jackie robinson westIn a story that captured hearts and minds not only in Chicago but around the country last year, the little league Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago was the first all-African-American team to win the U.S. title in the Little League World Series.

And now that title has been stripped.

ESPN reports that the Little League Baseball organization “found that the Jackie Robinson team used a falsified boundary map, and that team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.”

It’s so disheartening to hear, not only because of the practical effects, but because these kids had nothing to do with it. They simply played on the team the adults told them to play on, and had fun playing baseball. I feel awful for them.

I also feel bad for everyone involved in baseball, because this was the kind of story the sport needs to reinvigorate youthful – and African American – interest in the game. Everyone was following last year, and it was so much fun. The Cubs even invited the team to Wrigley Field, where they met with Cubs players who were wearing Jackie Robinson West jerseys. The whole thing was so easy to enjoy.

Now it’s tainted. So disappointing.