From sandlot to big shots: JRW all about tradition

Bill Haley, director of Jackie Robinson West Little League, has one word to describe the league his father, Joseph, started in 1971.

"Tradition. We have a strong tradition that we're proud of," Haley said. "I think that tradition has allowed us to last over a generation."

Fans have marveled at what Jackie Robinson West has done the past few seasons. Most see a group of boys having fun playing a game they love. Beyond that, there's a lot that goes on with putting a competitive brand on the field.

The travel schedule, the practices, the games themselves and a financial commitment are just part of what make the program work.

JRW has more than 300 players who comprise 30 teams. The players range from T-ball (age 4) all the way up to Junior League (14-18). The team on TV this past week is in between.

"Some people get the impression that the team that is seen on TV is the entire program," Haley said. "That group is the Major League program, the 10- to 12-year-olds. They're a select team out of the eight teams in the league."

The JRW season starts in late April and ends in late June. The Little League World Series qualifying process starts shortly after.

Haley, a 47-year-old CTA dispatcher, said there's a considerable time commitment.

"At this age group [the Major League traveling team], they play between 16 and 18 games per year," he said. "Two or three games a week with a couple of practices during the week. The commitment is four to five days a week."

He said the parents are on board with what the program tries to accomplish.

"We get positive feedback from parents," Haley said. "They like it that the kids have structure and something to do after school."

The annual registration fee is $120 per child, which covers equipment and uniforms. However, players are responsible for their own gloves.

"We don't turn players away," he said. "If there's a need, we won't turn a kid away."

Jackie Robinson West also has a league called the Challenger League, which is geared toward kids with disabilities.

"This year, we had 25 kids on two different teams," Haley said. "That gives them the opportunity to experience the fun and excitement of Little League."

Due to the recent success of the JRW's traveling team, the program's popularity continues to grow.

"As the young men play in Williamsport, I'm getting texts and email every day about kids who want to join up," Haley said. "Kids want to give Little League a shot."

Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.


UP NEXT: Elimination game

Jackie Robinson West vs. Philadelphia

6:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN

If JRW wins, it will play in the U.S. championship vs. Las Vegas (2:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC).


Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has sued Chicago's former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions.

  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

  • Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    Technical difficulties at GrubHub and Seamless over the weekend drove hordes of hangry would-be customers to air their grievances on social media. The food ordering and delivery sites, which merged in 2013 and use GrubHub’s back-end technology, errantly accepted payments on Saturday evening without...