8/23/2014 10:51 P.M. ET
With players' support, Chicago team in LLWS final
Jackie Robinson West to play South Korea in championship game Sunday
By Chad Thornburg / MLB.com
Major League Baseball's players may be many years removed from their days of playing Little League ball, but they haven't forgotten their roots.
On Saturday, Chicago's Jackie Robinson West defeated Las Vegas, 7-5, in the United States final, advancing to the Little League World Series championship. They'll take on South Korea on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
And while the 13 boys from the South Side of Chicago have done their part on the field, they've had some big league assistance off of it.
In addition to a showering of support on social media, a group of Major Leaguers, organized by Colorado's LaTroy Hawkins, donated money to help send some of the Little Leaguers' parents to Williamsport, Pa., to watch their sons play.
Among the other MLB players who supported the team were the Braves' B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, the Cubs' Wesley Wright, the Tigers' Torii Hunter, the Dodgers' Carl Crawford and the Nationals' Ian Desmond.
"Those kids are excited because their families are there," Hunter said. "Think if their families couldn't afford to get there. They'd have no support. Nobody screaming for them, nobody yelling for them."
Jackie Robinson West became the first entirely African-American team to play in the U.S. championship game and is now the first to advance to the world finals. The squad is also the first member of the Urban Initiative, which aims to support Little League programs in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods, to make the Little League World Series since 2002.
"They've kind of had their backs against the wall in other aspects of life and they found an outlet and they're striving for greatness in it," Desmond said. "That's what every kid wants: an outlet and somebody to show some compassion for them. And it seems like that's what those coaches have provided."
In the L.A. clubhouse prior to Saturday evening's game against the Mets, all eyes were on baseball's young stars.
"It definitely reminds me of my [Little League] team," said Crawford, who shared a Skype session with the boys earlier this week. "We didn't ever reach a level that high, but just the fun that they're having, the excitement that they're bringing to the game and making people want to watch them."
Chicago's finals win Saturday came against the same Las Vegas team that had trounced them, 13-2, just six days earlier. It was their only loss in the Little League World Series, but according to Desmond, the loss was exactly what they needed.
"I don't want to say they got arrogant, but sometimes in this game you get a little comfortable, and I think that might have been a wake-up call for them," Desmond said. "So I'm happy to see them win. I'm rooting for them. And I want to see them go all the way."
"Just to be able to help them and be a part of that, I'm pretty honored," B.J. Upton said.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.