Jackie Robinson West hugs

Jackie Robinson West's Pierce Jones (left) hugs teammate Joshua Houston. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / August 24, 2014)

When Jackie Robinson West won Saturday's game on a double play and won the U.S. championship, I saw what the win was truly about—redemption, but not in the classic sense.

When the game was over, I looked over at a friend of mine who once played for JRW. After all, I invited him and his 4-year-old son over to watch the game.

When the kids were running around the field celebrating, my friend was in tears. I knew they weren't just tears of joy; they were coming from someone who had once been where those kids were this week.

To someone who played youth sports, it's clear that support is what makes everything go. Many of the people I've noticed who've had genuine support of the team were former JRW players, men who played youth sports and fathers.

They are aware of what being involved in team sports at a young age can do. The things the kids are learning are things they can take with them throughout their lives.

When it comes to inner-city sports programs, many of our friends who went to affluent schools in the Catholic League or in the suburbs do not understand the magnitude of what JRW has done.

A lack of resources and proper coaching has long been a problem in areas short on wealth.

Mayor Emanuel, an active participant at the JRW watch parties, probably didn't mention his role in stripping away after-school programs when he engineered the largest public school shutdown in American history.

With JRW's run through the Little League World Series, we're seeing what can be accomplished with proper oversight. The kids we saw this past week could be tomorrow's high school players.

Celebrities, elected officials and casual fans have shown support for JRW. It's fine to attach notable people to a feel-good story. However, the story has layers most are unaware of.

As I looked at the crowds at several of the watch parties—some official, some unofficial—one thing comes to mind.

If so many people from different backgrounds can get behind these kids, there's hope for us yet.

Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.

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