Small town Little League team vindicated

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By ANNIE MOORE
College Contributor Network

Like many sports fans across the country, Josh Biven walked into work on Wednesday morning and listened to ESPN's Mike & Mike show, more specifically Karl Ravech's report that the Jackie Robinson West team would be stripped of its Little League U.S. Championship. But the news wasn't exactly breaking to Bivens. He and his staff had been watching the story for almost two months, after all it was that Chicago team that defeated his New Albany All-Stars team for the Great Lakes Championship.

Months later, as the breaking news crawl came across his television screen, he learned that his team from a small town in Southern Indiana would be retro-actively awarded the Great Lakes Championship, and the title came very bittersweet.

"To follow it for a few months like we did, we pretty much knew they'd done some wrong things," Biven said."But to finally hear Little League International say that the title was vacated, and their championship was void, it did feel good. Our little league is just a small town. We knew we could go to Williamsport. To have some cheating hold us back from going, I think at least that decision now lets our kids know and be rewarded as Great Lakes Region champs."

The New Albany All-Stars were up 7-4, five outs away from going to the World Series, before Jackie Robinson West rallied to a 12-7 victory to clench the Great Lakes Championship. While the Indiana kids got to live out much of the little kids dream of playing baseball on television, Biven says he wishes his team would've gotten the full experience, and would like to see them enjoy at least a small sample of that moving forward.

"We're trying to get these kids a trip to Williamsport," Biven said. "We were unfortunate to have this happen to our team, but I think our team can deal with it and we're going to make the most of it. We're going to try to get the kids up there to walk on those fields, watch a few games and who knows, maybe our New Albany Little League team could be there this year."

The team has received an outpouring of positive support and Biven said the team, including his son, have been mostly positive about the newly rewarded title. Biven said he thinks the recent news is bringing light back to the experience the team had in their regional, which was a very positive one.

As far as the team in Chicago, Biven says he does not fault the players, and wishes the coaches and leaders would take action to take some of the public attention off of the players. Biven said he feels that the players are the real victims in this whole situation.

"They got a lot of stuff," Biven said. "But we do feel for them, all of our parents and kids feel for what those kids are going through right now. It's got to be an emotional ride. I wish the coaches and administration of that league would stand up and say that they were wrong. Can they be man enough to say what happened and what they did wrong? They have to live with that. But I think they did hurt those kids for a long time."

Back in New Albany, New Albany Little League is in talks with Little League International to arrange a trip for the 2014 team to go to Williamsport. To experience the crowd, and get a taste of what their trip to the World Series might have been like. The team is currently in talks with Little League International about funding the trip to Williamsport, but if that doesn't work, Biven and his team won't be stopped. At home, a banner will be unveiled announcing their state and Great Lakes championships on Opening Day, April 6.

"Obviously they're not going to get to play a game in front of 30,000 people," Biven said. "Just to live in the moment like they were there, would be an honor from Little League, if it happens. If it doesn't happen and Little League can't work it out, we're working on fundraising to help the boys get up there."

The story of the Little League team from Chicago has garnered national and international attention and has proven to be a polarizing and tantalizing topic since the news broke on Wednesday. But for one team in Southern Indiana, the New Albany Little League All-Stars, the story has added a bittersweet end to a journey that almost made it to the World Series. Josh Biven and his team can get small vindication in knowing that they are officially Great Lakes Champions.

Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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