On Jan. 14, Evanston welcomed the 2014 Little League National Championship baseball team, Jackie Robinson West. Local kids and their parents packed Chicago’s Home of Chicken in Waffles, 2424 Dempster St., to talk to the team and get autographs.
“We thought it would be great to bring the team to Evanston and let the local kids meet the players who went all the way to the Little League World Series,” said Darnell Johnson, project manager for Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles. “We want to encourage Evanston kids to aim high and know that they, too, can make history.”
At 5:30 p.m. the team arrived at the restaurant, where they enjoyed dinner and mingled with residents. The young men were recognized at halftime at the Northwestern University basketball game, where they watched the men’s team take on the University of Illinois.
Local music industry legend George Daniels, owner of George’s Music Room on Chicago’s south side, co-hosted the event, and NBC’s Art Norman was the emcee. Ray “Boo Boy” Knox, catcher for the 1951 Chicago American Giants, also attended and spoke with the team and Evanston residents.
Jackie Robinson West Little League was founded by Joseph H. Haley in the spring of 1971 on the south side of Chicago. Mr. Haley’s goal was to provide wholesome, healthy recreation through participation in the program while also teaching leadership skills and self-discipline. The league currently has more than 450 young people ages 4-16 registered in the program, said Darold Butler, who coached last year’s championship team. The team made it the World Series but was defeated by South Korea 8-4 in the title game.
“How inspiring to have the national little league champs here in Evanston,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, whose ward houses the restaurant. “My kids were very excited to meet the young men, who were friendly, quite humble and a great example that hard work pays off.”