with supporters and sending out news releases expressing his admiration for their achievements.
It's not unusual for politicians to try to be part of a city's sports zeitgeist, and Emanuel has been particularly enthusiastic in publicly proclaiming his fandom. The Jackie Robinson events follow well-attended World Cup viewing parties in Grant Park and at Soldier Field during the U.S. men's national team games this summer.
Last summer, Emanuel got to hold a Grant Park rally for the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks. And the mayor has touted successful high school programs like the Simeon Career Academy boys' basketball team and the Mather High School boys' soccer team.
If Emanuel participates in Wednesday's parade, he knows he has to be careful not to give Chicago sports fans a chance to vent their frustrations with his political policies. The mayor already has displayed a deft understanding of this. During the Blackhawks rally, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was booed by the crowd when he was introduced by Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley. Emanuel stepped to the microphone with no introduction, saying a few words and stepping away before the crowd had much time to react.