JRW parade to stop at U.S. Cellular

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox announced that U.S. Cellular Field will be a stop on the Jackie Robinson West Little League parade route Wednesday.

The team of 11- and 12-year-olds won the United States title at the just-concluded Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and was runner-up internationally to South Korea.

“It was not only exciting to bring everyone together in the city to root for a common goal in baseball, which doesn’t happen around here too often, but it was just fun to watch the kids battle and succeed on the highest stage,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “I look forward to the next couple of days, as they continue to be appropriately feted throughout the town.”

Six members of the Jackie Robinson West all-star team are members of the White Sox’s Amateur City Elite (ACE) program, designed to give instruction to inner-city baseball players, while also giving them guidance on what it takes academically to be a college baseball, if they go that route.

“Any time as a kid you’re playing for something like that, it’s fun and it’s something you always take it with you,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I remember games that I had as a kid -- not to their level -- but you still remember them. You’re playing with your best friends that you grew up with. I think that’s the special part of it. To be able to win the U.S. championship is special as well.

The parade begins at 9:50 a.m. from Jackie Robinson Park (10540 S. Morgan Park St.). A neighborhood rally will take place at 9 a.m.

The team is expected to arrive at U.S. Cellular Field at some point before 10:30 a.m. for a salute outside of Gate 4. Free parking will be available in Lot B. The parade will conclude at Millennium Park.

White Sox coaches Harold Baines, Daryl Boston and Todd Steverson are expected to be on hand for the Little League team’s appearance, as well as organizers of the ACE program.

Ventura believes that the Jackie Robinson West team could inspire more inner-city kids to start playing baseball.

“You hope so,” Ventura said. “You’ve seen things like that happen in different arenas and sports that get people caught up in it and kids start to play it, but you hope it catches on and you see kids look up to those kids and want to become those kids.”

There is always a chance the kids in the ACE program become White Sox players one day. But even if they play elsewhere, the club will be happy.

“If this exposure leads to more kids getting drafted by other organizations, fantastic,” Hahn said. “More importantly, it leads to more kids having educational opportunities, which was the original goal of the program, even better. How quickly the program has grown in the last few years and how much success we have had is giving everyone great reason for pride and it sure looks like the future is even brighter.”