Jackson and fellow Cubs pitcher Wesley Wright were among the Major League players who contributed money to help pay for the families of the Chicago team to go to Williamsport, Pa., to watch the Little League World Series, which wrapped up Sunday. However, the Jackie Robinson West team came up short, losing in the finale, 8-4, to South Korea.
"I'm excited for them and this opportunity," Wright said Sunday. "I'm so happy for them and their families, and the way they've represented their city and their families on a grand stage has been amazing to me. They're 12-year-olds, and I'm just really proud of how they've persevered through that game [Saturday], and they lost the lead late and kept fighting. They've been an inspiration to me and a lot of people in the U.S."
Jackie Robinson West rallied to beat Nevada in the U.S. championship and advance to the final. The Cubs' rain delay on Saturday was almost perfectly timed so the players and fans on the concourse could watch the game on television.
"It's fun for them -- and it's motivation," Jackson said. "You watch the news and the parents say they've already had kids sign up for next year's team. It's always fun watching the little kids play, especially when they come back to win. You see the emotions go from crying to mad to excitement and full of joy, and then the other team is just the opposite. It's an emotional game at every level, and the higher you go, the more you have to control it."
The win Saturday was especially sweet for the Jackie Robinson team, which had lost, 13-2, to Nevada earlier in the week.
Jackson and Wright have enjoyed more than just the Little Leaguers' skills. It's also nice to see positive headlines about Chicago and the South Side, where the team is based.
"I'm not from Chicago, but I am African-American, and I know there are a lot of African-Americans predominantly on the South Side and some of the headlines that come out of there can be tough at times," Wright said. "I'm glad these kids can overcome some of the tough obstacles and be successful, whether it be on the baseball field or in life. I just want to be able to help mentor them in any way I can, whether it's baseball or life in general. I'm just really proud of them."
"It's definitely a positive outlook on the city," Jackson said of the Little League program, which he did participate in as a youth. "Instead of the headline being something negative, you can have a bright spot in the city. It's definitely energizing to pick up the paper and see a positive headline. It's fun for the city and motivation for the kids at home.
"This is where it starts. When they come home, they'll be looked at as celebrities in the city. It should encourage more kids to play. The more you're in activities, the more you're out of trouble and [sports] keep you occupied."