Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford watched on TV last year as a team from Chicago's Morgan Park neighborhood came up just short of reaching Williamsport, Pa. and the Little League World Series. The kids' effort reminded him of his own experience playing for an all-black team growing up in Houston, so he made some inquiries to see if he could help with financial support.
And now, a year later, here's the team from the Jackie Robinson West league, making it all of the way to the big series with one of their benefactors watching again from afar.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Crawford said his Dodgers teammates didn't even know about his support of the team until Saturday. He felt a kinship with the squad upon seeing it last year. It reminded him of his own all African-American youth team while growing up in Houston.
"It's very rare that you have this type of situation," Crawford said of the Jackie Robinson West team.
Crawford hasn't met any of the players yet, but he's checked in with the coach periodically to see how the season was going. Right now, it's going great.
The Dodgers play the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field from Sept. 18-21, so there's a good chance for Crawford to meet the team at that point.
The Little League World Series begins Thursday, with the Jackie Robinson league team — representing the Great Lakes Region — playing at 3 p.m. ET.
Crawford is doing exactly what the public says it wants major league ballplayers to do in situations like this: Give back to the community (even if the community is a different place from where Crawford grew up).
It would be great if the Chicago team making it to Williamsport somehow stimulated baseball participation for black kids in inner cities, and if Crawford's influence somehow helped make it all happen. But even if it doesn't have much of an effect, it's a terrific gesture from Crawford's heart that helps these kids in the here and now, and he should be commended.
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