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Las Vegas Team Are Champs After Chicago Team Stripped Of Title

 The Mountain Ridge Little League team from Las Vegas is now the U.S. championship after the league stripped Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team of the title Wednesday.

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Little League International said the team had violated residency rules by using players outside its geographic area.

The team's wins in the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament, where it lost to a South Korean team in the final, as well as wins in the Great Lakes Regional and U.S. championships, have been vacated, Little League International said.

Mountain Ridge Little League lost to Jackie Robinson West in the final game, after beating them earlier in the tournament.

The team's manager has been suspended from Little League activity, and the Illinois District 4 administrator has been removed from his job.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney was in Williamsport with the team for the Little League World Series.

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He told KNPR’s State of Nevada what happened to Jackie Robinson West is an example of the bad things that can happen when adults get involved in children’s sports.

However, Graney doesn’t believe Mountain Ridge’s coach, Ashton Cave, wants the championship.

“I don’t think he wants the U.S. championship they’ve given him. I don’t think he wants the banner. I don’t think the kids do,” Graney said, “They lost that game and they understand that.”

Graney said the wins had to be vacated to send a message to the rest of the league.

He also said that the people involved in the scandal are the exception not the rule in little league.

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Jackie Robinson West's wins captured Chicago's imagination. NPR's Cheryl Corley,  reporting at the time, said: "It's been 31 years since an all-black team made it into the Little League Baseball World Series. And that was also the Jackie Robinson West team in 1983.

"Since then the number of African-Americans involved in baseball in the major leagues as well as Little League has been on the decline as basketball and football became more popular."

Natalie Moore of Chicago Public Radio  reported at the time, "JRW's national win has been a unifying moment for many here. The 11- and 12-year-old boys captured the city's heart during the series."

Previous winners that have had their wins vacated are Zamboanga (Philippines) City Little League in 1992, which had won the title, and Rolando Paulino Little League from Bronx, N.Y., in 2001, which had finished third.

The allegations first came to light in December but Pat Wilson, senior vice president of operations for Little League International, was dismissive of the complaint, but acknowledged that some players' addresses did not match the addresses Little League International had on file, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It added that Wilson said Jackie Robinson West provided a satisfactory explanation for those discrepancies.

( Krishnadev Calamur contributed to this report)


Ed Graney, sports columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal
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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)